At the Show: SENPAI’S

Julian reports from the scene of a DIY show at SENPAI’S on October 8th. Houston’s Miears and Mark Drew headlined the event, with support from Mojave Red, also from Houston, and Galveston’s David Feil. SENPAI’S is one of the many creative outlets of Pete Hesher (Gnar World Order) and Blaine Lunz (Cat Daddy Slick, Kink Shame), both of local booking and promotion entity Grease Trap Syndicate. The above photo of Miears performing at White Oak Music Hall was taken by photographer Robert Rose.

It’s a warm night out, sure, but as I wipe more of the sweat from my forehead and feel the thrumming of another beat line cresting through the air I know it’s the music that’s got me dancing, my calves burning as I bounce in time to the song. It’s a smaller crowd tonight, late on a Sunday—hell, I have class at 8 am the next day—but Mojave Red is just getting warmed up and I don’t want the party to end. But maybe it’s precisely because the scene here at Senpai’s distilled down to the die-hards and the DIYers, that make this literal garage show so great. In between songs, I turn to another person dancing in the crowd and the conversation just flows. We’re all here to support the vibe here, and it’s a feeling that bounces like a live wire and everyone can feel it.

“This is my first show in Galveston and I’m really digging it right now,” said Violeta Leilani, one of the audience members of the show. “I really dig the smaller venues and the smaller bands, and I like the personal lyrics that come from everyone. It’s nothing like what you’d hear on the radio a thousand times. You hear it once and it’ll never be like that again.”

Her friend, Brianna Ladd, nods her head in agreement as she listens in on our musings.

“The show was really incredible,” said Ladd. “The local music scene here in Galveston, I don’t think it’s been here for very long, I think I discovered it a little over a year ago… It’s all really beautiful… it’s a really cool experience for the people here in Galveston. We like to go to shows like this because there’s just such cool bands and cool art.”

N64s line the walls with VCRs and Polaroid cameras, Vinyl records nailed into the wall, canvasses of wavy figures melting into the scene. Senpai’s is a hell of a venue, but don’t call it one. Pete Hesher, one of the owners and one of the key booking agents for the indie scene here on the island, really never imagined the space fulfilling that need. In fact, like most things in the DIY scene, its inception stemmed more from utility.

“Well, Blaine and I had way too much shit at our house, and we kept bringing home more VHS tapes, more VCRs, more reel-to-reel recorders, more CRTs, until we didn’t even have enough space to sleep in our homes,” Pete tells me. We’re standing outside of Senpai’s, and I’m straining to hear him over the sound of laughter, electric guitar, and cheering. “So we decided, hey, we need a warehouse. But what really started it was that we bought a wrestling ring, and now we’re in the process of getting a wrestling promotion off the ground.”

“So what’s with all the stuff?” I ask him. He shrugs. He explains that, well, it’s kind of for everything. “It’s fun to play with, it’s cheap, and free, and we can recycle all of it to make new art. We get to provide the community with a unique space to hang out and use as a creative spot… We’re going on month 7 now, so just kinda gotta see where the rest of our lease takes us, and if it’s still something that we’re able to do, then… right now we’re leaning toward comedy and movie nights. Keep going with the small parties, here and there. But we don’t wanna turn into a full fledged music venue. It’s not a good location for it. I see it more as an art space with a wrestling ring in it. We can’t get away with doing the hardcore shows, metal shows, because of the noise violations. My band can’t play here. But we’re not about to do shows at night and get cops called. We’re loud. We don’t have air conditioning, we don’t have a bar. But it’s a great community space, a DIY space, and I don’t want it to be more than that. You know, if the light’s on whoever wants to come in, play some video games and paint, by all means.”

That’s probably what I appreciate the most about these kinds of spaces. They exist not for some lofty aspirations, but for its own sake, for itself alone. It’s not beholden to other ideas, to people, to things, because its very inception arises from an organic need for… well, whatever. And is there really anything more DIY than that? Here’s to hoping for even more great times at Senpai’s.

Visit:

SENPAI’S is open to the community Thursday through Sunday from 5pm-10pm, and the address is 513 B 25th Street, Galveston (in the alley between Postoffice and Church Street).

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The SENPAI’s logo, which also glows in the window. Image: Pete Hesher