Home New England & Tri-State Music It Sounds Better in the Basement: The Byrdhouse in Albany

It Sounds Better in the Basement: The Byrdhouse in Albany

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Since the 1970s, Do-It-Yourself (D.I.Y.) concerts proved to be a vital part of generational music culture, stemming from the thriving underground punk movement in cities like London and New York. The D.I.Y. scene brings local bands, artists, and other like-minded creatives together to build accessible, open environments for the community to enjoy music in safe and inviting spaces.

Our very own Albany has served as an epicenter of the underground music scene for generations, through informal gatherings of college garage bands and local talent. Passing the torch from venue to venue over the years, our generation’s leading venue can be recognized as The Byrdhouse.

byrdhouse washington park

Named for a stack of birdhouses in Washington Park and spelled with a “Y” instead of an “I” to make the brand more recognizable, Rachel and Adam founded The Byrdhouse in 2018 while attending undergraduate courses at University at Albany and the College of Saint Rose, respectively.

Rachel recalls attending basement shows at former Saint Rose venues called the Rice House and the Orange Peel as her “rite of passage,” while Adam performed locally in a band called Delphino. Upon the closure of these venues after their founders graduated, the duo partnered with other friends to create their own space to enjoy live music. The Byrdhouse first opened the doors to their basement in October of 2018 for a Halloween show.

The Byrdhouse
A show at the Byrdhouse basement. / Photo Credit: Peter Herrick

“[The Rice House and The Orange Peel] always got really great acts and made a good atmosphere,” Rachel said. “Sort of what I wanted to base Byrdhouse off of.”

The early days of Byrdhouse focused on music and experience, with a tight knit community crew putting on and attending shows. Converting a rental house in downtown Albany into a small concert venue by building a makeshift stage, pitching in to collect speakers and other equipment – all while on a college student budget.

“We were cutting up mattresses, insulating, and making it noise proof,” Rachel said of preparing the rental house basement. “We even deconstructed a bunch of walls in the basement to construct an audience viewing area.”

“We did a lot of work to try to insulate to make sure that things weren’t too loud outside,” Adam said. “We never got a noise complaint, and you know, we were running a pretty tight ship. So that house was never really in disarray, at least not from the shows.”

As the years went on, Byrdhouse began to expand both their reach and notoriety among the Albany music community. Rachel found a passion in formulating setlists of acts of a similar genre for theme night events, and began to popularize amongst music-loving Capital Region college students as a weekend go-to.

The Byrdhouse
Adam and Rachel of Byrdhouse (left-to-right). / Photo Credit: Josh Reedy

“We started off as a venue that was free to everyone…bands that we knew and people that were cool with that and it was fine. But as we started to charge and I started to get bigger acts, I started to formulate shows based on similar genre and theme…if I was doing a theme show…for goth night…I would be looking for all Gothic-esque bands and I would search from different cities” Rachel said.

While Rachel took on promoting and organizing shows, Adam served as what he calls the “technical hand.” What set Byrdhouse apart from other venues was their commitment to sound quality. Eddie, who joined the team later on, took over the sound technology.

“That’s a big deal for me, you have to take care of people’s ear health,” Eddie said. “Some venues now don’t even have a tech person… we were one of the few that had someone, either me or Adam, dedicated to it.”

Byrdhouse kept a consistent lineup of shows up until March 2020, when all events shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When COVID had hit it had blew out all of my plans. We had thought about doing live streams and stuff, but it just seemed too much at the time for everyone, I think, and after COVID had cooled down a bit…I had talked to some other friends of ours who wanted to keep the Byrdhouse spirit alive,” Rachel said.

The Byrdhouse returned on Aug. 21, 2021 to fans, bands, and artists alike welcoming them back – craving the sense of togetherness underground music once brought. The Byrdhouse returned with the same vibrant energy, and basic health precautions, to ensure locals had fun and bands could get back out into the scene.

“We had a good reputation with people, you know, people would come back and spread the word,” Adam said. “If you see a band that you love play live for you and they tell you that this is our favorite show or one of our favorite places to play, that’s awesome… that’s hard to beat”

Though “covers” were charged at the door, varying from about $5 for entry, the Byrdhouse organizers never took any profit. At the end of the night, the money was counted up and equally distributed to each of the performing acts as payment.

“Basement venues are like nonprofits…you’re working to not make profits…the profit is the community coming together,” Eddie said. “You can tell that bands wanted to play there…it was all focused on the music.”

Guitarist joins the crowd. / Photo Credit: Peter Herrick

After four years, three houses, and one global pandemic, The Byrdhouse held their last two shows at the end of Phoenix Fest, a D.I.Y. festival, in April of 2022.

“Graduating from college I felt like it might be a better time for younger generations to start their own basement venues and pass it along…pass along the torch to the younger generation so they can experience what I did” Rachel said.

Today, Rachel still plays a role in the Albany music scene with the transition of The Byrdhouse to D.I.Y. booking and management group Byrdhouse Records. She says it will “continue with doing shows and booking tours” through above ground venues like No Fun in Troy.

“My heart is in the D.I.Y. scene, but as I’ve gotten older with it, I want to make it into something bigger and more versatile,” Rachel said. “[Opening] an actual established concert venue is something that I dream of.”

*This article originally appeared in a series created by the Albany Student Press, University at Albany’s student-run newspaper.

It Sounds Better in the Basement” is a developing series playing off of punk band The Devil is Electric’s 2001 release of the same name. The song represents the soul of basement shows and its importance in providing a platform for local bands. As Albany college students, we strongly believe in archiving the student culture of the Capital Region for generations to look back on. As part of UAlbany’s independent student newspaper, it is our mission to tell stories while protecting those who live them – which is why we have chosen to refer to sources on a first-name basis (unless receiving permission otherwise). This series will continue with features of other local venues, bands, and notable figures.

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Source: NYSmusic.com