The New Brunswick Music Scene: A Time Capsule

Dear future Rutgers music geeks/nerds/stars,

I want you to feel this moment that I am writing in. I believe that the last real form of entertainment is live music. It’s a rare trip to a place we get lost in, when we’re used to getting lost in our phones (we all do it) or nostalgia of times before phones were our companions. Music travels through time, but ask any music-loving, show-going Rutgers student, and they’ll be sure to direct you to the nearest basement scene.

This isn’t the beginning of the basement scene era in New Brunswick, but it is a new new high in the history of music, in New Brunswick. Each week new shows battle it out on Friday night to gain the most attraction and the most energy from students. Our minds as Students are craving unexplored territories to escape the ever piling workload of classes and extracurriculars. Fraternities will always run wild with inhuman conditions, boys chasing girls, blah blah blah… so predictable.

But then you step down rickety stairs, in the midst of that same familiar city, However, the scene you see and feel is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced in the suburbs of Jersey, where you grew up.

My first basement show was the night that my belonging clicked right in front of my eyes. Hips were shaking, heels were tapping, and I was home-sweet-home. My second semester, Freshman Year, I finally exhaled what was the lie I had been given in a cup of discolored juice. It fell from my hands, as the music took me in for a loop, or two. And that was how I spent every weekend, from that point on.

I must acknowledge that the basement scene as I know it now, though, full of indie rockers and wavy melodies, is not what it always was. From the Looking Glass band who did “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” in 1972, to the original punk/hardcore scene of the 90’s, the music scene has had its ups and downs, running rampant for about 50 years.

For the sake of this depiction, I’m not going to go into the 50 years of music at Rutgers, but I will say that it’s deep and wired, with enough paraphernalia to fill an archive at College Ave’s Alexander Library, and it did.

One thing remains constant in show houses: fans interact with the artist, the music is one entity steaming over the hot, sweaty basement, sticky from the floor to the ceiling. There is nothing impersonal nor personal about a giant clump of hatred and love, angst and care, all at once.

A visual depiction of today’s basement scene:

I moved into Demarest Hall my Sophomore Year of school, to be closer to the music. With new basement shows, coffee houses, and ‘Anti-Proms’, Demarest Hall is flourishing in ways other halls may dream of. Music is at the core, maybe even haunts Demarest’s basement. A few weeks ago, Demarest invited the local indie-rock band, The Happy Fits, to play a show at “Anti-Prom Pt.2”, and they did!

I created a video to commemorate the special night:

The basement scene is popping up and shutting down all around NB. As soon as a house rises to fame, it’s quickly shut down by the cops. But the music is infectious, and it doesn’t stop live music junkies from finding a new attic or basement to groove in. You can’t replace the people or the bands playing the scene but you can surely drag and drop the alive feeling of the music.

I know I have a lot to uncover about the past music scenes in this very place, and I’m willing to untangle those years, and just figure out how it reached this beautiful peak again in 2018.

Bri Born
Sophomore, Rutgers University 2017-2018

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