Virtuous rehearsal

The ins and outs before you play out
By IAN PAIGE  |  February 21, 2007

You’ve been seeing each other for a while and you make beautiful music together. Maybe the relationship has progressed to the point where you should think about going in on a practice space together? Most musicians got their start practicing in parents’ basements or garages, but it’s a whole other ball of wax, the proverbial “big step,” to create that space for yourself and/or your band.

It’s like deciding you’re in business, and you need an office, except you can drink a lot of beer in this office, smoke cigarettes, or practice shamanic rituals.

An informal survey reveals that most Portland bands have to take what they can get when it comes to where they report for duty. Although there aren’t many corner offices to go around, many bands can personalize the four walls available to their liking. If Satellite Lot can paint their room purple at the infamously dingy Prime rehearsal spaces so they can feel like Prince, then the limits are clearly up to your capacity for imagination.

The simple scenario for a rehearsal space is you pay someone who has a bunch of rooms for rent and they give you a key and you lock all your stuff in there, play whenever you want as long as you can tolerate the really loud band next door that plays crappier music than you do (or just play louder). If this is your cup of tea, then the aforementioned Prime Rehearsal Studios out behind the Amtrak station or the Raia Business Complex by the Salvation Army on Warren Avenue are for you. You can string up some Christmas lights and play to your heart’s content.

Phantom Buffalo, Cult Maze, and Hiss & Chambers all make Prime their home, so the downsides of moldy carpets, no heat, and lackluster security can’t be all bad. Raia hosts Citadel, Diamond Sharp, Conifer, and the Covered In Bees/Confusatron/Pigboat crew with slightly better facilities but at just as much if not more of a monthly rate. Raia has the added bonus of coveted garage spaces where bands like Loverless and The End of Everything hunker down for long nights of howling at the moon. Usually, the only way to afford a space on top of your apartment is to split a room with another band or two.

Many veterans of the game are playing wisely by combining rehearsal spaces with homes or businesses. There’s something to be said for making a grilled cheese in the middle of your practice session and not having to worry if there’s toilet paper after your second set. Seekonk play in a cavernous warehouse space, a rare sight in our city, down in Bayside with Monolithic Recording & Mastering next door knocking for a cup of sugar. Sontiago practices in her basement and Dana Gross has made use of an artist studio collective in the old Biddeford Mill, sharing the metaphoric stage with a recording space, darkroom, and woodshop.

The Reverend Crank Sturgeon has another approach. He testifies in an undisclosed location (Intelligence sources say it’s a barn) where he can access an event-horizon of creativity in an “ever-decreasing clusterfuck of shelves and gear collapsing into a perfect singularity where time and space are stretched into eternity.” Something to which we can all aspire.

For those bands who haven’t mastered astral projection, responses concerning dream practice spaces usually involved high places. The Top of the East at the Eastland Park Hotel and the Time and Temperature Building were popular answers along with natural sonic playgrounds like parking garages and City Hall. How about recording your next album in the bell tower?

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