By Madeline Roth
From the outside, it looks like any other house. Built of light brown bricks, it stands three stories tall and boasts twelve rooms. Five steps lead up to a front porch littered with bicycles, ashtrays and camping chairs. Located on the south end of Ohio State University’s campus, it is considered a nicer house by the standards of college students. What you wouldn’t realize by looking at it during the daytime, however, is that the house has also been the site of over 200 concerts and other artistic and cultural events.
Dubbed the Monster House, it was founded four years ago by James Payne, an artist and OSU graduate who now lives in downtown Columbus. Payne, 25, says the idea for the Monster House was inspired by his frustration and unsettlement with the U.S. government at the time.
“It was a depressing era, with the Bush administration and the war in Iraq,” Payne said. “I was interested in radical politics…and I was into punk (music) because it talked about addressing a lot of those issues.”
Often referred to as a “DIY punk” house, a term that describes the ideology shared by many of its residents, the Monster House is a kind of meeting ground for like-minded people, where cultural events are put on for the general community free of charge.
Aaron Miller, an OSU graduate who has been living in the house since July 2011, says DIY punk emphasizes “individual expression and a sense of community, rather than monetary success.”
But the Monster House is also currently home to nine residents, many of whom are current or former OSU students. During the three years that Payne lived in the house, anywhere from eight to 12 people were paying rent there, and residents came and went frequently. One thing that remained constant, however, was the house’s rising status as a music venue for local and touring bands.
On weekend nights, the basement of the house, a small space to begin with, is transformed into a fiercely loud, claustrophobia-inducing makeshift concert hall that reeks of alcohol and is lit up by multi-colored Christmas lights. The house usually hosts an average of four shows a month, and the music is not relegated to any specific genre.
As a music venue, the house serves touring and local bands without large fan bases well because playing there gives them the chance to get their material exposed to many people who are genuinely interested in music.
“It’s a supportive and encouraging environment,” said Joey Hribar, an OSU senior whose band Alien Orders has played at the house. “It’s not like playing at a bar or a frat party where some people are just there to drink and socialize. The people who go to those shows are there for the music.”
The Monster House’s legacy, however, is in its final year. Its residents will be evicted next summer because the property has come under new ownership. Even so, Miller says he is not worried about the tradition of DIY punk houses in the area.
“I’m bummed about it. But even if people move out, different spaces will spring up,” Miller said. “It will always be part of the Columbus community.”
Image Credit: James Payne