Last night’s show at the Paperhaus—the long-running Petworth house venue—may have been its last. Though the venue was already planning on taking a break after Tuesday night’s show—featuring D.C.-area bands Real Person, Passing Phases, and UVF Rays, as well as Atlanta’s Shepherds—a surprise visit from Metropolitan Police Department officers may have been the nail in the coffin for the prolific house venue.
In a Facebook post, Paperhaus resident (and Paperhaus, the band, frontman) Alex Tebeleff wrote “it took 4 and a half years and 100’s of bands, but the cops finally shut down a show at the Paperhaus last night.”
Unsurprisingly, Tebeleff says the house was already a known entity to the local police, but the officer who shut down the concert’s second half was apparently a fan. “The funny thing is the cop prefaced his telling me to stop the music by saying how good he thought the music he’s heard coming out of the house over the years is!” he wrote.
“It seems like the cops knew what our house was and didn’t feel like it was a serious problem, but it sounds like a noise complaint brought them this time, and they have no choice but to deal with that,” Tebeleff tells Arts Desk in an email. “[The police] have only come a handful of times on [noise complaints] over the years, and have always asked us just to turn it down. The officers last night were really reasonable and respectful.”
Last night’s show was already going to be the last one—at least for a while. In a Facebook post last week, Tebeleff said that the house would cease hosting shows “indefinitely,” in favor of prioritizing the house’s practice space and recording studio. “The house will definitely be staying busy, but it will be more of a creative and studio focused practice space for the bands currently there rather than a public performance space,” Tebeleff said, citing local projects like Go Cozy, Jao Ocean, Den-Mate, and Wanted Man which all record or practice at Paperhaus.
Also coming soon: More multimedia projects. A “live music video series” called Paperclip is in the works, as well as a sonic archive of the venue’s sets over the years, allowing the music-making that happened in Paperhaus’ living room to live on sans visits from friendly policemen. “We’ve recorded a substantial number of shows with a studio that [Paperhaus guitarist] Rick Irby set up in our basement two years ago, and we plan on putting most of it online free to stream as soon as we get our act together,” Tebeleff said.
Though the Paperhaus’ end is a blow to the local DIY music scene—the shelf life for house venues is relatively short (especially given that most house venue residents are renters), which makes four-and-a-half years seem like an eternity—the District has no shortage of other DIY venues: The Dougout, Above the Bayou, 453 Florida, Hole in the Sky, Lamont Street Collective, and Babe City just to name a few. Still, after hosting hundreds of shows in the last several years, Paperhaus became a staple of the DIY scene.
But Tebeleff doesn’t see the house’s shift away from concert booking negatively impacting the scene. “With Songbyrd, Union Arts, Back Alley Theatre coming back, The Pinch, and all the other house venues still going that foster local live music, I’m not concerned about the community needing our house shows anymore,” he said. “That’s a great feeling.”
Photo by Matt Dunn