Well consider this: Given the demographic factors related to who frequents punk shows as well as the diverse selection of people one encounters at such shows, it is likely that at least one set of parents will have to, one day in the far off future, relate to their child the story of their meeting at your house. For that child’s sake, keep your puns fresh. But there is more than just an unborn child to consider, you will have to bear the burden of the chosen handle that represents your abode: it will have a spatial influence on flyers, a recall quotient for perspective show goers as well as the bands that play there, and, finally, the most important aspect; you not having to be embarrassed to tell strangers that, yes, you do live in “that house that does shows.”

So what are some common approaches to this conundrum?

1. The geographical reference.
For a group of people who claim to be so radical, pragmatism leads the pack as far as house names are concerned. 15th House (on 15th Ave., surprise!), Hunter House, and The Neil House are all such houses that historically chose the geographical option in Columbus, Ohio. This has a real upside if you want people to find your house. There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want someone to easily locate you (cops, landlords, mosh crews), but just as many reasons why you would (egalitarian attitudes regarding our conception of culture, money for bands). My favorite geographical names are ones that adopt a street name that one would never guess to actually be a street name until one is right there, such as The Frisby House in Baltimore or The Trumbullplex Theatre in Detroit. The bottom line is that this is boring but effective.

2. The In-Joke.
This is where you and your roommates are so happy and well adjusted that you actually like one another enough to joke amongst yourselves to the cumulative point that you organically develop an “in-joke.” The name references this joke, so you get it but other people don’t but it’s usually such a distinctive name that everyone is instantly aware of it. This is good for both brand awareness and for having your fellow roommates feel like they have a stake in your house; they were there when the name originated after all! For instance, Chelsea and Maryn, in Allston, Massachusetts thought of naming their place, “Dick Sukkkin’ USA.” So much for that.

3. The Brand.
I’ve brandished about the word “Brand” throughout this missive as a semi-ironic gesture but for some it is a real consideration. If your space is going to be open to audiences outside of punk rock it is worth thinking about how a name might alienate them before they even get a chance to go to your zine-craft-movie-performance art-vegan potluck marathon. Besides alienation you have to consider that the larger public hears many names throughout the day and needs something a bit idiosyncratic to standout so they can remember to name-drop it to their little brother in an effort to still seem with it. A space like Skylab in Columbus, Ohio, which helps pay rent by occasionally renting out its room for senior thesis art shows, is a good solution to this problem. Its name is neutral, a subtle joke on its fifth floor location in a downtown office building that resists the overtures of the experimental noise bazaar that it actually is. Genius.

4.  Serendipity.
There is an unaccredited school of thought regarding the naming of punk houses that would have you believe that any pre-meditated thought process regarding a proper moniker is bad luck, an omen of future trouble whether that takes the form of scabies, negligent roomies, or missing mic cables. The thought is that someone from outside the house will say something and instantly everyone will know that is the one true name for the house, as if it were handed down by a generous, punk house loving God. That’s a nice notion but it leaves open the possibility that you will tread the waters of time untethered by a name until your lease runs out as a recent Columbus house, the abysmally named/unnamed “Girl House” did. Unless you control your name, idiots (your friends) will come up with something obvious but completely insulting like Cat Pee house or…

5. “Your Name + House.”
It is important to state that there is no use for a name just so your house can have a show. If, for instance, you are Hanna and you live in Oakland and you are having Shannon and the Clams play your house because it is your birthday it is perfectly fine to list the show as being at “Hanna’s House.” If you’re thinking that you want to serve the larger community at hand by taking it upon yourself to be a cornerstone of the punk scene you might want to think about a house name in case it’s so successful that it will outlast you.* The Legion of Doom in Columbus, Ohio has been The Legion of Doom since at least the mid-nineties and none of the original members still reside there. It is now an institutional locus point where everyone does their time. Know what you want your house to be and name accordingly!

       In the end I would say funniest line wins. Anarchtica, for instance, or The Nude Ranch for another. Just don’t name it The Monster House because you think it looks “Really BIG.” Once it’s on a flyer you can’t go back.


In a sense it is a testament to how blurred the areas of public and private are with these places that we even feel compelled to name them or that I can talk about a house outliving a person who lives there. For instance, through naming we are recognizing that it's no longer just a house but "house" is usually still retained in its name for complication's sake. It's the same balancing act with nomenclature as it is with process. It's a venue, but not really; we live here, but not really.

 It must be named to signal openness, because bars have names, restaurants have names, but the inclusion of "house" signals the needed (or not) level of privacy for the inhabitants. It's interesting to note how this mimics the typical (of the past) neighborhood bar, usually opened by someone from the neighborhood and named after the owner who has some social connection to his customers outside the bar. Bob's or Mac's. These bars are supposedly public as well, but you know they aren't really, they are of a neighborhood perhaps even of a block, and you shouldn't really be there unless you know Bob or Mac. And as a corollary, why would you want to be there if you didn't? This is the same implicit understanding with the punk house; there is a name, sure, and the public knows it, OK, but it's still a club. It's still a self contained society in a way a truly public, commerce driven, entity is not. The only difference is the population level you want that club to be: 20 middle-aged men at Bob's after work each night or 200 punk kids for a night each week.

            Tangentially, names of prohibition-era speakeasies often included misnomers like Cafe or Hotel in them (reminiscent of the "coffee shops" in Amsterdam) but they were also likely to have no name at all, to have their open hours be understood among a select group of people by having a certain light being turned on. This simultaneous promotion of openness alloyed with an element of confusion is also replicated by some names of punk houses. In a way, anything without house in the title is ambiguous as far as divining the purpose of the place goes. Even with that the uninitiated person has to make whole a piece of incomplete information in a manner that is rarely found elsewhere. It could be just a hotel or cafe (or a house) and only context can tell us otherwise. But the context, thankfully and necessarily, is not opaque; like the speakeasy depending on word of mouth to decode the meaning of the light, our generation uses Facebook invites, paper flyers, and message boards to help fill in the blanks.

           Beyond all of that, a name has a utilitarian purpose of course. Q: Where are we going? A: The Monster House. Without it extended explaining is needed, with it comes clarity and a sense of inclusion into something exotic. Still, when you give someone a target it becomes much easier to hit. It is somewhat impossible to hide the existence of a place with a name. And only with a name can a story be written. Imagine the Columbus Alive or Other Paper trying to write a story on 115 W.10th Ave, or 1579 Indianola Ave. Not only would it come across confused, it would scream "invasion of privacy." If anything truly illegal or incredibly radical were happening one would want to remain as inconspicuous as possible, as it stands the grays between public and private look comfortable enough to settle down in and get acquainted with.

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