Interview with Lost Cross house founder, Mikey Snot of Diet Christ; former tenant, Adam Fletcher of The Copyrights; and current resident, Sam Beard
By Josh Stockinger | Color photos by Patrick Houdek (For The Love of Punk)
CARBONDALE, IL – When Mikey Snot moved in, in 1986, the Lost Cross house was little more than a means to an end. Snot needed a place to live, and his band needed a place to play. Bars in this rural college town wouldn’t take them. But a basement can’t say no. “We really didn’t have a place to go,” Snot says. “We were just trying to fill that void.”
Back then, the basement of the two-bedroom rental on West Elm Street in Carbondale, Illinois, was “packed with shit.” The band, then known as lostcross, carved out a tiny space at the bottom of the basement steps and loaded in their gear. Practices gave rise to parties, and parties turned into all-ages punk shows. No one had a plan. “We didn’t say, ‘Let’s do some shows, and then in 30 years, we’ll celebrate.’ It evolved,” Snot says.
Today, Lost Cross stands as one of the longest-running punk houses in the United States, if not the longest-running punk house anywhere. The music hasn’t stopped for three decades and neither has the procession of artists and outcasts willing to take over the rent.
Even the city of Carbondale—which for years expressed its annoyances with noise citations and police patrols—has come around, allowing for an outdoor concert to commemorate the house’s 30th anniversary in September. The Copyrights’ Adam Fletcher, a former Lost Cross tenant who planned the event, was pleased the proposal wasn’t “shot down immediately.”
“Most of the people, […] the house at this point outdates them in the community,” he says. “It’s hard to say no to that. We’ve been successfully putting on shows for 30 years without much of a problem. They trust us, even as a group of miscreants and fuckups, to be able to put on this show.”
The anniversary will reunite 30 bands who, at one time or another, were regulars at Lost Cross or continue to play there today. The roster is so large, local music venues agreed to host some of the sets, while the bulk will take place at Lost Cross or in the street in front of the house. It’s the first time any of the bands will have played in full view of the neighbors.
That’s a milestone for Snot, who will be taking the stage with Diet Christ. “I couldn’t drink a beer on the porch” without getting into trouble, he says, laughing. “Here we are. The generation that grew up with Lost Cross is now running for city council.”
It’s near impossible to pinpoint the number of bands to come out of Lost Cross over the years. Home to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale takes in a fresh batch of students every few months. Some bands last for a single show. Others play the house for years before breaking up or moving on. But there’s never a shortage. “It’s been a constant, fluid entity,” Fletcher says. “People come to this cultural void in Carbondale, Illinois, and then, they find that place. If they want to be there, they find their way there. It’s a place that all artists and music enthusiasts kind of gravitate to in some way.”
In the early days, frequent house shows came to influence the scene outside the basement. Snot says small venues around town started booking punk bands—once, Black Flag—while other basement venues emerged off campus. The bigger night spots for college kids eventually came around to local bands who were loud or experimental.
Fletcher became a part of the scene in the mid-1990s when his first pop punk band, Moloko Plus, were starting out. Their first Lost Cross show was with Scared Of Chaka and Lynyrd’s Innards. Fletcher remembers playing so late, the birds were chirping by the time he loaded up his gear. The band, then teenagers, were paid one dollar, “because we actually had the audacity to ask about money.” But it paved the way for hundreds more shows over the following two decades.
Last year, many feared the house’s days were numbered when it was purchased from the original landlord, who was rumored to have won it in a card game and was known for his years of leniency with tenants. So far, the new owner has been supportive of keeping the status quo. Sam Beard, a 22-year-old philosophy major who took charge of the house last year, says shows have been drawing an average of 50 people, with anywhere from one to four shows a month. Bands from as far away as Spain played there over the summer. “We’ve broken 100 at a couple of different shows,” he says. “It just comes down to the music, what else is going on in the city, and how well we do with promotions.”
Lost Cross has never been a strictly punk venue, having everything from metal and rockabilly to ska and other genres. But more recently, Beard says, there’s been a conscious effort to grow that tradition of variety. “We’ve had a couple indie bands, some surf rock bands, a lot of bands with keyboards, softer rock, a couple hip hop shows, and a couple electronica experimental artists,” he says. “We try to book bands if they’re good. We’re not going to necessarily turn down a band because of their type of music, but we’ve definitely tried to expand it.”
Some touring bands see Lost Cross as a notch on their belt, even though the playing—and watching—conditions are legendarily poor and the house has fallen into serious states of squalor at times. In the last decade, a new front porch and rear steps were built onto the house, and a former tenant put up new drywall throughout the inside. Proceeds from the anniversary will help pay for a new PA system and construction of a privacy fence and deck in the backyard.
Snot says it seems impossible that 30 years have passed and Lost Cross is still Lost Cross. But it’s a tradition that needs to be maintained. “It’s an institution, possibly being the longest-running single punk house,” he says. “I haven’t seen anything to the contrary, so I think we should start wearing that banner proud.”
DETAILS FOR INFO BOX
What: Lost Cross 30th Anniversary RSVP
When: Saturday, Sept. 3, and Sunday, Sept. 4
Where: Lost Cross, PKs, Hangar 9
Bands: The Accelerators, Acumen, Autonomy, Bad Taste, Big Fat Nothing, Black Blacks, Blast Radius, Blood Stained Tool, Buzzzard, Cash Gal, The Copyrights, Conniption Fits, Diet Christ, Drilling for Blasting, Goddamn Jets, Hans Predator, Hippies With Guns, It Burns, Kill O’Reilly, Lick My Butt and Balls, Moloko Plus, Mukdukn, Panic Disorder, Safe T First, Seamstress, 7 Daze, Staring Problem, Swimming Pool Full of Dead People, Tweak Bird, Waxdolls
Cost: $15 for all shows