A couple of long-running Reno house venues are slated to be torn down
I sometimes have a feeling of maybe being almost Reno famous when I tell people I live behind the house known as Fort Ryland, straddling midtown and downtown Reno. I have absolutely nothing to do with its past or its rise to notoriety for being a major part of Reno's DIY music scene, but as a resident of the neighborhood, I know that my fellow neighbors and I reap the benefits of some sort of grandfathered rent control, but that's all about to come to an end.
It's these older, often overlooked homes that have allowed the music scene to thrive in the basements and living rooms of Reno, numerous roommates packed in and cycled through for as long as they can handle it, all for the sake of having a dirt cheap place where people can host bands and hang out. More than the structures themselves, the residents' unwillingness to take no as an answer kept the basement shows alive and well. Yet after decades of being some of the longest standing house venues, Fort Ryland and Clark Lane Maul will be some of the first houses demolished as part of Reno's new housing initiative, “1,000 Homes in 120 Days,” taking over a decade of paint, sweat and beers down with them.
This land is Ryland
Reno was a haven for underground shows in the '90s and early 2000s, thanks to the efforts of a now older generation of punks who wouldn't have it any other way. Pete Menchetti, of Sticker Guy and Slovenly Records fame, hosted house shows nearby at a different house also on Ryland Street back in the '90s, continuing for about seven years until the landlord sold the property.
“Pete went tooth and nail to start shows in Reno,” Eka Bajwa, a former resident of Fort Ryland, said. “It [the music scene] was a weird underbelly a lot of people didn't know about.”
Back then, there were limited clubs that were willing to have all-ages shows, so the demand for more spaces to see and play music grew out of necessity. Mac Schopen, a Reno local now living in Oakland, recalls his first two shows in his hometown, and just how different they were.
“My first show at Pete's house was the second show I went to, ever,” he said. His first show was at the Fallout Shelter, a venue in downtown Reno. “I remember going to that show and that was just total culture shock—literally it was like something you would see out of a movie, and it was pretty overwhelming,” he said about the show at the Fallout Shelter.
At Menchetti's house, however, he said, “It was a completely different atmosphere. I don't want to romanticize it to the point where it was like this hippy love-in, but it was like, this is clearly a thing in my hometown that I did not know about. This was like a real community of friends, and I think more than anything that's kind of the feeling that stuck with me.”
Throughout the early 2000s, other house venues continued sprouting up as others closed their doors, predictable in nature, with their names perfectly balanced with puns, song lyrics and inside jokes. There was a house on Park Street just across from The Hideout (R.I.P.), and Joe's Garage up in northwest Reno (apparently a hassle to get to but usually worth the trek). Things finally came back down to central Reno, with Zeke's Casa de Hardcore, the Spacement and then the House of Dread, later known as Ground Zero, all in the midtown and Wells neighborhood.
The Proxy House, also known as Clark Lane Maul, and Fort Ryland, are two neighboring brick homes on Ryland Street that had some of the largest impacts on Reno's DIY music scene.
Rent at Fort Ryland in the late 2000s was around $825 for six makeshift bedrooms and huge basement, and throughout the years it has hosted some of the most memorable—and totally forgettable—shows Reno has seen.
“The Ryland house was especially interesting too because it started off as a weird vegan straight-edge house,” Clark Demeritt, former music director of the Holland Project and the Clark of Clark Lane Maul, reflected on the changes Fort Ryland has seen. “Well, it started off as an everything punk house, then kind of turned out to be a mean punk house, and then it turned into the Eyeball. … It was crazy, you could write on the walls there. It just became this weird hangout for everybody. I would go there after school almost every day, sometimes I did homework there, which was weird. It's where I found community, in a broader sense, of, like, having a show house and letting people stay over, and it just expanded my world. Just to be anywhere on the west coast, I had a friend or a place to stay or a place to play at.”
Depends on what you mean by ‘affordable'
In effort to provide respite to the housing crisis in Reno, in October, the Reno City Council adopted a resolution enacting the “1,000 Homes in 120 Days” initiative, designed to entice developers to Reno's urban core of downtown, midtown and surrounding areas. There had been attempts to renovate the neighborhood in the past, but with the block known as ‘Little Portland' a stone's throw from Fort Ryland, the incentives to develop have never been so successful before.
“They've been trying to develop on that parking lot on Ryland Street for years,” Bajwa said. Even before there was a housing shortage, the landlords were searching to bring more buzz to the area.
According to the deal, City Council has agreed to offer both a sewage connection fee deferral and building permit fee deferral for the 1088 units that have already agreed to the standard agreement, with the other 950 units awaiting project-specific agreements. This deal defers upward of 11 million dollars of fees which are to be paid incrementally over a five-year span once construction is complete.
Nine of the 10 houses on Ryland and Pine streets, between Sinclair and River Rock streets, will be demolished to make room for 49 townhouse units. The nine doomed houses, including Fort Ryland, Clark Lane Maul and my own house, are all currently occupied. None of the new units are expected to be subsidized, meaning they will not rent or sell for under market price.
When punk homes were sold and the doors were closed in the past, there were two options: don't have a show or make something else happen. The combination of hands-off landlords, cheap rent and the DIY spirit was how these basement shows existed throughout the years, and still to this day. Schopen praises places like the Holland Project for being an outlet, especially as more underground venues become less common, but he is adamant that changing times have always produced even more fruitful efforts to keep Reno's music scene alive throughout the years.
“It was definitely an era, but it was one era of many,” Schopen said. “It was a really exciting time. I knew it wasn't going to last forever, but I knew once it went away, something else would come around.”
It's hard to see anything beloved change in front of your eyes, and for me personally, I'm not excited about having to find a rental that is going to be well above the current $1,075 per month. Clark Lane Maul, Fort Ryland and my house will all become relics of the past, and as the cost of living in Reno continues to increase, irrespective of how much people are earning, it might be worth asking, are the punks still here?