Setting up shop in the big red house


Cameron Mahoney, now a senior secondary education major, was in Boston at the time of the fire, attending Berklee School of Music. A Gwinn High School graduate, Mahoney had been to the venue before seen bands perform and performed himself at 231 with several acts. So when Mahoney returned to Marquette in January to “focus on getting a real job,” he also came with the intention of bringing back a music scene to the area.

“When I got back, it’s like, ‘there’s no place to play really – at all,” Mahoney said. “That [231] was the one place that bands that aren’t necessarily dance bands could play.”

So the future part-time musician took what he learned from touring around Boston and New York – from what types of bands to book, how to get people to the shows to the technical aspects of putting on a show – and put it to use in Marquette.

“It’s a college town and people like music,” he said. “I think it’s just, people just need to do things. A lot of people are interested in it, but it’s one thing to talk about things, it’s another thing to actually do them.”

Cameron’s venue of choice wasn’t a theater or a club though; instead, he chose the basement of his red house on Presque Isle Avenue.

“Really, I just wanted to give people a place to play,” he said. “And basement shows are really good for bands that are just starting out and might not have enough material to play demanding four-hour gigs at some bar; that’s a lot of time to fill.”

The basement environment, with low-headroom and cement walls, surrounded by friends who’ve come with the intention of listening intently to original music, also adds to the appeal of the basement shows.

“It’s a good place for people to try out new ideas,” Mahoney said. “It’s a less vulnerable situation.”

Mahoney is the lead singer and songwriter of The Robert E. Lee High School Band, an indie-rock ensemble which, in his words,
“balances listenable, catchy, dancy melodies with more complex arrangements.”

“We might change it eventually,” he said of the band name. “It’s kind of a long name. I just didn’t want to pick anything that sounded too serious. I think people should have a sense of humor about themselves.”

Along with Mahoney, fellow NMU students Ethan Debelak (bass) and Elizabeth Lyons (drums) are in the group.

The Robert E. Lee High School Band has played at the Vista, the Upfront, at Remillard’s Bar’s open mic night, Harvey’s Bayou Bar and Grill and of course, at Mahoney’s basement shows.

Mahoney said he’s still finding ways that he can make his shows better, and that’s part of the learning process that he, Moore and the whole Marquette music scene are all experiencing.

“It definitely is a learning experience for everybody, I think, because it’s a totally different thing than getting your average bar band to play for four hours,” Mahoney said. “This is a different animal. There’s a bigger social aspect to it, because when you have a music scene, a lot of it is built off of social interaction. People enjoy being a part of that subculture, even if they’re not in a band.”