BRUNSWICK — The Unitarian Universalist Church on Pleasant Street was a center of community for many people, but it also hosted a vibrant, literally underground music scene.
For the past few years, the church basement was an outpost of the Portland-area punk music scene, as well as for out-of-state bands touring the area.
But since a June 6 fire damaged the church, local musicians have been trying to find another place to perform, and reminiscing about the good times.
“They were really great shows, there was such a great sense of community there,” said Nate Oldham, a Linconville resident whose band, Rotundo Sealeg, has played at the church.
“The show was only ever one part of it, and the rest of it was hanging out outside the church, hanging out in Brunswick. It was always a great Brunswick night and the church would be the nucleus of that,” he said.
When he heard about the fire, Oldham immediately thought back to a song his band used to play at the church called “Fires of Elizabeth, New Jersey.”
“We’ve got a song that uses the metaphor of things burning down as making the best of crappy situations,” he said. “It’s ironic that the UU church burned down, because the shows there were always about … using what you had at hand to make the best show that you could.”
Four years ago, Brunswick resident Ryan Moore approached church leaders about the possibility of renting out the basement for music shows. He said the church’s reputation for openness and diversity prompted him to approach them instead of other churches.
“They seemed like the ones to go with,” he said.
Since then, Moore has booked dozens of bands in the basement. Some shows were sparsely attended, but a couple were packed.
“I always make an effort to get as eclectic a mix as possible,” he said, and picked bands that ranged from punk to electronic to hardcore.”
The fire destroyed one of Brunswick’s only venues for punk music, the musicians said. Most other venues cater towards jazz, folk or acoustic, “not a place for louder types,” Moore said.
In the interim, Moore and his band, Creek Bats, are trying to play shows in the third floor of his home. But the drums and amplifiers take up more than half of the space, and Moore said a noise ordinance would force them to stop at 10 p.m.
“Everyone in Brunswick claims they’re in cahoots with someone on the Town Council and they’re going to get us a space,” he said, but it hasn’t happened yet.
In the mean time, Moore is taking his show on the road. He plans to donate the money he makes to the Unitarian Universalist Church for repairs.
Cedar Cowart of the band A Primitive and Savage Land rocks out in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick in January 2007.
Ryan Moore plays with his band Memo in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick.
Nate Oldham of Rotundo Sealeg rocks out in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Brunswick.