Boobzhaus is not your typical music venue. In fact, it’s not even above ground.
A part of a class of sites called “basement venues,” Boobzhaus is buried beneath the moist soil of a run-down college house. Tickets are not available in advance, and there's no barcode scan when you walk in the door. As you go down the stairs, you enter a stage that's next door to the house's laundry room.
But all of those things melt away in the face of the music.
Gavin Urhmacher, a Boobzhaus creator, manager and resident, said basement shows radiate “a certain kind of energy” that draws DIY music enthusiasts and facilitates a communal culture.
If you're looking to see a Boobzhaus show, you won’t find the address posted anywhere online. Their posters and Instagram posts proudly display, “Dm a Punk for addy.”
Urhmacher said the added privacy protects the owners who live above the venue and is a Madison DIY scene mainstay. It’s an insular scene, and getting in is tough.
Urhmacher not only books bands for Boobzhaus but also manages and performs vocals for a local punk band, Supercritical. He said his roommates all have professional music experience, something that gave them a unique perspective when building the venue.
“We figured we were able to accommodate artists and audiences in a way that maybe some other basement venues haven't before,” Urhmacher said.
The venue originally started as a basement practice space for those who live in the house. It only became Boobzhaus through happenstance and necessity due a chronic lack of space in Madison’s DIY community, Urchmacher said.
“There are only a few spots that you can rely on being open year to year,” he said of local DIY venues. “It's just like, ’Hey, we have a space, it might work.’”
Creating Boobzhaus required a bit of engineering from Urchmacher and his friends.
“We [had] to snake 50 feet worth of extension cables from the laundry room into the performance area and make sure everything is rated to carry the amount of power that we'd be pulling,” he said.
With two DIY Madison venues being shut down in the past year, there has been a “communal need,” as Tone Madison describes it, for new DIY venues to keep Madiosn’s scene afloat. These spaces are often ones run by musicians like Urhmacher, who are not explicitly profit-oriented but create thriving spaces for up-and-coming bands to play music and attract attention.
It’s the connection between Urhmacher and other venues that allows him to bring in bands touring across the Midwest.
“I've had more lineups fall into my lap,” Urchmacher said while explaining how Boobzhaus books bands. “Two of the shows we did closer to the summer were touring acts, and they were looking for a Madison venue.”
Boobzhaus is now engrained in Madison’s DIY ecosystem and will continue to be a shelter for shows featuring small, independent artists, Urchmacher said.
And for anyone wondering how the name came to be — Urchmacher has an answer for that, too.
“The vast majority of people who live in the house are queer and enjoy breasts,” he said.
Gabriella Hartlaub is an arts editor for the Daily Cardinal. She also reports state politics and life & style stories. Follow her on Twitter at @gabihartlaub.