At 3pm, Loners Club is a frenzy of activity. A chord organ has been discovered, a touring musician and a local making up harmonies and melodies. Carlyn Thomas and Amanda Glasser run about, prepping various this and various that. They need an outlet. Where is the outlet?
Loners Club used to be elsewhere, but has since moved. Amanda Glasser is the clear core, her presence at shows strong and commanding; the venue’s heart vibrates to her iron string. At my first Loners Club event, it was clear she was in charge, in a sure sense, barefoot, nonplussed, at home.
When I asked Amanda in an interview how she got weird, she explained that she’s an only child. “(Growing up) I just kind of spent a lot of time by myself outside with my dog. So I feel like I just developed some tendencies or interests that are maybe idiosyncratic. I don’t think I’m that weird. I mean… I’m kind of weird. I don’t have a problem with being called weird, obviously. But I feel like that has had a lot to do with how I’ve ended up. And I have always really liked music and always wanted to sing and been really drawn to that.”
What is Loners Club? Well, it is a series of shows. It is also a home. It is also a Facebook group, set to “private.”
Despite the feeling that Facebook is over, despite the 2016 itch for what is next, I found out about Loners Club on that social media site. It is a bit of a cat and mouse game, no official address given for shows. The most recent instruction given as to how to find it: “ask a loner”. You gain these addresses for places like Floristree, MySpace (not that one- the warehouse space), The Holy Underground, or The Hippo Hut by either good research or knowing someone who knows someone.
So, one day, on Facebook, I saw somewhere a show listed at the space. I can’t remember if one of the acts piqued my interest, but a new space on the Baltimore Underground map/radar always does.
After the usual diligent research, I stumbled one evening into a wonderful basement, stage-lit by Christmas lights, everything arranged to create a feeling of comfort, of welcome. You can’t beat these moments; another haven, another place where people get to be free, to be themselves, just for a time. I didn’t seem to know anyone. A good sign. It was a good night.
Today, as the next show’s clock ticks, Amanda remains a ball of energy, hurrying about, her pale blue eyes flashing about the room.
She is a powerful force and she is aware of it. But still, as she put it, “I think that it’s important for someone to have a presence when you’re doing a house show because you’ve got to… I don’t know, I really do want my house to be a space where people feel safe and feel like they can come to me if something bad happens or even if there’s just somebody there who they think is dangerous, which hasn’t happened at all so far.”
But it could. Amanda is very aware of that.
Carlyn Thomas is just as industrious, just as aware, as the preshow set up continues. But their energy is different.
When I interviewed Carlyn and asked them about how they got “weird”, Carlyn explained that they did not come from a background steeped in the arts but had started culturing themselves at a young age. They got really into art starting in elementary and middle school; teachers noticed they just had a knack for it. Carlyn was soon on the path to becoming more involved in the world and culture of art. Learning about scenes like those surrounding Andy Warhol’s Factory and things like performance art, how weird and morose and provocative it can get, just always really triggered them, set off a lightbulb in their head. People could congregate with a similar purpose and advocate for things, often in a political sense. Carlyn wanted to be a part of that.
So Carlyn is down to be a part of this. In 2023, that hasn’t changed.
But, anyway… back to 2016.
The chord organ has been replaced by rap music I have never heard before. Going to underground shows is like that; even a musically well-versed potentially jaded showgoer “heard it all” person like myself gets turned on and tuned in to what is next, what is new. I think of each moment of the show at an underground space as part of a total experience. The nights sear in my memory more than those spent at conventional venues. Underground shows are often listed in my calendar by venue, not by artist: “Show @ SDF America,” for example. I may have not heard of the artists. No big deal. I will soon.
These Loners Club folks are younger than me, coming from a different set of references. This is good. Alienation, on occasion, is better than constant comfort. The key is to be open and respectful.
We’ve switched from rap music I have never heard before to ultra-upbeat neo-80s music I have never heard before. It is hard for me to tell its origin or year. You can never tell what will come back or when, but it all will. All good for my ears, all good for my soul.
I am back at Loners Club, a place of competence and sure expertise; guitars get picked up and broken down masterfully. Friends of people here write for Reductress. Amanda has spent some time writing for She Shreds.
Amanda’s journey with guitar began early. ”I always used to try to write songs when I was a little kid. I had this fake music notation that I would use, and it was little dots… whatever. Notes. Intervals. So I really wanted to be able to accompany myself (when singing) and I hadn’t been able to really do that on piano. So, I got a guitar, started to write songs. Got more serious about that, I guess. Not serious, but my first year of college, I remember, I wrote the first song that I recorded.”
I have become a regular here, something I tend to do when I find a place to be. A touring band member has a cold. The touring band member is amazed at the situation: a full-house house show! Packed! How many people are here? And who declared Wednesday the night to be out and about? Not sure.
Me, I am tired. My sad familiarity with sleep deprivation is the result of a grizzled sea captain-like resolve to weather the price of being both full-time employed and a devotee of the Baltimore Underground. I am here to see what is to be seen and heard, by thunder! Tomorrow can go to freakin’ heck! These times, these moments are important and valuable to me.
The PA selection at Loner’s Club leans tonight on the best of 1990s Indie rock, records I bought at Reptilian Records (the physical store long gone, but still a going concern as a record label today) and the Record and Tape Traders chain (RIP). I am sensing this music is back in the mix, influencing these newer folks, the depths of Youtube serving up more and more of what they seek, algorithms making daisy chains. You like Pavement? How about Helium. You like Helium? How about Built to Spill? And so on…
Someone brought seltzer. I am offered a seltzer.
The Loners Club Facebook group will come alive with bursts of chatter, in tune with the whip smart energy of Amanda Glasser, bright and willing and sure, living in the moment. Sometimes if the show is dead, Amanda will go on the Facebook group at the show. The aim is to get more folks to come out. It also passes the time more pleasantly, talking about the Internet together. I sometimes challenge myself and the person I am talking with to not talk about the Internet, at least for a while. It can be hard for both of us.
The venue has grown IRL and online. As Amanda puts it, “The Facebook group that I made… I ‘closed’ it recently because it was getting to 300 plus people and I was like, ‘this is a good number.’ I don’t want it to just be for advertising Loners Club shows. I want people to be able to be like, ‘Hey, here’s a thing I’m thinking about.’ Or ‘Here’s this band that needs help,’ whatever. So that has started happening, the ‘Here’s this band that needs help’ kind of thing. And that’s really good. And people have definitely responded to those kinds of posts on the group, and then other people have helped bands that are looking for places to play.”
Venues like Loners Club, once established and humming, always wind up getting more requests for shows than they can handle. And boy is it humming tonight!
As I enter into the last show at Loners Club (for real), Anna K. Crooks is lying on the floor, leafing through a book of poetry, preparing to read. There is a friendly dog here.
As is sometimes the case, I am put in charge of the door. 5 to 10 bucks donation, if you can spare it. No one is to be turned away for lack of funds. It is a “soft skill” to do this job. I have it and it is not my first time to be so asked. Pitch in and help out? Sure.
When you work the door, you focus on that. The night passes. I keep my eye on the money.
At the conclusion of the evening, Amanda declares “Now I can be free of this responsibility!” She smiles slightly, relieved, as the audience applauds.
In 2016, when asked about why she kept going with the space over time, despite the attendant headaches and hassles inherent to all such endeavors, Amanda summed it up. “I made a lot of friends. Things were consistently good. Every show we had was great. No one was ever creepy. No one ever stole anything. I think we broke a mic stand once by accident. That was literally the biggest issue that every happened in any of those shows (over that year).”
Loners Club is over. But the story does not end there.
When I watch Amanda Glasser perform, I am paying for the privilege to feel her sadness, her rage, her joy, to watch her let it out, to rip it up full band style in Purrer or to put it on the line solo acoustic. And it makes me feel less alone and it makes me feel better.
This is going to happen tonight at The Crown.
Amanda lit and placed a candle on each table in the venue. Like at Loners Club, there is an ambience, a vibe to the thing. Set and setting.
I have been getting amped about candles recently. Music by candlelight, writing by candlelight. Now that the summer has ended, we go into a new season, a new era. Free of some responsibilities, facing others.
Later, I send a fact check to Amanda. This contains a sentence I like from my drafting from this night. I wrote
Some people need to sing sad songs. They sing them to feel less sad, to do something with the sadness. For other people, this witnessing to sad resonates powerfully. By the end, the hope is that both the broadcaster of the sad and the receiver of the sad feel better. Other folks want nothing to do with this whole “sad songs” business.
“I would say that I don’t necessarily want to feel less sad, but writing and playing those songs helps me feel less alone in my sadness, and that humanity balances the sadness out and gives me some perspective. I want to honor my sadness and make sure it doesn’t control me or inhibit my ability to remember that we are all fighting our own battles.”
She put it better.
Tonight, somewhere, someone is putting on a show in a basement, a church hall, a home. Someone is opening up to the possibilities and the dangers of letting others in. They are there if you seek them out and if you support them.
If the space does not exist, make it exist.
I’ll be there.
Do you need someone to work the door?
Anything for a Weird Life will return after Labor Day.