- Randy Harward
- Chirp’s Jeremy Devine and Sam Rodriguez
It's apt that Dis House is on a street so narrow you want to repeatedly ignore Google Maps' directive to turn. It's not that what Sam Rodriguez, aka Discoid Sam, does here is secret, but obscurity is part and parcel of underground concerts. That's why they're always in warehouses or back-alley art and practice spaces like the old Moroccan, which is now Copper Palate Press. Shows are just cooler when they're harder to find.
Rodriguez, 35, waits on the porch of the brick abode, wearing a black baseball cap and long black coat. He opens the screen door, revealing a living room decorated with old fliers, and stacks and stacks of cult films on VHS. In the kitchen, on a sticker-splattered table, an old 13-inch color TV provides low-res atmosphere.
The show's supposed to start at 6 p.m. So far, nobody is here. Rodriguez, who always seems mellow, isn't worried. He already has everything ready to go. "You wanna see where the bands play?" he asks.
The stage is the concrete floor of a 100-square-foot basement laundry room. The left wall is adorned with shiny dryer ducting, exposed pipes, jugs of detergent, various amplifiers and two bass guitars. On the rear and right walls, above an old seven-piece drum kit, are white bedsheets with Rodriguez's City of Dis label logo stenciled in black spray paint. Doorways on each wall lead to two rooms—one holds more instruments and gear; the other is Rodriguez's bedroom, where the frameless mattress is tipped against the wall to make room (if not sight lines) for more people.
In other words, it's perfect.
Rodriguez was born in Norwalk, Calif., but says, "I've lived all over the place." That includes various Cali towns as well as Las Vegas and even Fayetteville, Ark.—the home of Walmart—before coming to SLC 10 years ago. "I always wanted to be in bands since I was little, but I didn't actually get into music until I was 17 or 18," he says.
That was the early 2000s, when the internet made music easier to discover. Rodriguez had been exposed to the Beastie Boys and, through his stepfather, the first Suicidal Tendencies record. "I was all about that. And for a long time, I kinda held music up to either being [Suicidal Tendencies] or Queen—and a lot of music doesn't reach that bar." The sudden cyber-buffet changed everything.
Rodriguez realized he had an appetite for "weird, noisy stuff that wasn't like other stuff. I feel like a lot of people don't get that it was hard to find before the internet. Unless there was a local scene, or somebody got you something from somewhere else and was like, 'Yo, these bands exist. Check 'em out,' you didn't—I didn't know what the fuck to do."
A cacophonic racket is what puts the "dis" in Dis House and City of Dis, which purveys the discordant, dissonant music that Rodriguez finds so cathartic. "There's a lot of stuff that makes [Dis] funny," he says, citing d-beat band Discharge and "the negative connotation of 'diss.'" And of course, Discoid Sam. Much like the performing names of Joey Ramone and Joe Queer, it signifies a connection to the music, the house and the label, but also Discoid A, the band Rodriguez formed in 2010 with his brother Conrad Callirgos (Satanic Hispanic) and Raunch Records proprietor Brad Collins. "That's actually the first band I ever played shows with," Rodriguez says.
He'd had other music projects in the past, and tends to juggle several at a time. Currently, he performs and/or records with Zapp Brannigan, Hyrkanian, 22A, DRTGRBZ, Nelson Muntz, SWA, Worry and Chirp—a duo with Jeremy Devine (The Nods, 90s Television). Chirp's on the bill tonight, playing second, following a set by local one-woman loop-noise act Human Toy. By now, the small room is full of spectators.
After a quick soundcheck, Devin disappears into Rodriguez's room, reappearing a few minutes later with a City of Dis bandana covering the lower half of his face. It conceals a $5 contact microphone. Devine moans and yells unintelligibly into the device while furiously picking and strumming the thick strings on his stickered bass. Behind him, sans coat and hat, Rodriguez joyfully bashes his kit. The set seems to end as quickly as it started.
"We skipped a couple of songs," Rodriguez says. "I was tired and didn't practice." They played six or seven songs; the longest was a cover of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" which, at Chirp speed, clocks in at less than two minutes (instead of its usual four). So Chirp's set was done in roughly 10 minutes.
The crowd disperses, hanging out in various parts of Dis House until the next act is ready. I walk outside and head back into the world. I get into my car and look back down the street, feeling as though I've discovered something truly distinct.