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Danbury High School     43 Clapboard Ridge Road Danbury, CT 06811     (203) 797-4800

The Hatters' Herald

Danbury High School     43 Clapboard Ridge Road Danbury, CT 06811     (203) 797-4800

The Hatters' Herald

Danbury High School     43 Clapboard Ridge Road Danbury, CT 06811     (203) 797-4800

The Hatters' Herald

Sound Check #6: Reflections on the Underground Experience

There is no pain that feels as good as next-morning mosh pit bruises. There is no greater connection than that felt between moshers when we throw ourselves against each other—or, when we pick each other back up. And, of course, no greater pride for bands when their music can forge the bonds between sweaty strangers.
My first Underground Experience show was in November of 2023. It made me want to keep coming back again and again, no matter how sore my throat got or how exhausted I ended up later. But of course, Underground Experience is underground, lying in the nooks and crannies of the Connecticut music scene. At some shows, crowds barely reach twenty or thirty people—and yet, they bring the passion of sold-out stadiums.

via @underground_exp on Instagram

What is Underground Experience?

“Underground Experience” is basically a platform for underground or independent artists to get their music (and sometimes zines!) out in venues, build a fanbase, get on bills, and promote their projects. As of right now, most of their shows are in Connecticut, but they are also in Massachusetts. Underground Experience’s main outreach (for lack of a better word) is through Instagram (@underground_exp), where they can promote underground music to over 3,500 followers. Most of the bands are punk or punk-adjacent, and stand on values of supporting the art of the community. Underground Experience is supported and loved by Connecticut concertgoers, and some from New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts—I always appreciate seeing people who bring the most energy and keep it through the entire night.
Underground Experience was founded, and is headed, by Matt Solis, who puts phenomenal amounts of time, energy, and love into promoting, hosting, and attending each show. He is the spirit of the Connecticut underground scene, and has been building connections with local bands and show regulars for years. All while doing this, Solis maintains approachability and encourages everyone to have tons of fun at each show. All it takes is one show for someone to become a regular.

The bass of Issley Ziggen, 1/2 of band Film and Gender.

Solis’ passion is tangible, and he says that “Underground Experience was born out of a passion to be more involved in the music world, having nothing to do during quarantine, and, of course, mental illness.” He describes how interviewing indie bands gave him something to do when his OCD was debilitating, and it fit right in with his love for “under-appreciated music.” That love came from a documentary he watched—which in itself proves that a bit of visibility for underground music can completely build or change a community of artists and fans.
The Connecticut scene is particularly resilient, Solis says. “It always has the ability to come back,” despite venues getting shut down or bands changing. It’s an unfortunately overlooked scene, though, because to some it’s just a “highway between New York and Massachusetts.”

When asked what he would say to new people getting into the scene (such as yourself, dear reader), Solis had two pieces of advice: firstly, that the scene is for anyone and everyone, and secondly that there are still rules to be followed. “This space demands respect, as well as the places that hold it,” Solis said. “Make sure to give the bands your attention, make sure to read up on subculture, to know what you’re going to stands for!” It’s important to remember that Underground Experience lives on punk values, and punk is not just a genre of music or a style of dress. It’s inherently anti-establishment, anti-sellout, and it strives to make a place for underrepresented groups that want their voices to be heard… musically. If you know nothing about punk history (but you want to), Solis suggests you change that to really get involved and respect the scene to the full extent. I suggest that you bring earplugs.

Respect is the bottom line, but that doesn’t mean it’s all business. Underground Experience shows are “a place for art to thrive and people to unite, form a sense of community in a system that tries everything to eliminate that.” Despite everything working against the Connecticut underground scene, it prevails, and does so in a kick-ass way.

Finally, I asked Solis why it is so important to keep the scene alive, in his words. “It is what keeps everything going,” they say. “[It] provides people a creative outlet to express themselves, gives artists a chance to do what they love, friends to interact, ideas to spread that aren’t even considered in the outside world, and a way to vent and demand change against unjust systems.” Underground Experience stands for something bigger than itself. Solis never forgets this. “It’s why I do what I do,” they say.

Avenues for Artists

I can only speak about this section to an extent—seeing as I’m not in a band—but even from a distance, one can see what Underground Experience does for smaller bands. At one of their shows in December, a band said they received their first-ever mosh pit. It’s nothing but awesome that Underground Experience can provide a platform for that.

Film and Gender in New Milford, CT, Dec. 2023.

Bands are able to project their new music and project release dates to passionate audiences, too. In a sea of endless musicians and bands trying to make it, Underground Experience serves as the megaphone for phenomenal bands that deserve to be experienced. They’re not just advertising the music, they’re advertising the connection, the great night you had seeing a band, the community surrounding the scene. You end up coming back for more, and seeking more local gems, which is a great symbiotic relationship between artists and fans all around Connecticut.

There is also definitely something to be said about the physical connection between artists and fans. It truly means something to be so close to a band that they’re practically sweating on you, or nearly smacking you with the neck of a bass. All of the local bands I’ve seen thus far have incredible stage presence (and I personally prefer them to the big celebrities you’ll only ever know parasocially). Artists can not only have a place to perform that cares about them, but it’s much easier for them to see their supporters, connect with them, and talk to them. Of course, this continues the positive cycle.

Avenues for Fans

As a fan, I was initially drawn to the DIY-feel of the Underground Experience. At my first show, there were tables of handmade merchandise, from t-shirts to stickers to jewelry. Thinking about going into the venue with all these people whom I imagined to be too cool and too punk for me, I was hesitant as much as I was excited. Actually being there, though, feeling the energy—I immediately felt more willing to strike up conversations with strangers, feeling like we were all on common ground. That’s because the Underground Experience is a passion project. It’s by and for people who actually care about the punk scene and want it to thrive, not just survive. I mean, I walked in and someone in a wizard costume showed up. One of my friends brought in a pizza. What else could possibly be wanted?

A handmade shirt I bought for $25 at a UE show.

Getting into a show doesn’t cost more than $15 most times, and it is worth every penny—especially knowing that the money is going right into smaller bands and their work. Underground Experience completely changed my perspective on concerts and what they should look like. I went from envisioning expensive New York City tickets for far-away seats with potentially-dead crowds to being full of love for the hidden gems right here in my home state. Sometimes, the best music is right under your nose.

In fact, Underground Experience is also a fantastic way to get into new music. If you’re looking for something to spice up your playlists, Underground Experience is not just providing the band names, but the live experience of seeing them and moshing to them. You’ll gain a new appreciation for music as well as the people that are making it.

It’s more than likely you’ll make a friend at a show, too. Concertgoers at Underground Experience shows tend to be extroverted, and they aren’t shy when it comes to dancing and making noise. If you feel out of your comfort zone or nervous to be at a show, you’re not alone—but all it takes is one kick to the face to forge a bond for life. You’ll also be exposed to new ideas, both creatively and politically. Punk music can be a gateway into opening someone’s mind up and hearing what is never really given a chance in the mainstream. It’s absolutely worth going, even if just once, and even if you just hang by the wall. For some people, this scene simply isn’t their thing, but you never really know until you try it out. Plus, you can hear great music and get great bruises every single time.

This has been the sixth issue of Sound Check with Jules, the musical column in the Hatters’ Herald. Tune in weekly to hear about music history, review, recommendations, analysis, culture, and more! To find my favorite songs from local Underground Experience bands, which I listened to while writing, click here!

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About the Contributor
Hi! My name is Jules Kontozissi-Dahlstrom (he/they). I am currently a junior at DHS and this is my second year writing for the Hatters' Herald, and my first year writing the column Sound Check. I wanted to write for the Hatter's Herald to contribute more to the community at DHS, and begin publishing my writing outside of poetry. I have previously won awards for my poetry and short stories, such as two Silver awards in the CT Student Writer's Magazine and first place in the 2022 Danbury Cultural Commission Poetry Contest. You may also find me involved in Word Warriors, NEHS, and the Nutmegger. Aside from writing, I'm most passionate about drawing, fashion, music, and activism. I am thrilled to expand my skills in nonfiction and journalism!

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    warrick broeckingJan 5, 2024 at 1:14 pm

    ballin out