Live music is harder to come by in a climate almost exclusively made up of electronic music and DJs. For students hungry for live alternative rock, there is a place to call home: Downtown Binghamton’s Seminary Shows. This series of live house shows host local and touring bands alike, and is a venue that should not be looked over.
“The Seminary Shows started at 52 Seminary last year,” said Jeff O’Neill, a 2014 Binghamton graduate and the head honcho of Seminary Shows. With a couple of friends and bandmates, the Seminary Shows started out of dissatisfaction for Binghamton’s music scene. “We were just sick of the lack of venues and places to play. For a school that had Nirvana play back in the ’90s, I expect a lot more than I see as far as a music scene goes currently.”
By word of mouth, Seminary Shows grew in popularity as more and more students attended their house shows. With a steadfast approach to DIY and a network of like-minded musicians, Seminary Shows has developed from a haven for local bands into a regular touring spot for more established acts. Now at a new location (36 Seminary Ave.), O’Neill and his friends have hosted bands from all over the country and even Belgium and Singapore. Touring bands often struggle financially and house shows like Seminary Shows give them a place to perform, sleep and get support through donations. Although Seminary Shows seems to cater to rock and alternative, all types of music are welcome.
“It’s indie, it’s punk, it’s rock, it’s jam-band, emo – anything really,” said Julia Fraietta, a senior majoring in English. “People will come and see these shows regardless since people like to see live music.”
A variety of genres, styles and types of bands is important to Seminary Shows’ prerogatives. “We have done all sorts of shows, from folk to shoegaze to metal,” O’Neill said. “We want Seminary Shows to be treated as a safe art space, where musicians are free to play shows of whatever style to new audiences who are receptive to the amount of work that can go in to their music.”
For O’Neill, Seminary Shows is about fostering a community for musicians that seems absent in Binghamton’s music scene. “I feel it is necessary to give bands a place to play, to help them follow their dreams and share their work.”
Local musicians share O’Neill’s sentiment. “I feel like Seminary is sort of the hub of the Binghamton underground scene,” explained Ben Brandwein, an undeclared sophomore. “There is a genuine feel to Seminary Shows where it’s raw and you see a lot of diversity. Some bands can seem younger and more casual but the acts that play here feel more solidified.”
Although O’Neill is moving to Brooklyn, he hopes Seminary Shows will continue without him. “I have to let it walk on its own and hope I made a small impact in people’s minds about live music, hopefully enough that they care to keep it going” he said. “I hope to inspire people to get involved in their music scene in any way they can: book shows, start a band, write up a music review in a zine, lend your records to your friends, join a music forum, do something. I firmly believe the concept of the venue show is dying out and DIY house shows such as mine are the current state of live music.”
Seminary Shows unites musicians, locals and fans of live music under one roof. The series is less about concerts and more about bringing music fans together. “The people are so amazing and connected,” Fraietta said. “I love coming here because everyone works so hard to put on and promote these shows and just love what they do.” For Seminary Shows, punk’s not dead.