Animal Haus

How a quaint little home on a quiet little street
became Edmonton’s only outlaw punk venue

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By Alexander Sorochan

dropcapaIGHT NOW, the house is quiet.  Just another aging home, slowly falling apart a few blocks from Whyte Avenue. It’s nestled south of the busy strip, on the wrong side of the tracks, tucked away from the commotion of drunken nightlife. A layer of unraked leaves coats the front yard, turning into brown sludge with the mud and rain. A few overgrown trees hide its face, trying to shield the outside world from the pandemonium within. To the casual observer, it’s like any other place on the block: a bit old and in need of a few repairs, sure. But it looks like a normal enough house.

The thing is, this isn’t any normal house. This is Clint’s Haus: a refuge where the drunk and stoned punks of Edmonton can relax and sip cheap beer while head-banging to the noisy punk bands in front of them; a place for bands, both local and touring, to throw down and share their music with anyone willing to listen.

There are only three rules at Clint’s Haus: No bigots, no needles, and no hanging out in the front yard.

“If they want to get themselves fucking wasted and just flail around the house, as long as they’re not hurting anybody else or themselves, so be it,” says Clint Hoekstra, resident and founder of Clint’s Haus.

And that’s exactly what happens. A couple of nights each month, a horde of punks shows up on Hoekstra’s back porch – cases of beer in hand – ready for a show. They pack into the living room, and, over the course of the next few hours, drink and smoke themselves into oblivion – all the while listening to some of the weirdest and loudest music Edmonton has to offer.

This is the second incarnation of Clint’s Haus, a venue that caters to the wilder and more offbeat side of the Edmonton music scene. The original was in a basement in the east end of town. Despite the mayhem of the shows and at least one electrical fire, the old house managed to survive for a couple years.

“The toilets were broken,” Hoekstra says, reminiscing about the ruins of his old place. “The sinks were broken, the ceiling tiles all needed to be replaced, all the drywall in the basement was just destroyed.

“There was a series of bloodstains that for some reason we couldn’t get out of the floor tiles.”

When their landlord saw the state of the house he was understandably horrified. Hoekstra was evicted shortly after.

Chad Fougere playing drums in Dad’s Clone, part of a genre that’s described ‘drones with words and shit’.

Chad Fougere playing drums in Dad’s Clone, part of a genre that’s described as ‘drones with words and shit.’

“I think we were kinda growing pot in the basement, too, which didn’t help,” Hoekstra adds.

After a few months of searching, Hoekstra found the new house off Whyte Avenue. It was perfect.

His roommates were musicians, whom he knew from the scene and who shared his vision.

“I was going to shows at the old house already,” says Justin Slater, Hoekstra’s current roommate. “I had a pretty good idea of what it was we were getting into.”

It also helped that his neighbours weren’t the kind of people to be bothered by the commotion.

“I knew that the neighbours on one side were a bunch of drunken punks,” Hoekstra says. “And the neighbours on the other side were a real estate office that closed at 5 p.m. So I was good for noise.”

dropcapaHE WOOD FLOORING is scraped and dented from the boots of countless punks throwing themselves around in the mosh pit. There’s a giant hole in the living room wall. But, despite the damage costs that have mounted up over the last two years, Hoekstra thinks it’s been worth it. Clint’s Haus has been able to host bands that wouldn’t be able to play anywhere else.

“Since this house is used for a mosh pit, the floors don’t matter,” Hoekstra says. “We can do things like break TVs and break lamps and smash chains on the ground to make all these what the noise artists call ‘found noises’ or ‘found sounds,’ that normal studios can’t do.”

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A poster from a Clint’s Haus show. Some of the weirdest and loudest music in Edmonton.

But somebody has to pay for all the damage, and it ain’t cheap. The first house cost around $5,000 to repair, all out of Hoekstra’s pocket.

“It took me probably two years to pay back the loans that I had to incur to fix all the shit in that basement,” Hoekstra says. With the new house, he’s hoping it won’t be quite as bad. “We have enough friends that are carpenters and stuff, we can just team it out and do it ourselves.”

It also helps that their new landlord understands what Clint’s Haus is and, for the most part, is OK with it.

“He doesn’t have a problem with it, as long as the cops never get involved,” Hoekstra says. “The cops, formally speaking, have not got involved.”

That’s not to say that there haven’t been some close calls.

“One of the first shows we had here was a local band called Psychotik Tantrum that was just about to start playing their set,” Hoekstra says. “I think they were the third band of the night.

“It was to the point where the drummer had his sticks in the air and he was going to do his count-in then somebody rushed in the back door, or somebody was smoking in the backyard, and just says: ‘You guys! You guys! Cops are here!’ ”

Hearing this, Hoekstra jumped into action.

“I just told them to turn all the amps down to zero and I turned all the lights off and closed all the curtains.

“We closed the door and they were all dead silent for about five minutes.”

Eventually, Hoekstra went out back to see what was going on.

“I strolled out into the alley and sure enough just at that moment this paddy wagon was driving by at about walking speed,” Hoekstra says. “They stopped right behind our house because they saw me smoking.

“After a couple minutes, they get out of their van. It was two or three cops, and they’re all putting on their latex gloves. So they’re getting ready to frisk people and arrest people.”

But the officers looked confused. They had got a noise complaint, but no actual address. They asked Hoekstra if he had heard anything.

“I’m like, ‘No, I don’t know. There was an apartment down the street having a party or something I think,’ ” Hoekstra says. “ ‘We’re having a fire with a couple people in the backyard but I think we’re being pretty quiet.’ ”

The officers told him to continue on, then got back in their van and drove off – completely oblivious to the throng of punks and metal heads crammed into Clint’s Haus a hundred feet away. Hoekstra went back inside, turned the amps back on, and two more bands played that night.

“We’ve just kinda had dumb luck and gotten away with it for this long,” Hoekstra says. “Who knows how long it’ll actually last.”

But right now, the house is quiet. There’s a show later tonight, but it’s still early. A few people wander from room to room – either close friends of Hoekstra or his roommates, or band members who are crashing there for the next few days. The barbecue is flaming away in the backyard, greasy burgers covering every inch of the grill – they’re free for anybody who wants one. Hoekstra and Slater sit on a couch in the kitchen, chain-smoking. They are debating U.S. economic policy and the state of the Western World, killing time before the show.

Soon, the house starts to fill up with people. They wander around smoking and chatting, waiting for the bands to start. Piles of amps line the walls, with pads of foam pinned up between them to kill the noise. A stack of three couches has been pushed up against one wall with people still sitting on top.

At the backdoor, a doorman collects the cover charge – $5 per person – most of which either goes to the bands or to charities like the Stollery Children’s Hospital. On the table in front of him is an overflowing ashtray, some empty beer cans and a bong.

“I liked the idea of the self-governing group,” Hoekstra says.

And that’s how it goes. The doorman is whoever happens to be sitting on the couch by the door when people walk in, everyone is smoking inside, and you’re free to do what you want, as long as you’re not bothering anybody. Hoekstra didn’t want to post a giant list of rules for people to follow, especially since most of his audience consists of punks.

“That’s basically giving them a list of things they’re going to try and get away with that night,” Hoekstra says.

The shows do sometimes get a little chaotic, however. Hoekstra remembers one where Sete Star Sept from Tokyo played at his house.

“That was a crazy show. People were lighting roman candles in the house, and a bunch of Squamish punks showed up and were just waving their dicks around and doing meth off their drums.

“It was really, really greasy, but couldn’t have been more memorable.”

Despite some of the raunchy behaviour, there have never been any big problems. Everyone is here to have a good time, and they want to make sure everyone else does, too.

If a fight does threaten to break out, it is dealt with quickly. At a Blessed show, a couple of guys started pushing each other around in the living room, but before anything actually happened, the band stopped playing – mid-song – and wouldn’t start again until it was broken up. Even the bands are watching out for everyone.

dropcapaHE TURNOUT FOR shows at Clint’s Haus has been astounding. On average, around 80 to 120 people show up, with some of the bigger shows bringing in upwards of 200. It’s interesting to see, considering how many small venues around Edmonton have had problems staying in business. In the last year alone, Edmonton has seen many of its smaller independent venues shut down, including Avenue Theatre, The Artery, The Pawnshop, and most recently, Wünderbar.

Brett McKay playing guitar in the living room for an attentive crowd.

Brett McKay playing guitar in the living room for an attentive crowd. Even when the punk is acoustic, the atmosphere is electric.

“People don’t want to pay bar liquor prices,” Hoekstra says. “The fact that people can just go to Tops (Liquor Store) down the street and grab a 15-pack and bring it here and drink a dollar per beer instead of five or six at the bar is, I think, really attractive to a lot of local punks.”

A major problem for many of the local venues is that there’s a limited number of people who are interested in any given show, and nobody has the money or time to come out seven nights a week. Large portions of the people who go to shows like this are either poor students, or just plain poor. Even if they can afford cover, drinking $6-a-pint beer all night starts to add up. It’s much cheaper, and much more relaxed, to go to a house show.

“I’m the kind of guy to choose a house show over most, simply because I feel at home,” says Brett Paquin, who helps organize shows with Hoekstra on occasion.

Jibril Yassin, a resident and contributor to another local venue The Chess House, lists a few more advantages to these kinds of shows.

“The costs of operating a show at a house, provided your neighbours won’t call the cops on you, are far cheaper than operating a venue where you have to think about paying rent and employees, and buying and selling booze,” he says.

“It also means there’s a bigger freedom to experiment, because you don’t have to worry about making sure you’re breaking even on any of the shows you stage.”

dropcapaT’S A QUIETER show tonight, with a focus on folk-punk. People sit cross-legged on the living room floor, while Jesse Stewart strums away on his guitar. They listen intently, loving every minute of it.

Mounds of beer cans have collected in the corners of the room by the time the last band of the night finishes its set. The ever-present aroma of tobacco and weed has become a visible haze that swirls in the air around people’s heads. The audience slowly makes its way to the door, finishing beers and cigarettes. There are punks, hipsters, metal heads – people from all walks of life – but as different as they all may be, there is at least one similarity among them: they don’t want to leave.

It takes a special guy to pull off something like Clint’s Haus – somebody with just the right volatile combination of luck, love and reckless abandon – and Hoekstra has it. He’s given Edmonton a much-needed place for independent bands to play shows, and for punks and drunks to hang out and catch some live music without having to pay ridiculous amounts of money.

When asked what the secret to making something like Clint’s Haus work is, Hoekstra has only one answer.

“You gotta learn how to stack couches.”

The bands and audience, including writer Alex Sorochan, pile onto the stacks of couches after the Nov. 7, 2015 show.

The bands and audience, including writer Alex Sorochan (lower left) pile onto the stacks of couches after the Nov. 7, 2015 show.

Photos by Clint Hoekstra

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