Exactly a month ago today, the Mouth House was closed, and two of its tenants are due in court today facing charges of distribution of alcohol without a license. On Saturday, October 26, just as the first band was starting its set at the DIY house venue, two undercover cops (one reportedly in a Dropkick Murphys t-shirt) infiltrated the show and shut the place down. Since then, all of the folks living there have been asked to vacate the house at 2828 California Street.
"Over the summer, the cops were showing up to some shows," says one of the tenants, who asked to remain anonymous. "So they put together a little sting operation on us. We were planning on having a big Halloween show, and they sent in two undercover cops -- just as the show was getting started.
"They were vice cops," the tenant goes on. "So guess they were looking for drugs and alcohol. They gave two tickets to two of the roommates -- then, because of this whole mess, our landlord gave us a week to get out." The landlord was purportedly fully aware that Mouth House was being used as a living and show space. There were nine people on the lease, which was month-to-month.
There were a few incidents with events at Mouth House in the recent past evidently that did get out of hand, enough so that the landlord intervened -- but again, she was well aware of its use as a DIY space, and the agreement was that tenants were going to tone it down and not destroy the place.
"We've been living here for like three years now," says the tenant, "so she definitely knew who we were and what we were doing." Apparently as the raid was going down -- which included several cop cars and more than a dozen officers -- the tenants were told that the police had been following Mouth House via social networking.
"They said they were using Facebook and a website [presence] we didn't create -- Songkick," says the tenant. "The cops said that Songkick was a big part of it because it looked like we were 'selling tickets,' although none of us listed the show on Songkick ourselves." Tickets were never sold for any shows at Mouth House, actually, nor was there a required amount of money owed at the door -- all shows were donation-based.
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As for the alcohol, there was beer, but it wasn't being sold outright by the tenants. "The cops thought that they would find more -- they wanted to find more. Drugs, probably. And they didn't," the tenant notes. "So, it was really just the show. The cops said that they weren't here to bust the show; they were here for the alcohol. But we weren't running a speakeasy -- it was a donation thing, and there happened to be a keg. We never intended it to be like, '$5, here's your alcohol.' That was just a side aspect of it -- we were doing what we always do -- having a DIY show."
In its three years as Mouth House -- the address has had a handful of monikers and been home to other artist-collective living situations -- the space hosted hundreds of shows, giving local and national acts alike a place to put on all ages events. In its lifetime, diverse acts like White Lung, Sauna, Speedwolf and Chase Ambler crammed amplifiers and rowdy crowds into the living room that was known for welcoming anyone and everyone to join the party.
Mouth House was even a launch pad for comedy, as local comedic heroes The Fine Gentleman's Club utilized the house as one of many venues for its end-of-summer Too Much Funstival blowouts over the last three years.
FGC's Nathan Lund lived at Mouth House for a period of time, and had this to say about the notorious space:
" I moved in to Mouth House to save money after quitting my job at the Mayan. Sam (Tallent) and I each paid 123 bucks a month, plus maybe $15 or $20 more for utilities. You couldn't beat it, if you could deal with the potential for utter madness that comes with living with 17 people who are mostly 18 to 24 years old (I turned 30 while living there, ha ha.) Fortunately, I had started dating my girlfriend right before I moved in to Mouth House and so I wasn't there all the time. It would have been too much for me to have spent every night there, because of all the shows and parties and random people that wandered in and made it as fun and chaotic and exhausting as it was to be there.
I will say that it's a fucking bullshit sham of a shame that Mouth House was shut down. A lot of very talented musicians and comedians have lived and performed at Mouth House. It was a good thing, not a bad thing, and it should be allowed to continue to house talented young creative people. The DPD should catch a rapist or a murderer or the fucking sociopaths playing Knockout instead of weird kids putting on independent shows and supporting each other."