In a sudden turn of events, a popular music venue in Rexburg, Idaho has closed its doors.
The Basement officially closed on July 14.
The Basement had successfully hosted The Grounds Music and Arts Festival as recently as July 10. The event was held at the Madison Fair Grounds and was well attended by students and members of the community.
Riley Bode, a senior studying dance at BYU–Idaho, served as the manager for the Basement before it closed.
“Steve (Jensen), our lease manager, died,” Bode said. “He passed away from a heart attack super suddenly, it was really sad. He was still pretty young, and when that happened obviously the lease was going to get put somewhere else.”
After Jensen’s passing, the decision to keep or sell the lease fell to Jensen’s wife, who ultimately decided to give the building back to the owner.
Aaron Pearl, the bass player for a band known as the Opskamatrists and a BYU-I alumnus, has been involved in the East Idaho music scene since 2013. He and his fellow band members were concerned when they heard of the sudden closure of the Basement.
“We’ve played at the Basement many times,” Pearl said. “We were always a favorite band of Steve’s. He loved it when we would come down there.”
Pearl knew Jensen personally and considered him to be a role model and a friend.
“Steve was awesome,” Pearl said. “He was from California. He had a ton of different hobbies, just a real entrepreneurial kind of guy. Ever since the Basement took over, they’ve done an amazing job of growing interest for music and the arts, and I really hope that the residents will demand a replacement and fight for that.”
Jensen’s unexpected passing has shocked many people in the community. And his sudden absence has altered the fate of the Basement.
Apparently, much to the chagrin of the musical community in Rexburg, the owner of the building has made the unexpected decision to discontinue any musical activities.
“The basement is just not (the owners) style,” Bode continued. “It’s easy to point fingers or get mad at him but when it comes down to it, I think that it’s just not his style, not his thing, and I think he just kind of wants it gone.”
Bode stressed the fact that while many people are upset at the owner’s decision to discontinue the events that have been held at the Basement, he is generally regarded as a good person.
“He is a nice guy, though,” Bode claimed. “Everyone kind of freaked out for a second and they are super mad at him. Of course, we’re all devastated about it, but I think that he is a good man, he just doesn’t love the Basement.”
A local band, Indigo Waves, started a Go Fund Me called Save Rexburg Music. As of the publication of this article it has accumulated over $3,000 in less than a day.
“At first I thought that nobody would care; it’s just going to be done, and it’s going to be sad but whatever,” Bode stated. “And then (the Go Fund Me) exploded. I did not know that that many people cared about the Basement so much. And so that struck me a little bit, because it’s like it can’t just be over, because all these people care about it. It can’t just be done.”
“It might just be time to find someplace else,” Bode continued. “I told people if we raise the money for equipment and a new venue, I will start from scratch. I’ll do it all over again. I will try my hardest to give people a space.”
The description of “Save Rexburg Music” states: “It’s been made clear that Rexburg music needs to keep going. It’s a source of passion and relief for students, bands, and locals. Please consider donating so they can get a new place, some equipment, and keep music alive in Rexburg, Idaho.”
“The music community is thriving right now,” Bode stressed. “There is so much going on. We were booked until November. Everybody wants to play, everybody has things that they want to share. I think this space is so important to preserve.”
There are very few music venues in the city of Rexburg, apart from the college campus. The loss of the Basement will be felt acutely by those who frequent concerts in the local area. The need for a musical outlet is a passion among many of the rising generations in East Idaho.
“The new Basement will still be the Basement, but it’s going to be different than when it was first put down here,” Bode stated. “If it’s at the (same building) or somewhere else, I don’t care. That doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is the thought that it would stop. It’s just starting to get rolling.”
Pearl pointed out that the Basement has been very popular in Rexburg, among both residents and students.
“Ever since the Basement took over, they’ve done an amazing job of growing interest for music and the arts, and I really hope that the residents will demand a replacement and fight for that,” Pearl said. “I have a lot of hope for the music scene in Rexburg. I hope that students and the people in Rexburg will fight for the music to continue.”
“If anyone know a space, let us know,” Bode concluded.