will-o’-the-wisp, noun. 1. a phosphorescent light seen hovering or floating at night over marshy ground, thought to result from the combustion of natural gases; ignis fatuus. 2. a person or thing that is difficult or impossible to find, reach, or catch.
So what do you do when your sleepy town doesn’t have an outlet for the type of music you like? For many, whining that Salem is “So-Lame” is one way to vent the frustration; for others, they make it happen. I prefer the second approach, personally. It is true: there is no venue in Salem that caters to metal. And we’re not talking about mainstream metal here, we’re talking Black Metal, Doom Metal, Power Violence, Grindcore, Stoner Metal, etc etc etc.
Two people in Salem care about Salem’s music scene so much, that they open their house to bands from Nova Scotia to Louisiana, so the good people of Salem can get their metal fix. It’s one of those, “build it and they will come” type of things. And if you don’t like metal, they also host folk music shows.
I recently went to a show at The Wisp House, and experienced it for myself. First off, let’s pull out an old cliche – don’t judge a book by its cover. Yes, I was a bit intimidated at first walking up to the house full of people I didn’t know – people in a different subculture that includes lots of black with tattoos and piercings. Many people might judge these folks and even be a little scared of them.
But you know what? Total sweethearts. The proprietors met me at the door, greeted me warmly and instantly put me at ease. They want to keep this location low profile and aren’t too excited about publicity for their shows other than word of mouth. For the sake of the article, we’ll call them “Asia” and “Kyle,” and I won’t be listing the address. I was so impressed by them. So impressed that they would do this for the community and impressed at what a tight ship they run. Everyone was respectful of each other and the house. They came to enjoy music and experience something new.
I asked Asia what her motivation was for doing these shows. She said she does it for Salem. (I was hoping she would say that). She knows that she can’t sustain this forever—DIY/Underground houses get shut down eventually. The Wisp House is the most recent in a line of underground venues: The Summer Street House, The Sausage Factory and The Burial Grounds, which were all shut down, primarily due to noise complaints. It truly is a risk to do this, but she hopes that when Wisp House is finished, someone will pick up the torch and carry on.
If you’re in Salem and want to have a new and interesting experience and hear some face melting metal or soul soothing folk, ask around about The Wisp House before it disappears into the mist.