Twenty-year-old Dylan Arseo struggles to be heard as he stands in the middle of his mother’s living room in Cathedral City, California, addressing a crowd of about a hundred and fifty kids packed so tightly into the space the walls gleam with perspiration and the ceiling AC vents drip condensation. “Thanks for coming out tonight,” Dylan says, his voice booming over the excited voices and high-pitched feedback from the amplifiers behind him. “Remember to respect the house,” he continues. “And shout-out to my mom, Lisa, for being awesome.” The last statement elicits a roar of appreciation from the crowd that shakes the walls.
Since 2006, Dylan and his older brother Sean, have set up hardcore punk concerts in their mother’s living room in the sleepy Coachella Valley town of Cathedral City, a stone’s throw from Palm Springs. The shows can attract as many as two hundred people. Since Dylan took the reins in 2012, the house has become a destination for touring punk bands who’ve heard tales of the shows that go down there. “There’s nothing for kids to do out here, especially if they’re under twenty-one,” says Dylan’s mom Lisa Arseo. She takes attendance at the shows from a lawn chair in the front yard, collecting the $3 entrance fee, which goes straight to the performing bands.
In 2006, when Dylan’s older brother Sean—today, a graduate student in sociology at UC Davis—started booking his friends’ bands to play in the Arseo family’s backyard, Lisa decided to encourage the enterprise. “We’ve thought about setting up a regular venue, but that’s too much work,” she says. “We get kids from 15 to 30 years old. It’s quite a variety of people. “
There’s no actual stage, only a rudimentary setup of drums and amplifiers at one end of the living room. When the South L.A. punk band Generacion Suicida launches into their first song, the room is transformed into a violent human maelstrom of flailing arms and kicking legs. A few young women find their way in and go toe to toe with the men in the pit, whose median weight seems to be in the two hundred pound range. When a reveler falls, everything comes to a momentary standstill and the fallen is helped up before the chaos resumes.
“Growing up in the desert, there was never anything to do,” says Dylan Arseo. He lives in a one-story house in Anaheim with five friends and works at the Rickenbacker guitar factory in Santa Ana. Dylan got into hardcore punk through his brother Sean and his friends. Today he plays drums for the band Fissure, who have headlined his mother’s living room several times.
“I mainly set up the shows when out of town bands that I really like come by,” Dylan explains. Arranging the shows requires a lot of work: spreading the word, keeping everything on track, and avoiding too much negative attention from neighbors and the police. The Arseos were once cited for a noise complaint, but have otherwise not run afoul of the law. “If we get another ticket, that’s it,” Dylan says. “My mom’s been very clear about that.” After the last band of the evening—Vice, from Staten Island, New York—finish their set, peace returns to the quiet suburban street, and the hottest punk club in Cathedral City is closed until the next show.