Sandwiched between a gleaming sorority house and a Mormon church on Alder Street stand two imposing brick houses. Their yards are strewn with sculptures made from recycled materials. The house on the left has a long veranda covered in chalk graffiti and ringed with weathered couches and armchairs. The one on the right has a “Black Lives Matter” banner draped across its five-story spire and a small flower garden just beginning to bloom during an unseasonably warm February. Many of the windows on the two houses are wide open, inhaling the rare sunshine and exhaling a din of distorted guitar. From the street, the houses may look disheveled to a casual observer, but the insides are coated with layers of murals and adorned with avant-garde art made by residents past and present.
The Campbell Club and Lorax Manner are two of the longest-running student co-operatives in Eugene. For over fifty years, they’ve been stalwarts of the city’s underground music and art scenes. During the week, the houses host events from radical film showings to D.I.Y. workshops; almost every weekend, one or both houses will host shows with local and regional bands and artists. Every event is all-ages, donation-based and open to the public.
The Campbell Club: Leather and Denim
The Campbell Club is the larger and more well-known of the Alder Street houses. Since 1962, when it first became a co-op, generation after generation has left their own unique mark on the walls. Every room in the house is covered in scribbled messages and spray-painted murals, creating a kind of living memorial to past house members. A long table in the foyer is covered in activist propaganda and hand-printed flyers advertising upcoming events. Rarely a weekend goes by without the Campbell Club hosting a show; as one of the few remaining all-ages venues in Eugene, this comes with its own challenges.
“Every day, I wake up to three or four messages from bands who want to play here,” Sapphire Rosenblatt, who manages events at the Campbell Club, said. “It’s normally pretty simple stuff, but putting together shows can get pretty difficult because we try to maintain a safer space here.”
The Campbell Club’s commitment to safety and inclusivity for members and show-goers, according to Rosenblatt, means doing plenty of research before the shows even get planned.
“I have to look up the bands, listen for any controversial lyrics, check their Facebook pages, because there have been times where a band’s music sounds alright but they’ll share really anti-Semitic stuff on their personal pages.”
Eugene’s underground has responded by coming out in droves to support the bands playing at the Campbell Club. A show on Feb. 9 featuring Portland post-punk band Hollow Sidewalks and local punks Boomchick and Nuclear Family had over 50 people pack into the cavernous main room. They represented a diverse cross-section of races, genders, ages and sexualities, frenetically bouncing off one another in a swirling mosh pit.
Cece Holst, Lane Community College student, Campbell Club resident and drummer in Nuclear Family, highlighted the joys of living in a creative space.
“My favorite part is being able to build myself in a space that I know is accepting,” Holst said. “I come from a town where that isn’t the case, so moving into the Campbell Club was definitely a breath of fresh air.”
The Lorax Manner: Speaking for the Trees
The Lorax Manner shares many of the same philosophies as their more raucous next-door neighbors, but with an environmentalist approach. The house adheres to veganism and has a small vegetable garden tended by house members. The Cascadia Forest Defenders even hold regular tree-climbing lessons in a towering oak in front of the house. However, the Lorax lacks the name recognition of the Campbell Club, despite being right next door.
Maddy McInturf, one of two social coordinators at the house, attributes this to a long lapse in hosting shows.
“We had to stop doing shows for a while because the police came and raided,” McInturf said. “But then we hosted an anti-Valentine’s Day show last year and a ton of people showed up, which kicked off us doing shows again.”
With Eugene facing a rash of venue closures — most notably the loss of local mainstay Black Forest and all-ages collective The Boreal last year — do-it-yourself spaces like the Lorax strive to be an accessible space for Eugene’s music community. Though they don’t host shows as frequently as their neighbors, their events still attract a healthy following. A show at the house on Feb. 10 saw another lively crowd of over 50 dance and mosh as local acts Connor and his Friends, Subman and Tresente performed.
Members of both houses take this do-it-yourself ethos to heart. Frankie Kerner, another social coordinator at the Lorax, said she became “obsessed” with booking bands at the co-op when she first moved in.
“I’m 19, so I know what it’s like to not be able go to a show you really want to see because it’s 21 and up,” Kerner said. “It’s really important to us to have spaces like this [so] everyone can come and enjoy some music.”
Duty Now for the Future
Although both co-ops have run into difficult periods in the past that threatened their operations — whether prolonged drops in membership, police interference or offers from developers to buy the houses — the houses have a storied history of community support to fall back on.
“I’ll get emails or posts on Facebook all the time from people who used to live here,” McInturf said. “They even have reunions! People never forget the time they spent here.”
Lane alumnus Tom Asherton echoed that sentiment as he stepped outside for a cigarette during Nuclear Family’s set at the Campbell Club.
“I’ve been going to shows here for 20-odd years, and it’s amazing to watch new generations pick it up when old-school guys like me run out of gas,” Asherton said.
Both the Campbell Club and the Lorax Manner are accepting applications through the Student Co-Operative Association for new members and host shows and events throughout the week.