Talk of the Porn Hall trickles down from Hattiesburg’s fringes and all through its central venues, a kind of livewire static that strikes conversation in any given show’s crowd members. People discuss it in the way they might do so about the phantom-like underground pizza guy whose legend perseveres. Albeit the Porn Hall was never a true secret, it is underground in every sense but the literal without the benefits of online presence and funded advertising. It is the one true DIY venue in the city.
Word of mouth is the Porn Hall’s strength. Derek Ellis, a Hattiesburg native and Porn Hall regular, noted the importance of such a venue to the local scene and even to artists who come from out of state.
“They always have really good shows and really good turnouts,” Ellis said. “It’s usually a lot of hardcore punk bands who play, and a lot of times I’ve never heard of them. But they have a lot of bands from Chicago and other places coming down.”
In short, the spoken word still has power in the digital age. Not many venues can claim to have booked bands from beyond the state border without using all the mainstream channels for advertising. Even still, a local bar or club can swing that feat once in a while, but the Porn Hall is a house.
Zach Burton lived in what would become the Porn Hall for about a year before it became a venue.
“One of my roommates moved out, and my cousin Hampton moved in,” Burton said. “Hampton and I have always played in bands together, so when he moved in, we took it as an opportunity to have a practice space. It wasn’t until a friend of ours was booking some bands he knew and he jokingly asked if we could have it at our house.”
According to Burton, the house became the Porn Hall about two years ago this month.
Hampton Martin, vocalist for Baghead, guitarist for Big Bleach and Burton’s a for mentioned cousin, cited an accepting community as a part of why the Porn Hall is important for local music.
“For me, having shows at the Porn Hall is having me and all my best friends in a cramped room, listening to intense, weird, goofy (or) powerful music where we’re all free to react in any sort of outlandish way without the fear of some- one making fun of us or some meathead shoving us around,” Martin said. “The Hattiesburg punk scene—or at least this iteration—is still very new and innocent. We’re too small of a scene to start alienating one another, and I think everyone realizes that.”
Martin also noted the venue’s intimacy. Because the place is so small, and because bands and setups take a certain degree of space, people tend to make immediate connections with one another, even with small turnouts. In effect, people are always willing to help out if the need arises.
“The music will be going, and people will be jumping up and down, rolling around on the crowd or just running around, but the moment someone falls or takes a spill, everyone is right there, ready to pick them up again,” Martin said.
DIY venues have the final word in keeping a music scene alive. This is due to their affordability and the way they can allow people to make connections. Word of a good band will spread by mouth, making advertisement a matter of letting nature run its course. This is what makes such venues significant.
Information on the Porn Hall is distributed on a need-to-know basis. In the interest of the venue owners, no information will be given here.