Within the first 10 minutes of arriving, I had no idea what was going on. I had never been around so many kids in dark clothes and vibrant lipstick. I knew I had no business being in the crowd of 50 people listening to music I rarely hear.
“Everyone’s ability to squeeze into such a small space – I don’t know how [they do it],” said freshman and Memphis native Aaliyah Muhammad, who was attending her third show of the year.
The house is known as the Porn Hall. It features everything from vulgarities sprayed in the backyard to Chef Boyardee in the kitchen cabinets. But that is part of what makes the place more intimate for the crowd.
“[Hampton Martin] lives here with, like, this solid core of punks in Hattiesburg, [who] have thrown amazing shows for bands in the past few years,” said Jordan Carr, a band member of Chasm. “Any Midwest punk band is going to play a show in this house.”
By the 11th minute of being there, I was captivated. Several bands played on through the night.
I was now a temporary punk in Hattiesburg.
“We don’t get a lot of punk [in Memphis],” Muhammad said. “It’s really great to see a change in everything, especially in the people, the dress and how comfortable everyone seems like they are. It’s actually a real great environment to be in.”
These people are not the confused bunch as portrayed on television. The media tells us punks are rowdy people with no sense and who want to destroy everything. But these people were genuine, despite actually throwing their bodies against one another in a violent manner.
“It can get super hectic, but it’s never unmanageable,” said Porn Hall owner and resident Hampton Martin. “The people in there all know each other and know what they’re doing – kind of. It’s never like a madhouse where you can’t control it.”
These punks were actual people – not some crazy drugged-out kids who never had a care in the world for their well-being. Mind you, I was one of only three black people in the entire audience.
But just as soon as I saw race as being a factor in telling myself, “I shouldn’t be here,” others would dispel that notion with kind words and sincerity.
“It’s just people having fun and playing loud music,” Martin said. “Just kind of free to be who you are, and no one really gives a f—. Do what you want.”
Shows go as one might expect. Yes, people did mosh, but no, I did not get thrown around in the crowd. I stood toward the back with my camera and observed the phenomenon.
The show ended at 10 p.m. – only three hours after I walked in the door.
“I’m constantly worried about the police breaking [it] up,” Martin said. “If it gets too big, I’ll have to start telling people, ‘No, you can’t come in.’”
That is Martin’s only concern. According to him, playing music past 10 p.m. will allow the law to intervene and stop the punks from expressing themselves and enjoying the scene. The fact that it is growing in popularity and bringing people like me, the Porn Hall could lose its secrecy.
“I kind of like that it’s underground,” Muhammad said. “I’m kind of afraid it will lose its underground tone. But I think it all depends on the [punk] community.”
The Porn Hall will host numerous shows throughout the school year. However, Martin specifically would like to keep the location secret, so you will have to get your golden ticket to see it all go down.