5 Tips to Surviving the Basement Gig with Cryptodira

I’m always interested in getting the perspective on killing it in a DIY setting from a precise metal band, as opposed to hardcore or doom or whathaveyou, because more technical groups don’t have have the luxury of getting by on attitude alone. The prog basement challenge is in many ways the hardest basement challenge. Well, Long Island’s Cryptodira have been deftly solving that hurdle, jumping right over that riddle, for a good while now. I’ve seen these guys sound great in a few different “venues” with acoustics that were… not ideal, to put it mildly. So I asked the guys to weigh in with a couple tips for conquering the basement gig.


Cryptodira has been touring for a little over two years now, 99% of it being DIY. Anyone who has been in a small-time touring band knows that they are destined to play their fair share of basement shows. Given the nature of being in a progressive band, these basement shows have proven to be an even bigger hurtle, so we have learned to make due in the cellar. I’ve come up with a list of 5 tips for any band to help them survive a basement, regardless of genre.


1. Prepare for potentially the worst load in of your life.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve pulled up to the house of a basement gig and just thought to myself, “here we go again.” You will be lucky to even have a straight narrow staircase down into a musky basement as opposed to a twisting outdoor staircase with mud at the top or bottom. Perhaps the worst load in I have ever experienced was at a basement gig at a house in the middle of the woods in North Carolina. We showed up and had to load into the smallest, dirtiest basement I have ever been in, complete with cockroaches and other seemingly Amazonian insects. On top of it being an absurdly long and steep staircase, it was spiral. Have fun loading your 8×10 bass cab down those set of stairs. The best thing you can do is go slow and have an extra hand if there is room. Safety first.


2. Bring at least one extra power strip & extension cord.

This one is self explanatory. We have played in basements where I would look around for power for several minutes, wishfully thinking that maybe my eyes scanned over it somehow. I would finally go to ask the owner of the place or the band that played before us and they would say something along the lines of “oh yeah, the only power is coming from the outlet on the other side of the room.” The extension cord/extra power strip comes very handy in this situation as it will allow you to use that extra, inconveniently far away outlet instead of overloading one.


3. Don’t expect the sound/mix to be perfect.

There’s only so much tweaking you can do. In most cases, the vocals are going to be drowned out because the PA system will likely resemble a combo amp. You can elevating the PA speakers by sitting them atop a piece of furniture or gear to put them at ear level. Do your best to make them come through, but don’t sacrifice the drums overpowering the guitars/bass. I would rather hear the band playing sound good without vocals instead of it sounding like all drums/vocals and some guitars. Just my preference.


4. Be weary of grounding problems (microphone shock) and always have a backup plan.

Plenty of musty basements (and even some venues) are not wired correctly, leading to grounding issues in some of the outlets. If you do vocals while playing an instrument, you may experience a nasty electric shock when touching both the strings and the microphone. If you are constantly getting zapped while playing, you are going to have an absolutely terrible set. Try plugging your amp and/or the PA into another outlet until you aren’t getting shocked. If all else fails, plan to play instrumentally. We’ve only had to do it once, but we’ve come close to doing it a good handful of times. It’s a frustrating situation that is handled best when knowing it is a possibility.


5. Make the best of everything and have fun.

At the end of the day, you are playing music for other people. That’s the dream. Enjoy it and give them a memorable show. It’s a little weird for a progressive band to play in a basement, but weird things are really cool. Basement shows can be sick, so make them sick.

Cryptodira’s newest 7″ is out now on Epistemic Records. You can pick it up here, or get into the rest of the band’s music at this location. For tour dates and other info, head to Cryptodira’s Facebook page.

Written by

Chris Alfano has written about music and toured in bands since print magazines and mp3.com were popular. Once in high-school he hacked a friend's QBasic stick figure fighting game to add a chiptune metal soundtrack. Random attractive people still give him high-fives about that.

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  • Number 4 – just get a rubber windscreen for the microphone. There are also mics with a plastic grill.

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