Between touring with Against Me!, European festival shows, moving in and moving out of apartments, I haven't had the time to really think about the loss of Meat Town USA.
Meat Town USA was a show house in New Brunswick, NJ that lasted from June 2008 through May 2011. Three years is a long run for a show house and during that time Meat Town hosted literally hundreds of artists from around the world. Though Meat Town didn't have the ideal physical setup (low ceilings, no backyard), its method of running shows was about as good as it gets. Shows started early and ended at a reasonable hour. The residents had excellent working relationships with their non-college-kid neighbors and local, independent businesses. The neighbors were able to talk to the people at Meat Town if the shows ever got too numerous or too loud. Ta-Ta's (the pizza place across the street) loved show days and were always interested in the house's plans. The house was a haven for NJ residents, particularly disenfranchised Rutgers students, who were positive life had more important things to offer other than the neighborhood's most finely manicured lawn and the company's biggest paycheck. While not always being perfect, Meat Town was a pretty damn good model for inclusion and self-policing. The price was always cheap but no one was ever turned away for lack of funds. The stage (floor) was open to anyone, seemingly regardless of talent and genre. Those who abused this space were talked to and either changed or were removed. A number of people were taught the importance of having a good time while not getting so intoxicated that you are a liability to others or a danger to yourself. The actions of sexist/bigoted bands or attendees were pointed out and dealt with by the community. Meat Town was featured on National Public Radio and NBC television and hosted punk rock legends such as Blake Schwarzenback and Ted Leo. But most importantly it was a fun place to go.
I had the pleasure of living at Meat Town USA in its inaugural year. Regardless of how hard I think about it I cannot for the life of me remember the entire first show at the house. I do clearly remember the first band to ever play Meat Town. It was Sick Jump from Philadelphia, PA. The basement had yet to be decorated with banners, art, and beer bottles. In fact, its only source of light was a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. Despite these odds Sick Jump put on a hell of a set. Check them out.