Little Big House: The tale of a punk palace past

How a home, jam space and underground venue in the 2000s put the Kamloops punk scene on the map.

Ryland Fortie awaits rehearsal in the basement, jam space and makeshift venue at Little Big House, shown covered in posters, flyers and graffiti in 2013. Photo courtesy of Lewis Podlubny

Lewis Podlubny’s home pays tribute to a bygone era in Kamloops’ (Tk’emlúps) history. Memorabilia adorn every surface while an extensive record collection, catalogued meticulously, occupies a majority of the space in the dine-in kitchen. Cassettes and VHS tapes spill over tabletops and crowd bookshelves, while screen-printed record sleeves, flyers and posters occupy leftover gaps on each wall.

Podlubny, whose wardrobe mostly consists of black outfits and band tees, runs a screen-printing business and grass-roots record label out of his basement and home office.

Operating the business, Poppycock Printing, and label, Slow Death Records, fills most of his busy schedule, though he still finds time to act as frontman and vocalist for two local hardcore bands called Bootlicker and Headcheese.

Podlubny’s home decor and career are a testament to his punk roots, which he says were nurtured by a young adulthood spent at Little Big House, a legendary residence where Kamloops’ contemporary punk scene was catapulted into existence.

As Podlubny lovingly recalls, Little Big House (LBH) acted as “Peter Pan’s Neverland for lost punk boys and girls.” LBH still stands near First and Columbia and was home to a rotating group of four to six punks, not counting couch surfers, between 2007 and 2013.

The home, jam space and bustling underground venue was a safe haven for punk kids who felt alienated or had nowhere else to go. Music, as well as friendship, was made there — not to mention the fun and debauchery residents had.

To the uninitiated, punk rock’s shouted lyrics and hard-edged chords may seem needlessly noisy. But, as those who have flirted with punk know, unceasing sound can provide opportunity for worldly escape. In addition, punk ethos mirrors its politicized reputation; non-conformity, anti-establishment and DIY principles often pepper legit circles.

Podlubny says without LBH, today’s punk scene in Kamloops might not exist. Former LBH members still play shows at Pizza Pi, The Kami Inn and other local venues on a semi-regular basis.

Podlubny’s best friend and bandmate, Athena Joan, thoughtfully considers why many a punk kid called LBH home, including herself. When asked why so many people find belonging in the punk community, she explains in reality, punk scenes gain popularity because they don’t require anyone to belong, “at least not in the reductive, vapid, monotonously conventional, and insipid ways that [belonging] is required everywhere else.”

Podlubny too cites inclusivity as the reason behind the positive lore associated with the house. “Despite being like a secret society [the punk scene in general] is an inclusionary [subculture],” he states.

An LBH flyer from March 6, 2013 announces a Wednesday night show featuring the bands Nudes, Freedom or Die, Tremor and Only Child. Towards the bottom, the flyer reads, “Rednecks, racists, homophobics, stay in your cage!!!” Image courtesy of Lewis Podlubny

Those who did wish to find acceptance and like-minded friends in the scene often did so by spotting visual markers.

“When we were kids, patches and band shirts were ways of finding one another. That’s why everyone hated posers,” says Joan, referring to those who wore punk merch but had little connection to the community.

Life at Little Big House

Although those who were lucky enough to attend shows during its heyday may remember LBH as a place to let loose, the house ultimately acted as a collective living space where friends and those connected to the worldwide punk network were welcome to crash.

Years before LBH became a legacy venue, Garrett Lacey paved the way for kids like Podlubny who hoped to build something special out of the house. Lacey, who was a tenant before Podlubny and the LBH crew, hosted live events for both local and touring bands.

Podlubny credits Lacey in large part for passing the LBH torch on to him and others who lived there during the legendary punk era.

For Lacey, LBH served as an outlet for young people in a small town that was “weirdly alienating.”

Although events at the time featured a wider variety of musical acts, Podlubny affirms LBH “was always rooted in the punk ethos of do-it-yourself culture.”

DIY record labels, press ventures, and underground venues keep the subculture alive as punks are often excluded from mainstream circles.

Lacey says any band that was touring at the time and wanted to put on a show at LBH was welcome to. He explains his vision for LBH was inspired by Dischord House, a well-known bungalow in Arlington, Virginia, that acted as record label headquarters for 1980s punk bands like Teen Idles, Minor Threat, S.O.A. and Fugazi.

Although Podlubny was close with others who lived at LBH before him, he explains, “[he] never met [the landlord].”

“I just had a name and bank account number I’d deposit $900 in each month,” he says. “That’s what made it so special. It was almost like we owned the house.”

As a result, those who lived there practically had free rein over the property. Podlubny tells tales of collaged walls, graffitied interiors and homemade halfpipes. “There was art everywhere,” he says. 

More importantly, though, he speaks of camaraderie among friends and a unique culture of mutual aid that was a cushion in tough times. Building the halfpipe supplied an arena for play and provided extra space for friends to stay in a room constructed underneath the skating ramp.

Kamloops punks work to disassemble the halfpipe after being given an ultimatum in 2013 from their ever-absent landlord to fix things up or get out. Photo courtesy of Lewis Podlubny

Podlubny explains that at some point, a lot of people moved into the house because of its growing reputation in the music scene. 

“Punks knew [LBH] was a place they could stop and stay at when travelling through Kamloops,” he says. “Each year, crust punks would come through by train and would stay in our yard. The halfpipe ended up being a nice place for people to crash.”

Crust punks, or “gutter punks,” are members of a punk subculture often associated with voluntary homelessness who travel from city to city by train-hopping, hitchhiking or other inexpensive forms of transportation.

Podlubny says a large majority of those who lived at or frequented the house pitched in for things like food and rent. 

“We were all broke. We didn’t have any money. [A lot of us] were teenagers, so everybody was dealing with pretty serious problems on their own … like familial turmoil or, you know, just being on the street at that age. So, we were made to cope with different mechanisms.”

Many individuals were forced to find creative ways of supporting themselves, like dumpster diving or random jobs. Many lived paycheck to paycheck and struggled with various forms of addiction, Podlubny says. 

But he adds that “[LBH] was a safe place. We were all acutely aware of the danger of drugs and alcohol, and we made sure to take care of each other.”

Photo courtesy of Lewis Podlubny

The Lasting Legacy of Little Big House

Over time, LBH helped put Kamloops’ punk scene on the radar. When planning stops on a tour, punk bands considered LBH a must-go venue.

MySpace, a social networking website popular in the early 2000s, played a key role in making LBH a legacy venue. Podlubny says he and a close friend named Harrison Dempsey would talk to bands on the site and get friends at LBH to make and distribute posters leading up to events. 

From there, word of mouth ensured a packed basement at the house. Cover charge was usually around $5, and individuals of all ages were welcome.

Lacey says the $5 fee mirrored ethics popularized within punk scenes like at Dischord House. 

“Minor Threat and Fugazi wouldn’t play shows that weren’t five bucks,” he says. “They’d book these big stadiums and fill them by only charging five bucks … I never got to attend a show, but apparently, they were legendary.” 

Podlubny goes on to explain that “hundreds and hundreds of bands from all over the United States, Canada and Europe played at LBH … legendary bands like Total Chaos and Oi Polloi.”

An LBH flyer from 2012 announces a Thursday night show featuring legendary Scottish band Oi Polloi. The band gained popularity in the early 1980s among those involved with anarchist movements. Image courtesy of Lewis Poblubny

According to Podlubny, big-name bands were drawn to LBH because it was “the house of the Interior.” 

Joan earnestly describes why living and playing at LBH was so meaningful. 

“It was an interstice, a rift, a breach in the world that was ruptured by loud and fast music,” she says. “[LBH] gave me the departure I needed to create my own friendships, bands, narratives … my own life … unfettered by societal constraints.”

For Joan, it wasn’t the parties or public recognition that stuck with her, but the knowledge that her childhood dreams could be achieved by collaborating with friends instead of working “stupid jobs.” 

Eventually, unlike in Peter Pan, LBH’s “lost punk boys and girls” were forced to grow up when their ever-absent landlord found out how the house was being used. 

At some point, Podlubny said the landlord appeared and was “distraught by the state of LBH to say the least. He ended up issuing an ultimatum … either help him fix things up or get out. I verbally agreed to disassemble the halfpipe and did everything I could to help ease the burden on him.” 

In the end, the only possible outcome was to vacate the premises.

After returning from tour in June 2013, Podlubny and his bandmates played one final show and moved out the next day. 

“There was never an official notice of eviction, considering we never signed a physical lease or anything like that … we just knew it was time to go.”

Presently, LBH still houses young folk who enjoy hosting carefree gatherings. Podlubny, who has visited the house during get-togethers since moving out, says, “you can still see leftover graffiti in the basement rafters.”

Roommate Joe Flanagan poses for a photo in the summer of 2013 in front of graffitied rafters at Little Big House that read “doomed to die.” Photo courtesy of Lewis Podlubny

Joan, who now lives on the coast, maintains her relationship with Podlubny and others who lived at LBH. Crew members still jam together and play shows whenever possible. 

In terms of the lasting legacy LBH left on Kamloops’ punk scene, Podlubny says, “it is pretty wild we’re all still talking about it. To Garret Lacey, who threw those first few shows … Your spirit of community taught us all a lot. It has affected generations long after yours and still does to this day.”

Lacey, who now lives and works in Edmonton, says “the prevailing feeling is overall happiness for those who got to enjoy the house when they did.”

Vocalist Lewis Podlubny and guitarist Athena Joan put on a Bootlicker show at Bullet Farm in Vancouver, British Columbia on June 18, 2022. Photo courtesy of Stewart Brown

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