“Bellingham’s premier south campus house show destination” — as described by their Facebook page — is shutting down next month for the foreseeable future. JJ’s Junction, located on Douglas Avenue next to JJ’s In and Out Food Mart, was forced to make the decision to finish the house’s five-year venue run due to financial and housing difficulties.
House show venues like JJ’s Junction organize intimate parties, often inside someone’s home or backyard where bands perform for an audience. For a small cover fee – though many also include a “no one turned away for lack of funds” or NOTAFLOF policy — residents of Western Washington University’s south campus and beyond can enjoy local bands.
Jonathan Hadley-McCarthy attended his first house show as an audience member at JJ’s Junction in September 2022. Last June, he played his first house show at the same location as the former bassist for Mad King.
“Bellingham has such a vibrant music scene, especially for a relatively small city," Hadley-McCarthy said. "It’s one of the best things about the city and Western Washington University.”
JJ’s Junction is not the only house show venue to close its doors this year, joining Bluebird House which had its last show on May 27.
Madison Joy LeFever, a freelance photographer and interdisciplinary artist, took photos at Bluebird House often and said the venue was a space where people understood safety as a priority. Her website includes a statement and gallery about how house shows helped develop their love for photography. They started music photography shooting at house shows in Bellingham in 2021 and said the comforting and captivating events kept her coming.
“Bluebird was lovely and they really valued holding space for artists and house show goers,” LeFever said. “I wouldn't have written that statement if I hadn’t started shooting at Bluebird House.”
The popularity of house shows has grown in the past few years and McCarthy said it is important to keep venues like these around.
“DIY venues like JJ’s are basically the only nightlife and music options available to people under 21," he said. "Losing these venues would be losing a valuable part of the Bellingham soul.”
The current residents of JJ’s Junction are Kat Sawyer and Rose Kenney, who have been operating the venue for the past few months along with the help of friends and colleagues. Kenney said the main reason for the shutdown was financial difficulties; their lease was non-renewable and she’s struggling to find somewhere new to move. Sawyer said they would have continued the venue in a new location if they could afford a viable option, but that has not been the case so far.
The decision to shut down at JJ’s was announced earlier this month along with the final show dates taking place this week. Their show on July 21 featured bands Coastal Cleanup, Dead End Rhythm Section and Disoriented. Sawyer and Kenney said the members of Disoriented met at one of their shows and have since begun hosting shows of their own.
“JJ’s is perhaps the quintessential Bellingham venue. DIY, low-key, loud and bursting with energy,” Hadley-McCarthy said. “Open or closed, JJ’s will remain fondly in my memories.”
See what else Kat Sawyer and Rose Kenney from JJ’s Junction said on July 18 about the closing of their venue and where it all began here.
Carlee Schram (she/her) is a city reporter for The Front double majoring in visual journalism and Spanish with a minor in honors interdisciplinary studies. She is a life-long Whatcom County resident who enjoys local music, photography and lava lamps.
You can contact her at email@example.com.