The Bayou is a name many might have heard through the local music scene in Moscow.

No, it’s not a reference to a swampy geographic area in town, and it’s not a reference to one of Credence Clearwater Revival’s hit songs. The Bayou is a pet name for a house that is a DIY music venue in Moscow.

The beginnings

The house has been around for a while, but its history in the public eye didn’t start until 1998. In those days, the house was a residence for local political and environmental activists. Many of these activists were part of the Earth First! environmental group.

In 1998 the Aryan Nations based in Hayden, Idaho, were going to parade in Couer d’Alene. Leigh Robartes, the current station manager of KRFP and former manager of KUOI, said an old KUOI comedy and political commentary show called “Fuel to the Fire” heard of the parade and were angered. With the power of radio, they helped organize social and political activists to travel up to Couer d’Alene with a caravan of vans to protest the racist rally.

According to an article titled, “Cross burning case inactive: No leads, suspects” by Nina Staszkow from Moscow Pullman Daily News from 1999, Lori Graves was arrested and charged with resisting arrest after refusing to let police search her backpack.

The article reads, “Charges were dropped but Graves and her friend Jonathan Crowell are suing the city (Couer d’Alene) for allegedly violating their constitutional protection from search and seizure.”

This event took place in the summer of 1998, but on Dec. 1 of that year something else happend. A Molotov cocktail ignited Graves’ front porch along with a four-foot burning cross in the front yard. This occurred after the lawsuit had been announced on the front page of the Spokesman Review, Robartes said.

The police were called and came to investigate the incident. A letter of ill intent was found the next day by the Bayou residents in their mailbox.

A night of activism

The letter was crafted with magazine word clippings and read, “You’re a disgrace to your race E The time of reckoning is here for you and those like you. Your days are numbered.”

According to the article, Graves suspected she had been targeted by the Aryan Nations for being vocal against them.

Couer d’Alene police said the cross was inconsistent with other Aryan Nation crosses, according to the article. Answers to who set the fires and crafted the letter however, never came to light.

A week later, the hosts of “Fuel to the Fire” got their remote broadcasting equipment and set up shop for a night in The Bayou, Robartes said. That night they recanted the story of what happened, hosted a potluck at the Bayou, and announced a protest that would be held outside of the Aryan Nations compound, Robartes said.

ICYMI: Lawyer who closed down Couer d’Alene Aryan Nations in 2001 visited UI as Bellwood Lecture guest in 2013

Since then, The Bayou has transformed from an environmental activist house to a DIY music venue. The history of the house between 2000 and 2011 is unclear, but between 2012 and 2013 Brandon Rowley, a former KUOI and KRFP DJ, started putting on musical performances at the house. The shows were hosted in the basement, and featured many artists from Moscow’s music scene, Robartes said.

Consistency of shows started to decline between 2014 and 2015, as the local music scene started to shift from being hosted at The Bayou over to another DIY house venue called the Pizza Pit.

But in 2016 the lease of the Bayou changed hands to Alyson Graybill, a former KRFP music director, and the number of shows a month at the house increased, Robartes said.

When it came time for Graybill to move out and for others to move in, Gabe Smith and Brynn Givans took over the venue with two other roommates. The four currently live there today and continue to keep the tradition of The Bayou as a music venue alive.

Residents of The Bayou
Alex Brizee | Argonaut

The Bayou as a venue today

When Graybill was running the house, the music mostly consisted of ska (a mix punk and reggae music) and punk. Smith and Givans book musicians from a wide range of genres. Some of those are anything from gentle synthesizer music to heavy metal.

The musicians are often locally sourced, but Smith said he also has connections to other bands from outside the region. These bands will either contact Smith when they’re on tour, or he will contact them when he sees they are on tour.

Some of these regional bands are Skinny the Kid and Mother Yeti, both from Moscow, and Itchy Kitty from Spokane.

The Bayou also gets musicians from bigger names in the music scene that come from all over the United States. Doug Martsch from Built to Spill, a famous indie-rock band from Boise, Idaho, performed a solo set after playing at Modest Music Festival one year at The Bayou. A surf rock band called Daikaiju from Huntsville, Alabama, has also performed there and is known for wearing kabuki masks on stage, as well as lighting their instruments on fire. Their performance at The Bayou, was no different.

“I was like, ‘Please, can you guys not do the fire tonight,’” Smith said asking Daikaiju to not light their instruments on fire. “And they were like, ‘It’s kind of our thing.’”

So, their instruments were still set alight, but in a safe and controlled environment where three fire extinguishers were on hand during the performance, Givans said.

Another band called Terror Pigeon from Nashville, Tennessee, has also performed at the Bayou and is known for the light and laser equipment they bring with them to shows that are synced with their music.

The audience

Musicians enjoy playing at the Bayou because of its supportive and welcoming audience and hosts. People who attend the shows are usually very generous towards the musicians. Five to $10 donations are accepted at the door, but aren’t always required. Audiences usually buy a lot of merchandise from musicians as well.

If someone doesn’t have money however, many people will try to see to musicians needs while they’re playing by retrieving things like water for the performers. People also often volunteer for responsibilities like manning the door and cleaning up after a show.

The Bayou sees a diverse audience in age and interest, and on different nights the scene is different depending on the genre of music playing.

“It’s a small town but there are definitely different scenes,” Givans said. “When we have a metal show it’s a totally different scene than when we have an indie show, and there’s a lot more face paint.”

No matter who shows up on a given night, The Bayou is an open and welcoming environment for everyone. They have three rules at the house: no underage drinking, no drugs and don’t be a jerk.

“It is our home, and we try to make it a very welcoming space,” Givans said. “People know that this is a safe space, they know we’re not going to allow jerks in. That can’t always be guaranteed at a venue, venue.”

What’s going on now

Currently The Bayou is having a bit of a hiatus with their last show being on Oct. 25. They may only have a few or no shows during the winter. This is due to expensive electricity bills for heating and running a lot of music equipment doesn’t help with that. The residents of the Bayou are currently converting the basement into a recording studio for local musicians, like Hallowed Oak, which both Smith and Givans play in.

Don’t fear however. When winter is over and recording is completed, the venue will start to see a rise in shows again. Smith and Givans are also looking for local bands to play at the house when the performances continue.

Many of the local Moscow bands who used to play at the house, have moved away or dissolved. Their booking email is [email protected]

Sam Bruce can be reached at [email protected]