We hear the acronym for Do It Yourself every day. It has become a fundamental term used in the punk scene and plays a role in other music circles as well. When money and rules hold back a band or artist, they tend to turn to their community for support. Especially for bands just starting out, it can be difficult to be given a chance and get noticed. That’s when DIY comes in to play. Detroit, MI has seen many underground DIY punk venues. Although most times, they’re just someone’s basement, they can still draw a crowd and introduce music lovers to their next favorite band.
One of the most popular of these DIY spots is The Sanctuary located in an old church building in the middle of a Detroit neighborhood. Superseding The Yonka House in 2014, The Sanctuary became a huge staple for the music scene, not only hosting punk bands but also different types of hardcore, pop-punk, emo, metal, and even a 2-day ska festival. Owner Maxxwell Lange didn’t stop there, holding charity events, movie nights and art shows. There was always a mini record store available at every event.
The venue had its many obstacles over the years, including being broken into several times. After the closing of similar DIY venues, The Toepher House and P.A.N. Shop, patrons were scared to learn the last break-in might be the end of The Sanctuary, sending it into hiatus in October of 2017. In February 2018, After many hope-filled social media posts, Lange finally announced the return of The Sanctuary. The return, however, wouldn’t be DIY. Taking over the old Paycheck’s building in Hamtramck, Lange has gone the legitimate business route. The Grand Re-Opening originally scheduled for April 20th was postponed twice due to a few minor technicalities.
The Sanctuary doors finally opened on May 4th, and it was definitely worth the wait. Lange was rad enough to break away from his madness to reminisce with us.
S&S: You’ve been running DIY shows for quite some time. Take us back to your very first spot. What inspired you to start it, and how did that set the path for your future spaces?
Maxxwell: If we’re going way back, first one would have been in Iowa prior to moving here. I lived in a big loft apartment with literally about eight other people, and we would do shows in the living room. I started booking shows when I was 15, and it evolved into needing a place to host shows for friends bands and smaller touring acts to cut costs of having to rent expensive venues.
S&S: The Sanctuary has been host to some pretty huge and legendary punk bands like Total Chaos and Big D and the Kids Table. Is there a band that had you absolutely “starstruck”?
Maxxwell: Here and there, though I would never let them know (I want to keep things professional as possible, even if it is hard). A couple fun examples would probably be Weekend Nachos, Rotten Sound, and Backstabbers Inc.
S&S: Tell us about some of your favorite Sanctuary memories and standout moments.
Maxxwell: The final Michigan show for Foundation and Weekend Nachos was insane. It was so packed you could hardly move, and seeing 300-something people all sing along to every word was magical. Also, the final show at the original location was quite the emotional ride, everyone just having fun, crowd surfing and having a big send off party to Terror was great.
S&S: I’ve been to plenty of DIY shows that have been shut down by the cops due to noise complaints. What kind of obstacles have you run into with having DIY spaces?
Maxxwell: It always comes down to the crowd – are people willing to behave and play ball. Will they be loud and throw trash on lawns of neighbor’s yards or cause a scene and jeopardize the fun of everyone so they can act like a prick. It’s never fun playing a cop for the night and yelling at people to chill out, but sometimes you gotta to make sure it all goes smooth.
S&S: The Sanctuary is making a big return after roughly 6 months. Other than the location, what is going to be different about this new version of the venue?
Maxxwell: Honestly everything, complete overhaul. All the negatives have been removed, place is in a better area, multiple bathrooms (also handicap friendly), larger building, new and improved PA system, ample parking, and of course the huge plus – AIR CONDITIONING!!! I’m sure some have thought the idea of it being so legit and even having a bar now is weird, but in my opinion, there’s been no loss of any of the charm to the old place; it’s just now all amped up and overall, the safety and quality is now better than ever!!
S&S: What advice would you give to anyone that wants to get involved in their scene and start a DIY venue?
Maxxwell: Do it right 0 that’s my biggest thing. I love the idea of any type of alternative space, but a lot of places just don’t last ’cause they truly don’t care. They won’t invest in a good PA, they don’t respect their neighbors and community; it’s just one big ass party, and the bands kind of get lost in the mix which makes me so sad/mad. Take care of the bands on tour, get them some cash for the road, make the cheap jerks who care more about getting loaded pay up to support! And never turn someone away cause they are a few bucks shy – just have them hit ya back later.
“The return of The Sanctuary will undoubtedly be monumental. The effort that Max has put into his place of business over the years has not gone unnoticed in the Detroit community. When he first announced the closure of the previous location, it was a hard hit. This was one of the only DIY spots in Detroit with great sound and great turnouts every time. I know Max has worked tirelessly to get the new place above and beyond the standards that he set for himself previously. It’s not going to be easy to top what was established before, but if anyone can do it – He can.
In general, what this means for the Detroit Punk Scene is one word: Resurrection. Mark my words, There has been an absence that is about to be filled in ways we couldn’t imagine.”
Max did just that – step up the game, and we were not disappointed. I’ll admit, I won’t miss the old mile-long line for a single bathroom that may or may not have toilet paper. The Sanctuary has truly proven itself a success story.