Carlos of Al Dios No Conocido, Providence RI

Al Dios basement just before a show

Basement venue hosting some of the liveliest punk and metal acts in the country.

When I moved back to the East Coast from Bloomington and Chicago, I expected that little had changed in the Providence and Boston punk scenes. (Or maybe I just didn’t realize how much time had gone by). After reaching out to old friends and re-establishing those ancient connections, I pleasantly discovered that a lot had actually changed. Not only was there an entire new generation of punks, but there was also an entirely new pantheon of venues and bands (and the loyalties and feuds that go along with them). Alchemy had replaced Club Hell, Askew had just opened up, the Living Room was a distant memory, but many of the older titans still remained: AS220, Dusk, Fete, Colubums, etc.
Back in the early 2000s there were house shows in Providence and Pawtrucket, but they were not nearly as alive as the basements that run the city’s punk scene today.

Carlos lives at Al Dios No Conocido with a slew of other Providence punks that I see kicking around. He runs a pretty tight ship with bands coming in from all over the country. Carlos has been known to clean out his basement, patch concrete holes, corral loud or potentially offensive attendees, and generally do a lot of the leg work around the place. In fact, part of what puzzles me so much about Al Dios is the amount of bands that play that also play bigger venues in Boston. For example, a month or two ago Fluoride played the Middle East in Boston to a packed audience, and then the next night they played the tiny basement venue at Al Dios, only 45 minutes away. I wanted to know more about the history of the place and the dude in charge of reviving it. So I sat down with Carlos briefly before a show…

I’m interested in the place. Do you own it?

No, we rent it. Essentially we just regularly rent it. The landlord is pretty alright. So long as he’s getting paid he’s fine. One time he came here at the end of a show and he didn’t really care, he was like “oh you’re having a party.”  

I noticed that shows usually end around 11:00…

We do that of a variety of reasons. One is the earlier we end the show the less likely police are to come by, because as it gets late you get into the territory of someone getting really mad. Or an officer who is just around the area could stop by. But so far police have ignored us in this area because there’s literally so much more happening around. 

I’ve seen you guys post about being respectful of the space outside and not loitering. Have people respected that?

Yeah for the most part a lot of people have, and being that its Providence—a really small city—it gets to the point where after going to 1, 2, 3 shows we already know who the person is.  And at that point it’s easy to be like “hey can you just move over here” and they’re like yeah. I’ve never had a problem with it. Sometimes if it’s a big show there’s people all over the place, but once I tell someone to move in and they do it the rest follow. 

In terms of booking shows—I think for punk there have been great bands here and not at any of the established venues of Providence. So how do you go about finding those bands and getting them to play? 

It’s honestly everyone knowing someone who knows someone else. For example, there was a show with 3 Philly bands, and it all happened because one Philly band was going to come play, but they knew someone else, and they came by, and I got another message by another Philly band and they needed a show around the area, so it just happened. 

It’s surprising because tonight you have Fluoride playing, and last night they played the Middle East in Boston—a radical difference.

It’s due to everyone or someone knowing someone, honestly.

What do you guys do with the door money, pay for electricity? 

We always do pay what you can so long as nobody is ever turned away at the door. Once we do door split, I try to give as much as we can to the touring bands, If its a big enough show sometimes we can get some money to throw toward the electricity bill. But if its a smaller show I throw it all toward the bands, specifically if they’re from far away 

How many people live here?

It shifts around a lot. There’s 7 people right now in the building entirely. For the most part what makes up Al Dios is the first floor, and there’s just three of us. They’ve been doing stuff here for a while now, so for example this building is a place where people come and go a lot. It’s been around for like a decade actually – artists, musicians, etc. They leave stuff, here—like if I go in the back there’s a random drum set in the back here. 

Are you from Providence originally? How old are you?

Yeah, I’m 23.

And how’d you get into punk?

Honestly, I’d say it just suddenly happened. I always listened to random punk with my mp3 player—anything I came across. But at college I met some other folks and someone who was in a band. And they invited me to a show, I don’t remember where, but it was Love Sick, and I really liked it. And form there I went to other shows at AS220, Aurora, Spark City, and from there it just evolved to me meeting more and more people and becoming more a part of it. Then accidently moving into here— not accidently, one day I got invited and from there I started taking part in it, and now I’m the main person setting it up here, as the oldest resident. 

How do you coordinate it all? If you have a band that wants to play, what do you tell them they have to do? If there any procedure?

I just get messages with someone who already has like 3 bands ready, and another band from around here will want to play also because again, in Providence everyone is a musician. We try to have at least one local band on each show. 

You guys have had better bands than all those bigger places in Providence, honestly. 

It’s the kind of space we have that people are intrigued by. It’s a basement, and after the bands play people just hang in the living room and go to the liquor store near by. 

Do you let the bands stay here if they play? 

Sometimes, if a band needs to stay we always have something where they can stay, or an extra room or a couch. We had 8 people share the living room once. 

That’s really it! I’m really into the place and wanted to know more.

It’s been around for like 10 years. The thing about the name Al Dios No Conocedo is that it used to be a church, like the first floor, and it was the called “the Church of Al Dios no Conocedo,” which translates to “The unknown god” or “The God that is not known.” When they left more folks moved into here and had art and music stuff. They kept the name and made it a space for shows. It would die down and come back, die down and come back. When I moved here it was dead, the basement was a mess, and we got hit up to do a show here, because someone knew me and knew this place used to do shows, so I cleared the basement up and made it happen. It was a big show. 

At the end where those lights are there used to be a wall and someone got thrown through. And that’s where we spiraled into more and more show requests. I get hit up a lot. I don’t always say yes because we don’t wanna over do it.

How do you decide to turn down a band?

If it’s people I don’t know that well. If I or someone else knows someone personally I’m comfortable with them booking a show in my home. But if it’s someone I never met or a band I’ve never heard of I kinda just don’t do it. 

There was a problem for a bit in Boston of cops posing on social media to find house shows. Did you have the same problem? 

Yeah the police ignore this area a bit. We’re in a perfect spot. It’s the way we go about it. For the Graf Orlock show the Facebook page said 150 people were coming, but there were only really about 75 people there because the rest didn’t know the address. We are very careful not to give the address out to strangers. You have to know somebody. 

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