The revival of Turtle Underground Music Club

The Alumni basement, the proposed new space for Turtle Underground. PHOTO BY MINQI KONG

Will Coppola | Staff Writer |

Turtle Underground Music Club is planning to make a return to St. Michael’s College. The club will be revamped and located in the basement of Alumni Hall. All is set for the revival of the music club, but it is waiting on one crucial factor: student involvement.

“The best music is live music,” said William Ellis, chair and associate professor of Fine Arts: Music. A staple of Turtle Underground is that it is entirely live music oriented, and is open for anyone to play music.

“[We] put together what is called a capital request from SMC. It was an effort to use some additional monies to relocate the Turtle Underground and help with the logistics and set up,” said Jeff Vincent, associate dean of students/director of Residence Life and Community Standards. The money is waiting to be used to transform the basement into a coffee-shop style club.

The music club was previously held in Purtill Hall on North Campus and, most recently, relocated to Eddie’s in Alliot around 2017. “It was a pretty big change,” said Tyler Manley, ’17. Manley played in two bands during his involvement with Turtle Underground, Cosmosis Jones, and Seven Leaves. The venue change to Eddie’s caused a switch from a North Campus basement space to a center-campus second floor location. “Less off campus bands were playing,” said Manley. Something as simple as a venue change impacted the feel of the club entirely. “It was a weird vibe change,” said Manley. The club came to a halt, due to Covid, in March of 2020, and is in the process of making a return. “Clubs were not allowed to meet pretty much, in
the Spring only outside in groups no bigger than 10,” said Kerri Leach, associate dean of students/director of Student Activities. Up until this point, Turtle Underground has had a lack of student involvement and, as a result, lost traction.

In the past, the club served as a way for students to practice, perform, and listen to music of all kinds. Manley explained how there would be a variety of both on, and off campus bands that would play. It was a place where students were just “hanging out, having a good time,” said Manley. But it also provided musicians to “work and develop,” said Manley. During the period Manley was a part of the club (2013-2017) he said the school provided a “drumset, pa system, and sound system.” With the funds from the capital request set aside, Leach explained that the plan is to have “band equipment that stays down there.” So far, the ideas are similar to how the club used to operate.

The basement in Alumni. PHOTO BY MINQI KONG.

“I think it would be chill if it had couches and amps and a piano for people to use,” said Nolan Hanna, ’23. Hanna plays the saxophone in his band Chimp. Leach proposed a small
stage be built, along with band equipment. “I’d perform there if they had shows,” said Hanna. “It could be a really great way to give folks something fun and communal to do that doesn’t involve the typical Friday night activities such as drinking or partying,” said Jack Hurley, ‘24. Hurley, in his spare time, “love[s] playing guitar and being around like minded people.”

Turtle Underground would serve as an additional sober event for students to take part in on the weekends. “I think the best way to gain traction for it would be to have a safe, welcoming space for people who want to participate in the music but also for people who maybe want to go out and do something on their Friday night,” Hurley said. The emphasis for the club is for people who are interested in listening to live music in a “low key, chill vibe,” said Vincent.

It has been a part of campus in the past and, like many other parts of campus culture that disappeared because of Covid, there is support to have it return to its former glory. The goal is to have people involved with or without musical talent. It is for people who would like to form a band, practice music, or just hangout and listen. “I don’t want res-life or public safety to be encroaching on this space,” said Leach. It is meant to be a space for people to get together and play or listen to music without the constant watch of public safety. “Residential life has always been very supportive of it,” Vincent said. With money set aside, and the space picked out, all that is needed is students who are interested. “We can get moving,” said Vincent. The opportunity is there for students to decide how it should look and operate. “It’s such an important club,” Leach said.

Leach continues to reach out to the Student Government Association (S.G.A.) members, and interested students about the club. “We are supportive of our music community and there’s opportunity to create more here…I would love to generate some energy behind it…we just gotta build,” Leach said. Without an exact return date, the revival of Turtle Underground lies in the students’ hands to get the club back to where it once was.