Eight years ago, Ryan Davis booked his first concert — at age 13.
When headliner Dr. Acula took the stage at a fire hall in Strasburg, an altercation broke out between two audience members.
This wasn’t the pushing and shoving that those who venture into mosh pits expect to encounter at a show. A full-on fistfight ensued, and Davis started to panic. The band stopped playing and exited the venue, and Davis spotted Dalton Bauder, a member of one of the opening bands, coming toward him.
“I’m like, ‘He’s about to freak out to me,’ ” Davis says. “And he just goes, ‘That was awesome. That was crazy, dude.’ ”
Davis, 21, and Bauder, 24, are now the owners of Animal House Shows, a booking and promotions collective that works in Lancaster, Harrisburg and York.
Animal House Shows works with both local and touring acts. The collective is responsible for bringing artists like Jessica Lea Mayfield, Into It. Over It. and Andrea Gibson to central Pennsylvania. The collective has booked shows at Tellus360, The Millworks and the Makespace, among other locations.
The band booked 10 shows this month alone, including a showcase for the Millennium Music Conference at the Millworks in Harrisburg featuring Laura Stevenson, Roger Harvey, Keeps and The Plums tonight.
Animal House Shows also scheduled a video shoot with Chicago band the O’My’s for later this month at Zoetropolis, but announced on Facebook that the event would be rescheduled to a later date.
Davis, of Holtwood, and Bauder, of Shafferstown, forged a bond over local live music after that meeting in 2008. They each booked shows separately for years, and were similarly discouraged by a lack of bands performing in the Lancaster underground scene in 2010-2011. Around 2013, both Davis and Bauder noticed an uptick in the number of local live performances.
Davis began booking concerts as Animal House in 2013, inspired by the John Belushi movie of the same name.
“I just liked the craziness and I felt like that’s kind of what I’ll always be,” Davis says.
They collaborated on occasion, and realized that they had the same goals: drawing diverse crowds with music of varied genres and fostering connections between attendees.
“If you just focused on one genre the whole time, you’re just going to get one crowd,” Davis says. “And we wanted to touch all people and get people to experience new genres, new bands and new people.”
Davis wanted to make a name for Animal House as a source of quality shows, but didn’t want to thrust himself in the spotlight.
“I was doing so many shows, and friends were helping me curate shows,” Davis says. “They kept pushing me, like, ‘Ryan, you have to make a Facebook and Instagram.’ ”
Davis began the Animal House Shows Facebook page in mid-2015, and Bauder signed on to be an official co-owner shortly after. Animal House Shows is a passion project for Davis and Bauder, who both have other jobs. They hope one day to be able to focus on Animal House Shows full-time.
“When we would work together, there would be these great tidal waves,” Bauder says. “Things would happen that we never could have foreseen. We were like, ‘Well, you can’t really avoid it anymore.’”
Tom McGrath and Sean Berry also signed on as production coordinators last fall.
In addition to providing more live music and fostering connections, Animal House Shows has a series of goals for the near future. Davis would like to host the second installment of Wake, an April 2015 music festival that was held in a barn in Willow Street that featured bands from Florida, New York and Pennsylvania. Visual artists displayed their work, and pillows covered the barn’s floor as string lights lit the stage to create a dream-like atmosphere.
“The design of the barn was to make you feel like you were dreaming, so when you left the barn, you were ‘awake,’ ” Davis says.
Davis and Bauder also would like to release a series of cassette tape compilations with underground bands from across the country. As for live music, the band already has shows booked through July.
“It’s going be a crazy year, honestly,” Bauder says.