Photo by Marie Lolis

Leaves crumpled under my feet as I walked toward the house. For a moment, I felt out of place, standing alone as a crowd formed. “I’m really scared,” I frantically texted my friend in a panic.

I stood in the dark backyard, waiting for the concert to begin as a blue glow poured from the open basement door. Regardless of how nervous I was, the warmth of the basement was inviting on such a cold evening. Plus, the friendliness of the strangers around me made me excited to descend into the concert with them.

Neon lights shine on The Cave’s ceiling. Photo by Marie Lolis.

That night I stepped into the depths of The Cave, one of Long Island’s hidden treasures. It may seem like just a dark, decrepit basement, but it’s a place that fosters the local punk music scene by providing smaller artists with a space where they can rock out and their fans can thrash.  

Since its first concert in January 2023, The Cave has created a dedicated community of concertgoers with monthly shows. The all-ages venue is located in Medford, but the address is only given upon request through Instagram direct messages or word of mouth. It creates an exclusive scene for those in search of one. 

The Cave is for “anyone who’s ever dreamed of underground punk shows or basement shows,” concertgoer Connor McGlone said. “I went there, and it was everything I wanted. It was sweaty. It wasn’t dirty, but it [had] frayed edges, and I loved every second of it. Everybody’s super friendly. Everybody’s gonna have a good time.”

The walls of the small basement venue are scribbled with tags from bands who played in the past and fans. Phrases such as “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance” and “SUPPORT OUR LOCALS” encapsulate why The Cave was started — to give local artists a space to express themselves freely without fear. 

On Nov. 11, 2023, four bands performed at The Cave, each with their own style of alternative rock. The first acts, The Knottie Boys and FEELSGOOD, brought a pop-punk vibe to the concert. They were then followed up by Pseudobliss and Ringpop! who both had an emo, shoegaze sound. Regardless of who was playing, the crowd moshed wildly in the ever-tightening space.

“You want to book the shows that you want to see,” Cameron Wustenhoff, The Cave’s sound technician, explained. “If you want to see energy at shows, you’ve got to make the energy.” Throughout the night, Wustenhoff was moshing with the crowd and singing along with the vocalists. 

A fan headbangs at The Cave. Photo by Marie Lolis.

Wustenhoff is glad that The Cave’s owner, also known as the Caveman, has helped to create a space for local artists to perform. “He really knocked it out of the park,” Wustenhoff said. “He made the kind of venue that most people in this scene want to see.”

The two knew each other in high school and found that they both were passionate about  Long Island’s music scene.

“I saw that he was just doing shows, I knew bands and he needed a PA system,” Wustenhoff said. “So we ended up becoming friends and booking as many shows as we could.”

The Cave gives musicians the opportunity to make a name for themselves and those interested in performing can apply online from anywhere. Ringpop! and FEELSGOOD are from Boston and the Greater Philadelphia area respectively. In an April 2023 concert, the Cave welcomed Robot Civil War from Chicago and a May 2023 concert had Connecticut band rakefire. 

“I would say The Cave probably does the best at supporting the local scene, [more] than almost any other venue on Long Island,” Nikky Tannenbarf, bassist of The Knottie Boys, said. “It feels like anyone, whether you’re a little tiny baby band or an out-of-state band that is doing really good, he’s gonna let you come in. He’ll let you play with the bigger guys, and it feels good. It brings everyone together.” 

Throughout the show, the crowd moved and headbanged as the music blared. As one performance ends, the sweaty attendees reemerge into the cold air of the backyard to mingle while the next band sets up. Even in the condensed space, concertgoers were able to crowdsurf and push each other around. One of the walls reads “The Cave’s rule #1: When someone goes down you pick them up.”

Despite being in a place where anyone can seem like a stranger, everyone is united by their love for the space The Cave provides. When The Knottie Boys played “I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas, the audience screamed the lyrics. The Cave is an authentic hardcore show experience right in someone’s basement.

Cameron Wustenhoff and the lead singer of Pseudobliss sing together. Photo by Marie Lolis.

“It feels more approachable,” Wustenhoff said. “Anybody can come to these shows and everybody fits in. … It’s been really surreal watching this grow. It’s really been just the best time in the world.”

The Cave has big plans for this year. Following their one-year “cave-versary” in January 2024, they are looking to redesign the layout and make the venue safer by removing hazards such as overhead lights or anything that someone could crash into. They intend to book more bands to perform, all while trying their best not to annoy the neighbors.

As long as The Cave exists, Wustenhoff promises that they will put on as many cool lineups as they can, with hopes of hosting more than one show a month.

“We’ll probably do this until we’re dead,” he said.


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