Uncovering the Underground

A look into Louisville’s world of underground music, and the people who contribute to the scene’s community.


Jeremy Rochman plays guitar for Anemic Royalty at Zanzabar in Louisville, Ky. on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022. Photo by Gael Martinez-Morison.

Words by Gael Martinez, Photo Editor

From the outside, Zanzabar doesn’t look like much — its facade is small and unassuming, the only indication of its identity being the black ‘Z’ on the front. As my phone’s navigation system led me towards the venue, where I was to see my second local live show, I almost missed it. As I approached the venue, I was confused, wondering to myself how a concert hall could possibly fit inside such a small building, the only hint of being at the right location being a whiteboard on the sidewalk that read “Anemic Royalty,” the name of the band I was to see that night.

Upon entering,I was faced with the bouncer, a man sitting at a small table, who marked an “X” on each of my hands, showing that I was underage. The show hadn’t started yet, and I wasn’t sure when it was meant to; it was around 6:30 in the afternoon, and I had little information other than what I’d read on Instagram.

As I lingered around the room, I expected a stage of some sort, but what I found was nothing more than what I’d imagined to be a normal bar, with chairs and tables strewn around with patrons scattered among them, and a patio section outside, where I decided to sit down and kill time. My first impression was one of inadequacy; I felt out of place, like I wasn’t meant to be there. I didn’t know anyone, other than Anemic Royalty’s drummer, Miles Rochman — who I’d taken dance classes with in middle school — who was nowhere to be found. I even began to doubt that I was in the right place — ‘where’s the stage?’

After a short wait, people began to trickle inside from the patio, and I went with them, to find that a previously unnoticed door had opened, and my questions were answered in the form of a room behind the bar, with high ceilings, low lights, and a stage that was still empty. I was lingering from the merch table to the sound booth, trying to distract myself from the fact that I had no idea what I was doing, when I saw Miles, and we chatted about the upcoming show, and he told me of his excitement. I asked if he was nervous, to which he replied something to the effect of: When you do this long enough, you don’t get nervous anymore.

Anemic Royalty is a band that’s been around in Louisville’s underground scene for years, playing house parties, small local shows, and the occasional large show, like the famous No-Comply at David Armstrong’s Extreme Park, but in spite of their constant presence, they’ve always been somewhat underground; an invisible force, always contributing to the scene’s changing tides, but never fully visible from the outside. I’d been aware of their presence in the city for years, but I’d never seen a show. To me, Louisville’s underground music scene was something I knew existed but didn’t pay much thought or attention to, an obscure, word-of-mouth world that I wasn’t a part of. Moving out of the pandemic and into my older adolescence, “going to shows” was something I heard of more and more, peaking my curiosity, which led me to Zanzabar on the evening of Sep. 22.

After a few fleeting conversations in the back of Zanzabar, the show began, with a small crowd of about forty people and an opening set of the band Turbo Nut, the first of four bands playing that night. The crowd began rather timidly, set back from the stage, but Turbo Nut was off to a rocking start, with a laid back, yet energetic set. As the set went on, the crowd loosened up, I noticed people begin to sway and dance, and simply enjoy their presence. At the show was clearly a wide cross section of different Louisville subcultures, and despite initially feeling out of place, there wasn’t necessarily a box to “fit in” to. We were all there for the music, an artform that transcends any protective walls that one might build to shield their intrinsic self. No one was looking at my baggy khaki pants, my shaggy hair, or my oversized camera. The simple act of being in such a space meant that my identity was no longer confined to what lay on the surface; I was a part of the community, despite still being a stranger to it.

After Turbo Nut was a band named Golomb, with a set that felt chaotic yet orderly, jittery yet peaceful, managing to convey complex emotional paradoxes and unite the entire room once again through their set. They were succeeded by another short break, during which people continued to file into the venue as the evening progressed. I crossed paths with some friends I’d not seen in a while, and made some new friends as well – connected through the shared experience of music, a powerful aspect of these local shows. The general consensus seemed to be that the scene was very tight knit, with shows being a way for the community to reconvene and catch up, to have a time and a place in which everyone’s together, in the moment, as a united force, something that I feel is hard to come by in an era that feels so compartmentalized and individualistic.

Golomb performs at their show at Zanzabar in Louisville, Ky. on Thursday, Sep. 22, 2022. Photo by Gael Martinez-Morison.


The music itself is only one component of the local scene, as I soon learned, after Kaden Moore of Sunshine permitted me to use flash, before they set the stage. Sunshine absolutely set the room ablaze — the attendance of the show seemed to have increased magnitudes as a chaotic pit pushed closer and closer towards the stage. Brooks Deetsch, on guitar, jumped around with an intensity that only reflected that of the music itself, explosive moments of energy that could only result in him soaring into the sky. During Sunshine’s set it became clear to me that by visiting one of Louisville’s local shows, you’re not just spectating art; you’re subjecting yourself to creating something completely new — a derivative of the music itself, a sort of shared experience of chaos that everyone contributes to. The band on stage is little more than a conductor leading the orchestra, as the crowd creates their own show altogether, a sort of beautiful chaos that can’t be fit into words, one that can only be felt. People were jumping, pushing, ramming into each other — at points, people were even crowd surfing. The energies of the crowd and the band seem to encourage each other, forming a feedback loop of pure animalistic passion and excitement for life itself.

By the conclusion of Sunshine’s set, I was exhausted. I’d been at the show for about three hours, my ears were ringing, and my social battery was quickly depleting, and I was frankly ready to call it a night, but I pulled through to the final set, Anemic Royalty. They carried the explosive excitement of Sunshine’s set into the beginning of theirs, yet in a way that was completely unique. Anemic Royalty is my first thought of what an underground, grass roots punk band would be — a few guys that went to Atherton high school together who simply love music, and want to share it with the world. It was evident throughout their set that they were doing nothing other than enjoying what they loved, and basking in the beautiful ability to share it with people. Jeremy Rochman, the band’s lead singer, was inundated with passion throughout, putting everything he had into the performance. As someone who was directly in front of the stage, it felt like they were performing like it was their final day on Earth — there would be no re-do, they had this moment only, and they made the absolute most of it. After their final song, they left the stage in a flurry of exhaustion, yet fulfillment. The crowd immediately came alive with the chant: “One more song! One more song!”

For a moment, it felt as though the audience’s request was to be left unfulfilled; the show had ended, the night had wrapped up, it was time to go home. But just as I turned off my camera, the four members of Anemic Royalty rushed back on stage, to finish what they’d started, conclusively.


The final two songs of the show were absolute madness – both on stage and in the pit. It was the final sprint, for everyone in the room, and no one was going home with an ounce of energy remaining. The room was figuratively on fire, and the moments, for me at least, exist as nothing but a blur in my memory. All that seems to surface at an attempt of recollecting that final sprint is a feeling of existing in the moment, with the music filling every corner of the room, filling every corner of my soul.

The show ended in a flash, and once it was done — truly done — I was too. Anemic Royalty left the stage for the final time, the room went quiet, the lights came on, and the crowd slowly filtered out the door as I packed up. I have no words to describe the extent of my exhaustion; I could barely hear, think, or stand, and I still hadn’t done my calculus homework. I said my final goodbyes to the friends I’d seen, wished the performers well, slinked through the bar, lingered to my car, and drove home, in silence.

I didn’t really know how to process what I’d just experienced. I didn’t have the capacity to comprehend much other than my unrelenting desire for sleep. I got home, did my calculus homework (poorly), and finally retired for the night, as white noise played on my stereo to drown out my newly acquired tinnitus.

As I gave myself time and space to process the show, and the ringing in my ears faded, I was incredibly thankful for my dive into Louisville’s local music scene. Through the power of music alone, we all came together to share that night, and put on our own show, one of chaos and angst, yet entangled with an unwavering sense of welcome. It truly was a space for anyone with a passion for music and the desire to express it; whether you’re in the mosh pit or standing towards the back, just watching it all go down, the simple act of being present includes you in a community, one of blossoming, vibrant, young artists with nothing but enthusiasm to share.