In Defense of D.I.Y. Venues


Cheap eats at a show at The Yard, Summer 2007

Now I’m down with a good show at the Bowery Ballroom, or, even better, at the smaller, much more cozy (and closer to the F-train) little sister venue Mercury Lounge (although now that you can’t smoke cigarettes in the basement with the band it’s not quite as fun). I can even get exited about a show at the oddly official sounding Music Hall of Williamsburg once in awhile (the acoustics are excellent and it is in Brooklyn, even if it resembles Bowery measure-for-measure). I also will venture to Studio B if the act/dj set is strong (or if I’m feeling particularly Euro-trashy). But by far my favorite dance parties and/or live shows are not thrown by Bowery Ballroom Presents or Clear Channel, but by D.I.Y party collectives at venues that often also serve as people’s homes, art studios, community centers, galleries, and warehouses.Or they are outdoor parties/shows like at the Yard off the Gowanus canal, a collective that features a good lineup of events during summer/fall seasons.

Why? It’s not just because of my roots (being a Philly kid and used to the R-5 productions shows at the First Unitarian, where it’s always cheap and always BYOB, I have a natural prediliction for performance space outside the corporate sphere) but because I absolutely hate being regimented by asshole bouncer-types when I go to see live music.

Other reasons D.I.Y shows are better?

1. You can see a band before they become the next Vampire Weekend. Or if they are like my friends O’death who still play D.I.Y. shows in NYC when not on tour to augment their bigger shows and to support smaller acts they really like who might not be able to tour with them.

2. Booze is super cheap or BYOB. The folks at The Yard makes amazing sangria.

3. Food is often served and usually there are vegan options.

3. Tickets rarely sell out, which means no exorbitant Ticketmaster fees or threat of being left of the cold when a show sells out by the time you get there.

The downfall? Finding the venue can be a bitch and sometimes the areas you need to go through to get there are super shady. It can be hard to find transportation home late at night (I’ve definitely been left freezing on a corner in Long Island City while waiting for a car service). Oh there is also one small issue: because of the semi-legality of some of the spaces (no liquor license, noise violations, violation of Cabaret act, etc), the NYPD sometimes show up and the party is over. Like in college, but it’s a bit more serious than an R.A. bust. 

Last night that scenario went down at new venue/party house Market Hotel in Bushwick. A Todd P event (perhaps the preeminent D.I.Y. booker in NYC–check out his site for good shows), this sounded like it had the makings to be a rad night. I found out today via Finger on the Pulse email list that it was shut down before the second band even went on. Tickets were handed out. Read more on Brooklyn Vegan (Also, note there is an often-stupid and occasionally intelligent comment stream debating the D.I.Y versus non D.I.Y.).

However, this should not deter people with some gusto and a passion for fringe music from heading out to these spaces. If we are afraid, the Clear Channels win and we’re left to see crappy wanna-be Mates of State type bands for all eternity.

So, that said, here’s a short list of D.I.Y venues/booking collectives to check out:

Dead Herring House: I just went here a few weeks ago and save for the drunk girl who told my friend Sarah she loved her and the vomit on the floor on the way out, it was a great space. Really! I’m not being sarcastic!*Also. note on the up-and-up band Meneguer is playing Saturday night

Brooklyn By Hand

Market Hotel: Hopefully they will still have shows. I’m planning on going to see Big A/Little a (Aa) there on Saturday if they can still make this happen.        

Silent Barn: It’s mad far away (Ridgewood, Queens). However, it was where the infamous Bradford Cox getting on-stage blowjob debacle occurred during a Deerhunter show last year. Also, the NY Times showcased this place in the Style section (with a big ole pic of Dan Deacon on the front page); it’s debatable as to whether that’s a good or bad thing….                                                                                 


Bikes in the Kitchen who host parties at Third Warda space with clothing swap events, art studios and classes, occasional wild parties and a vertigo-inducing fire escape which sometimes functions as the primary staircase. Just beware of boys with Electroclash haircuts when you go there.

Goodbye Blue Monday

White Room They don’t have shows here that often, but the ones they do have are usually really good. They were the first place to host New Young Pony club about two years ago, before most in the US even knew about them. Space has great sound and is just big enough to have a true dance party but not too big as to feel cavernous.                                                       

Glasslands: Guests are encouraged to draw on the walls, the drinks served are really strong, and it has a cozy upstairs area to chill out in with balcony so you can still see the show. Perhaps my favorite D.I.Y.venue. This was also in the NYTimes article.       

Brooklyn Art Collective: They have events every few months with gallery shows and often host one of my favorite Brooklyn bands, Rocket Surgery. 

Also, I’ve added two new links to my blogroll: Nubloom from my buddy Steve (who I rarely actually see but when I do it’s usually at one of the above venues) and, featuring my friend Dan’s wonderful illustrations.  




One response to “In Defense of D.I.Y. Venues

  1. You make me want to move to NY. Refresh my memory, did you ever get to go to LoBot Gallery when you were out here?

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