285 Closes, DIY Grows Up
What’s Next for the DIY Scene? Going Legit.
The eulogies that ran everywhere from the Times to The New Yorker for beloved underground venue 285 Kent as it shut its doors in January settled on a happy conclusion. It won’t be the last space to mean something to the local do-it-yourself culture—Brooklyn is far too crowded with smart, hungry kids with something to get off their chests for DIY to fade away. But in a city experiencing a bona fide land rush and cradling one of the most documented music scenes in human history, 285 may be the last of its kind. A new variation of DIY, no less spirited, is springing into favor: Let’s do this shit! But legally, and maybe not in the heart of Williamsburg!
Leading the charge of venues trading gonzo-style shows and the risk of cops knocking on the door for painstaking fundraising and legal authorization is the Market Hotel and Silent Barn, both late-00s DIY hubs abruptly shut down by external factors. The city green-lighted renovations needed to bring the Market Hotel’s infrastructure (once a Dominican speakeasy in the 70s) up to code last April, but only after three years of wading through permits and licensing paperwork. While a successful Kickstarter campaign propelled Silent Barn’s revival in late 2012, its new home on Bushwick Avenue is still being built into the multifaceted work-live-performance haven it set out to be. “Figuring out our build out was a mammoth task,” booker Nat Roe tells us. “Fundraising has been unrelenting. Negotiating a lease that met our needs was intense. Managing permits and licenses hasbeen byzantine.”
In December, its former location on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border reopened as Trans-Pecos, with a lease that came bundled with proper permits. Under the curatorial eye of DIY godfather Todd P and Sam Hillmer of experimental band Zs, it’s a purist’s dream, placing a premium on underexposed, out-of-the-box music for an all-ages crowd (i.e. not ticket sales), and notably rejoins Shea Stadium, the Acheron, 538 Johnson Avenue, Fort Useless and others in the scene’s steady crawl eastward.