Could Brooklyn’s Newest DIY Venue Be The Next 285 Kent?

Stuart Solomon (Photo: Nicole Disser)
Stuart Solomon (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Getting to Aviv isn’t exactly a challenge, but on a cold, windy November day the trek from the L train is just far enough to be a bother. After exiting the Graham stop and heading east, you end up in a warehouse zone. Local attractions include International Trad Company (sic), rusty razor blades scattered on the sidewalk, the smell of paint thinner, a tiny Vietnamese restaurant, and herds of large, hungry cats I do not recommend trying to pet. “What neighborhood is this even?” I asked Stuart Solomon, one of the three organizers of Aviv, Brooklyn’s newest DIY venue that sits on a stretch of Morgan. “It’s actually Greenpoint,” he said.

In light of the massive lines for the last Death By Audio shows, the relative isolation (I mean, if you’re a total BB) of the newest DIY venue to pop up in Brooklyn (so new it hasn’t even had its first show, which happens tonight by the way) is welcoming. Palisades (which Stuart explained “isn’t really DIY,”) is right under the J train and feels anything but clandestine, especially when crowds spill out onto the busy street in between sets and just sort of blend in to the chaos of Broadway.

And without real neighbors, or at least ones that stick around at night for sleeping and stuff, Aviv is much better off than Solomon’s former venue, the now defunct Emet, which used to be on Stewart Avenue in Bushwick. Yeah, it was another industrial zone of Brooklyn, but things were starting to get busy over there. “In the last five months we were hitting capacity at every show,” Stuart explained. “It fit about 100 people, and that was pushing it.”

But it wasn’t a desire to get away from the crowds that brought Stuart and his partners Olivia Russin and Zack Wheeler out to Greenpoint. “We did that for about a year,” he said, before they lost the space to landlord troubles. By the end of August, they’d taken everything apart and started looking for a new space. Finally in November, they’d found one.

We don’t have snapshots of the interior, because as of Thursday afternoon, the Aviv crew were still pulling things together. “But that’s ok, I think people will be excited to be in a place that’s a little bit raw.” The owners were apparently bringing in “some very young and extremely talented artists” to throw up some murals yesterday—something that Stuart admits he wasn’t that into at first. “It’s such a signifier of the old DIY thing,” he said. But they decided to go with it, opting for some kind of art on the walls rather than blank space.

“When we got here the infrastructure was a thousand times more fucked up than we were led to believe,” he said. “But it’s been an amazing transformation.” The three had to fix a bunch of daunting problems, including electrical wiring and plumbing problems to get the place ready for shows. But the result is a much bigger venue than their old spot. Aviv is cavernous, and so deceptively large. “Right now, this is the biggest DIY venue in Brooklyn,” Stuart said.

Wait, really? With Death By Audio closing its doors, there are really only a few true DIY spots left in the borough and according to Stuart, Aviv wins out capacity-wise. “We’re guessing it can hold around 300 people,” he said.

The larger space has also inspired the operators to book touring bands and acts that might draw a larger crowd. “This is definitely a new chapter for us,” he said. Though Stuart is into “stuff that was going on in New York 6 or 7 years ago—more experimental punk and indie rock,” so far Aviv has booked mostly indie rock and indie pop bands. Though this isn’t exactly the case for the first show, which features a handful of “not particularly big bands” but a little weirder than, say, indie pop—Shadow Walker, Turnip King, Painted Zeros, and a band from Detroit, Ritual Howls. “We thought it was going to be just friends,” Stuart said. “So we planned a family show.”

However all signs point to the first show being a big one– a write up at Brooklyn Vegan, more than 200 RSVPs on Facebook, but Stuart seemed happy that the space is “getting so much attention.” He was insistent that Aviv is excited to welcome people into the space beyond the organizers’ immediate scene.

Stuart, at just 23, comes off as somewhat of a lifer. He’s only been in New York City for six years (he moved here to go to Pratt by way of Berkeley, California; Oliva and Zack are also from the west coast), but he seems to know the ins and outs of underground music in Brooklyn pretty well. “There seems to be a lot of bad blood in the DIY scene. A lot of people hate each other and there’s always a sense you’re not welcome in some places. A lot of venues make you feel like you don’t belong,” he complained.

“We don’t want any part in that at all,” he said. “The beef is absurd, everyone is busting their ass for no real financial gain only because they love this. And if you have the wherewithal to find out what’s going on, you’re welcome to come. If you pass that test, come and hang out.”

But there are some things Stuart acknowledges he can’t change. I asked him if Aviv’s timing was intentional; it’s hard not to notice that their first show falls on the same weekend as DBA’s last. He said that it wasn’t, and he was disappointed to be missing out on the final shows this week, and though he didn’t plan for it, he’s not surprised to see DBA close.

“There’s a reason all the DIY venues are closing,” he said.

Gentrification? Landlords looking to cash in wealthy newcomers? Well, that’s part of it.

“People realize they can just treat artists like shit and kick them out and build condos,” he said. “And there’s a shift in the type of person that moves to New York. Before it was acknowledged that it was a shit place to live. Now people are moving in from the suburbs and they’re expecting to maintain that same lifestyle.”

Stuart said this leads to more people calling 311 and lower tolerance for DIY spaces and loud music, even loud noise in general. Basically, the city has changed.

“It’s possible that this place could last a month or it could last several years, it could be the next 285 Kent” he said. “Either way, we’re prepared.”

Follow Nicole Disser on Twitter @mlledisser


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