Todd Patrick took a step back, relatively speaking, from booking shows in New York over the last year or so, but he’s shifted his focus back to Brooklyn of late with the opening of Trans Pecos in the old Silent Barn space, and the pending re-opening of DIY cornerstone Market Hotel.
The crown jewel of Todd P-related venues in the post-Market Hotel era has been 285 Kent, but Patrick advised us yesterday in an e-mail chain that its future is “tbd.” 285 Kent’s lease is set to expire shortly, so he said “its days are obviously numbered.”
It’s remarkable that a homegrown DIY space like 285 Kent has been able to operate for as long as it has in the luxury condominium community that is Bedford Avenue Williamsburg (consider the issues that a corporate venture like Rough Trade, which is backed by NYC uber-promoters Bowery Presents, is having with residents) and its eventual closure, in the shadow of the looming Domino Sugary factory condo complex, may well mark the final phase of the neighborhood’s evolution from artist enclave into a yuppie playground.
Like most of New York’s creative types, Patrick is moving things further out on the L and M trains with an eye on creating “spots with a more long time sustainable viability.” This means more venues with proper licensing and permits, part of a marked shift in Brooklyn’s cultural landscape. Gentrification has brought Brooklyn scores of new residents, and with them an influx of cash, rising rents, aggressive condo developers and heightened police interest in daily affairs.
DIY spaces are finding it increasingly difficult to operate in legal grey-areas in this “New Brooklyn,” and the folks who curate the spaces have taken notice. Chiefly among them are the folks behind The Silent Barn, which re-opened last year as a legitimate, non-profit space with a liquor license in a new location at 603 Bushwick Avenue. PopGun Booking have pumped considerable resources into Glasslands Gallery to bring it up to code, and may have found a winning formula for the Williamsburg waterfront; an underground vibe with more of a corporate infrastructure. Legitimate spaces with an “all-ages, DIY-feel” seem to be the wave of the future here in this post-Giuliani and Bloomberg New Brooklyn.
The old Silent Barn space at 915 Wyckoff Avenue, a classic “all-ages” space, has lied dormant for the past couple of years, save for a surprise, secret show here and there. Patrick has revitalized the space as Trans Pecos, named after the Western-most region of Texas, which is notable for its natural beauty and sparse population. Bushwick’s (or Ridgewood’s, depending on who you ask) Trans Pecos, to many, may represent the “final frontier” of North Brooklyn (it’s past Myrtle-Wyckoff!!!) mirroring the geographic remote-ness of Trans-Pecos, Texas. Its music and art will also mirror the region’s natural beauty.
“I feel that the market for venues catering to the indie rawk buzz cycle is more than covered, and the players there are battling each other in a dead heat that doesn’t really interest me,” Patrick said. “There’s demand out there for something different, and less bullshit.”
Northern Spy, a Brooklyn-based label whose roster consists largely of avant-garde and noise acts (their offices are also located in the space), will curate a series of shows over the next few weeks (including another Northern Spy-related show with Pop. 1280 you should check out tomorrow) as the venue continues its preview events. The label opened the venue last week with a Northern Spy-curated showcase featuring Gnaw, Notekillers and Psalm Zero.
The forward-thinking sounds put out by Northern Spy align perfectly with Patrick’s vision for the space, which he says will have an emphasis on experimental sounds.
“Trans-Pecos sees our mission a continuation of the tradition of places like Zebulon, Tonic, and the original Knitting Factory – as a home for awide variety of “new” music genres, whose commonality is quality and deep knowledge of the cannon of intelligent music,” he said.
“Trans-Pecos is not a space for buzz bands, but nor is it a recital hall – we see the space as a showcase for great performances, as much as meeting place for tasteful lovers of music, where it’s also ok to socialize and have a good time. An “out” venue you might bring a date too, if you will;
with its heart in the right place but putting taste before good intentions.”
To help him realize his vision, he’s enlisted Sam Hillmer, known for his solo project Diamond Terrifier and his avant-garde band Zs (both on Northern Spy) as his “ impresario of the booking at Trans-Pecos.” Hillmer will be heavily involved in the venue’s calendar, similar to Ric Leichtung’s (Ad Hoc) involvement in 285 Kent the past couple of years. He also advised us that techno party Bunker, boutique tape label Words + Dreams, post-industrial party Chaos Bodies and many more will contribute their curatorial touch to the space.
Patrick has always been able to get the right players in place when it came to curation, but it would appear he has a plan for economic sustainability as well in his new ventures.
“The great news is we’ve managed to structure the expenses both in build-out and in our monthly operation, so that Trans-Pecos doesn’t have to be overly profitable every month out of the gate,” he said. “We have the financial freedom (not through funding, but through structure and diversifying the space) to run this the way we believe in, and to follow it through until it works, without pandering. I made a promise to myself when I agreed to take this place on, that it didn’t have to make money but it also wouldn’t lose any, haha. I’ve had 3 years now to figure out how to make that work… we’ll see.”
Patrick has put considerable work into Trans Pecos, including resolving the space’s legal issues which lead to its closure two years ago. Most of the improvements address safety concerns (fire doors, panic bars, exit signs, emergency lighting and the like), but he’s also gutted the drop ceilings, exposing “the beautiful, dark-wood joists and vaulted ceilings that were always hidden.” Patrick says it has improved the acoustics of the venue. He’s also added windows to increase the venue’s neighborhood visibility, fixed the heat and rented a side-lot to serve as the venue’s backyard.
“The new backyard (which is located just out the backdoor of the main venue space, on the other side of a longstanding cinderbock wall) will mean an outdoor place to hangout (and also, smoke) during shows, plus outdoor seating for the cafe, and we have plans for a second stage for outdoor shows in the summer. We will be constructing outdoor tables as well as planters to fill the place with green – all on wheels to make the spot easy to clear out for those summer outdoor concerts.”
“We’re also looking forward to the opening of a new espresso cafe to operate out of what was once the front bedroom – helmed by Bradford Sill and Collin Crockett of Red Lantern cafe and Fresh ’Til Death Cafeteria. The cafe will operate both as a walk-in counter espresso bar, and as a sidewalk service counter out the window; and the venue room in the back will double as cafe seating by day.”
The venue’s calendar is beginning to fill up, but Patrick is continuing to work to improve the space. He told us that he has plans to re-finish the hardwood floors, improve the sound system, add a modest stage and install a full-service bar outside of the main space which will operate on nights even when there aren’t shows, in addition to beautifying the space in general.
Trans Pecos has come to fruition largely outside of the eye of Brooklyn’s tight-knit music community. When most people think Todd P, they think Market Hotel, which is currently undergoing renovations and should open at some point in 2014 as a legal space at 1142 Myrtle Avenue. Patrick said, “the process of reopening Market Hotel is continuing concurrently while Trans-Pecos opens, and Market will be hosting shows again in the new year as well.”
It’s an exciting time to be in Bushwick. The sun may be setting, if it hasn’t already, on Williamsburg as New York City’s cultural mecca, but the folks that helped create it have learned to play by different rules. Pioneers like Todd P seem poised to take things to new, exciting, and perhaps most importantly, sustainable places.