It’s only been about two years since Stuart Solomon, Zack Wheeler, and Olivia Russin first secured a barebones warehouse in Greenpoint’s small sliver of an industrial corridor and turned it into a DIY show space called Aviv, so it’s been something of a shock to hear that the venue will be closing its doors at the end of October. Add the fact that Brooklyn recently lost another one of its heaviest hitters, Palisades, and Aviv’s passing will almost certainly mean that, as far as indie/underground/punk shows are concerned, there’s going to be a period of relative quiet to follow.
When I first met Solomon, he and the others were putting the finishing touches on the place. They opened just after Death By Audio hosted their final blowout, and about one year after 285 Kent had closed. It may have seemed a little far-fetched that Aviv, run by relative DIY newcomers, could actually fill such big shoes, but in many ways the venue’s done just that and has made an impact all their own on the Brooklyn music scene.
But the owners (there are now four of them with the addition of Tyler Kane this spring) are confident that Aviv’s closure will not only be temporary, but it will give them a chance to start fresh in a new location. As they promised in their farewell announcement: “This is not the last you’ll hear from us. We’re working hard to reopen somewhere else, we’re in too deep to ever stop.”
B+B caught up with Stuart Solomon yesterday, and he reflected on Aviv’s Greenpoint space, how DIY has evolved over the last two years, and what Aviv 2.0 might look like.
What led to the closure at the end of October? Is there a problem with the landlord?
It’s just kind of the end of our lease and our landlord doesn’t want to renew for his own reasons, which are pretty reasonable ultimately. It’s kind of a lot more amicable than it seems to be with the way these things usually go down. But it’s still definitely a bummer that we’re all going to have to move out of here. We’re all in a little bit of mourning right now, for sure.
Yeah, we are. But it’s hard for a number of reasons. As you know, the rent in North Brooklyn has skyrocketed and that seems to be a little bit true for commercial spaces. We don’t really have any money, we don’t have excellent credit. Getting this lease, there was a lot of luck involved. But we’re putting all our effort into finding a new place right now, and we’re hoping we can get lucky a second time.
Are you considering leaving North Brooklyn? Or leaving the borough altogether?
We’re pretty much looking everywhere, honestly. But North Brooklyn is ideal– it’s what we know, it’s where concerts happen for the most part, and it’s kind of our home.
There are a lot of considerations here for the neighborhood. We don’t want to be going out way further where it’s potentially way cheaper because– I dunno, the DIY spots are the first wave of gentrification, ultimately, and I don’t wanna be responsible for that in any other neighborhood. And it kind of sucks, because we’re also the first victims of gentrification. But I’d rather do what we did here, where we found this amazing spot in a neighborhood where we’re unlikely to be doing harm.
I’m not even too worried about displacing industry, honestly. What I’m really worried about is displacing people. The spots around Aviv, they’re already pretty nice. It’s not like they’re exactly marginalized people to begin with. I just really doubt a spot like Aviv, especially at this point, maybe 15 years ago Aviv would have raised the rents, but we’re so far past the time when we would have been a problem.
No, we found out in mid-July and we’ve just been kind of holding our cards a little bit. We were trying to get our heads around it before we announced. And we’re going to have some really excellent closing shows that we’re going to be announcing in the next few weeks. Enough people knew already, I would have rather had it that we broke the news rather than someone like Brooklyn Vegan.
Yeah, I’m gonna wait. They’re going to be amazing, though. I’m very excited about them in a number of ways and we were getting a lot of the bands and a lot of the people who I feel like have really defined our last two years here. And hopefully they’re gonna be really special. Honestly, I kind of have mixed feelings about it– I don’t want it to be this big blowout or, like, this funeral or anything because we’re not stopping, we’re hoping to reopen in just a few months. It’s really just the end of this building.
Tyler Kane came on back in May as a full member of the team. He books under Ipsum and also books a few other places [including] Brooklyn Bazaar. But for the last four or five months, he’s here everyday with us. As far as bringing anyone else on, I don’t think so, but we’re just playing it by ear, we’ll see what happens.
I guess I see this as a new generation of DIY, over what was going on when I got here. I think it has grown a lot friendlier, which has been wonderful. Definitely at the beginning– and a lot of people I’ve talked to have had similar experiences– we were met with suspicion by the other people who were [already] doing this. But at this point in time, we’ve become good friends with the people at Shea [Stadium], the people at the Gateway, and Ariel [Bitran] at Palisades (rest in peace). We’ve moved shows back and forth between each other and our bands have played at each other’s spots. It got a lot less socially intense, so that’s really good.
But honestly, after us, Shea’s the only 100 percent, true DIY space that’s throwing concerts on the regular. It’s really different [now].
We started Aviv on a $1,200 loan that I convinced my one friend with a tech job to give me. We’re always struggling, but we have a lot more money than that now. But we still don’t have anywhere near enough, not even within the ballpark, to do something on a much more legitimate scale. And that’s pretty upsetting.
If everything’s moving toward true legalization, if that’s the only way, then we’re gonna get left out. We just don’t come from the right means for it, so it’s definitely a concern, especially after what happened to Palisades– those guys were like totally above the line in so many ways. But you gotta be above the line in every way, otherwise you’re gonna get shut down.
It’s interesting to see that a place like Glasslands came back, but with a $1 million behind them. I just think that really speaks to what you’re saying, that it takes so much money to get beyond this safety threshold.
Yeah, I mean the Silent Barn did it from a totally DIY spot. Those guys have like ins with the art world, they know how to get grants, and they also have many more years of history behind them which allowed them to rally a large community to crowd fund.
I actually don’t know where a place like Alphaville or Palisades, where they got the startup capital to open, but let me tell you I have no one to invest in me.
At this point, we’ve figured out how to make it work, but there was a lot of pain in figuring it out. We were all working full-time jobs while doing this, for most of the time. I quit my full-time job back in June, that was the point where this became something that was paying enough to live.
I don’t wanna be too doom-and-gloom about it, but I just don’t know where this money comes from for most people, and I know it’s not coming from anywhere for us. But on the flip side of it, we have so much now that we didn’t have at the beginning– we have this beautiful sound system, we have this amazing community, all these things. We definitely have no intention of stopping, this is all of our children and our dreams, so we’re going to make it work one way or the other.
Oh my god, yeah, everything [laughs]– just kind of how we run the place. The easiest way to change your habits is to move, they say– if you wanna quit smoking, moving is the best way to do it. I feel like there’s so many bad habits that we’re going to shake up.
I dunno, it’s such a weird thing running this venue– like, half the people expect you to have everything totally clean and precise as if you’re a business, and the other half thinks that you should have everything loose and chill. And I think we’re finally starting to understand the right balance between those two.
I don’t know if you’ve been at Aviv recently, but we built it up a little bit every few months, to have a new mural, new lights or something, but it took a long time before I was proud of how the space looked and how it felt. Definitely with the new space, again we’re just so much more capable than we were before, so it’s all gonna happen so much quicker.
We wanna find the perfect warehouse and almost immediately transform it into something that we’re proud of.
This interview has been edited and condensed.