Hop off the elevated JMZ train at Myrtle Ave. in Brooklyn, and it all looks like a wasteland of industry—the tracks flanked by a Popeyes, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, and what seems like hundreds of bodegas and delis, their neon color palettes lighting the street, each indistinguishable from the next. You walk further down Bushwick Avenue until you hear the din, a cluster of voices and chords and feedback emanating from what is not, in fact, an abandoned gas station, but Brooklyn cultural hub and renowned music venue, The Silent Barn. You know that any band you see there could be everywhere by next year. You know that you will fit in here, maybe by virtue of the fact that you usually don’t. You know that The Silent Barn will be a safe space for you and yours. You know that, whatever happens, it’ll be a good night.
The seminal New York venue has been around in some form since 2006, and has managed to nurture an ever-growing community of artists and musicians amidst a city that has become decidedly less welcoming for young creatives in recent years.
Now, though, The Silent Barn is under threat. After a serious fire during a show there on the night of the 25th, the venue’s organizers, inhabitants, and community members are faced with mounting reconstruction costs, uncertain living situations, and a sizeable loss of expected revenue from shows that have been booked there.
In what is perhaps a testament to the power of Silent Barn’s community, their call for help has rallied the Boston music scene around their cause. One community member, Sonam Parikh, who also plays drums in local punk duo Ursula, has booked a benefit show at The Middle East Upstairs on Wednesday with her band, Discipline, Blood Club, and a new band whose name is not yet determined but is composed of members Shannon Thompson of Nervous Nelly Records (responsible for the G.L.O.S.S. release), Ryan Berry of Curmudgeon, and Lucy Nadeau of Discipline. The proceeds will be donated to Silent Barn’s recovery efforts.
In a phone interview with Allston Pudding, Parikh emphasized how instrumental Silent Barn has been in creating a safer space and a more engaged community within music in New York, and how that same ethos of inclusiveness has reached our own city as a result.
“I only asked bands that have exemplified the values of The Silent Barn and have played at The Silent Barn a lot,” she explained. She made sure the bill represented the same visibility that the Silent Barn offers a lot of marginalized groups—namely, people under the age of 21, people of color, and queer people.
The Silent Barn has always embodied the inclusive spirit of DIY, although it is itself a formalized institution. Parikh muses that one of the reasons the Boston music scene is so connected to a venue four hours south is for its commitment to community in a way that no formal Boston venue has quite managed to accomplish.
“It’s very clear when you step in there what kind of space it is—there’s no bullying or grossness,” Parikh said. “There’s a huge absence of isms that are just inherent in so many music spaces due to the kind of people that dominate them. That’s why Silent Barn is such a breath of fresh air to so many people.”
In a way, Parikh muses, hosting this benefit show for The Silent Barn at The Middle East is an attempt to bring that breath of fresh air to Boston. We may not be able to congregate around a venue like The Silent Barn in our own city, but we as a community can come together in support of a more inclusive scene through the venues, show houses, and platforms we have available to us.
“I think what can be learned [from The Silent Barn] is that working together as a community can create a far more palpable and effective result than trying to do small good,” Parkih said. “It’s important to coordinate and work with other people and reach out, and try to create as big and expansive of a community as possible.”
And maybe, after all the years of work The Silent Barn, Parikh, and others like them have put into inclusion in music, a new kind of scene will soon have its day in the sun. We can already see the beginnings of the shift in the bands that are on the rise in this year alone— PWR BTTM, Aye Nako, G.L.O.S.S., and Speedy Ortiz, to name a few. But it’s up to us to stand up for the type of community we want, and to preserve everything we’ve built. Keeping the doors open at The Silent Barn seems like a pretty good place to start.
See Ursula, along with Discipline, Blood Club, and another as-yet-nameless band at The Middle East tomorrow night. Tickets are $10, show is all ages, and all proceeds will be donated to The Silent Barn’s recovery efforts. If you can’t make it to the show but still want to give to the cause, you can contribute here.