After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $40,000 to help offset the incorrigible damages of last year’s break-in, the collective behind DIY venue Silent Barn has signed a 10-year lease on their new digs at 603 Bushwick Avenue, transforming a 10,000 square-foot compound into a multifaceted work-live-performance haven. As it gears up to open later this month, we spoke to Nat Roe, who heads up booking at the new space, about what’s in store.
Is it too early to give any hints on an official opening date and lineup?
We're hoping to be ready in time for a Terror Pigeon Dance Revolt Christmas party. They reserved the apocalypse date, like, two years ago, so we're trying to make good on that.
What will capacity be for the show space?
If/when we get public assembly, I bet we could fit 500+ in there, but at the moment our legal limit is 74. That's fine with us in many ways since our heart is really with emerging artists. Big shows are fun, too, though, and we're working to be able to withstand those a bit down the line.
While really only moving a few minutes by bus outside of Ridgewood, the new location crosses borough lines. Have there been any mixed feelings about moving from Queens to Brooklyn?
We loved Ridgewood. I miss Etna, this retired lady who sold clothes on the street and would chat everybody up that walked by. It was important that it was a bit of a trek; it meant that crowds came because they loved the music and the space, not because they wanted a lazy evening in their neighborhood. The slice of Bushwick we landed in is amazing though; it's so central. We became very flexible about neighborhoods—we nearly took an old German Social Club way up in Ridgewood but decided nobody would actually come out.
Silent Barn's mission statement describes it as an "experimental sandbox." When booking, how do you differentiate it from some of the other DIY spots in Brooklyn?
One major strategy we plan to explore is having distinct spaces where bands will play simultaneously. Crowds that come to see a singer-songwriter can wander through the community garden, past a girl getting her hair cut, past the bag manufacturer, and into a concert where a guy is playing saxophone onto reel-to-reel-tape and then manipulating that recording on the spot. We're trying to promote a way of living that is saturated with multidisciplinary art in all places, at all times.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenges are all in doing things legally. We could've easily gone back underground and built out an illegal warehouse venue. When Silent Barn raised money through Kickstarter, we felt it called us to a higher level of accountability—we had to bring DIY from a state of hiding into a sustainable, fully transparent level of functioning. Figuring out our build-out was a mammoth task. Fundraising has been unrelenting. Negotiating a lease that met our needs was intense. Managing permits and licenses has been byzantine. Have you received any really unusual/awesome project pitches? We've got a fella who hand-makes bags out of reclaimed vinyl billboards. A friend will be running a thrift shop with lots of oddities. It looks like we'll have a high-quality recording studio in one garage. We've got a hallway with a mini museum of science run by a brain chemist! None of this is 100 percent sealed, mind you, but all of these things are hopefully going to be signed on in the next few weeks.