AF 2019 IN REVIEW: Best DIY Promoters, Collectives, & Venues

After 152 shows touring this year with my three projects – Sharkmuffin, Gustaf, and Gesserit – here are my picks for the best DIY promoters, collectives and venues of 2019! We chatted with everyone about their best shows and overall reflections from 2019.

Jake Sprecher / Duffy’s Tavern
(Chico, CA)

“2019 was easily one of the best musical years of my life, and I am endlessly grateful for the continued support of the totally badass arts community we have here in Chico. As anyone that’s toured the West Coast knows, the I-5 corridor between the Bay Area and Portland can be pretty lean. But that’s where an isolated little college burg like Chico can step up and blow your mind on any given night. People like to have a good time in this town, and we’ve got excellent local talent, which in turn provides a whole lot of love for touring bands.

I’ve been booking at Duffy’s for close to 10 years now… to see our favorite little rock ‘n’ roll dive consistently included on itineraries chock full of the bars and clubs that you always hope to play in your own band? That does my heart more good than I can express. I was also stoked to take up the booking reins at Naked Lounge this summer, as it’s a great all-ages space and happens to be where so many of us drink our coffee anyway.

As for a show of the year… Well, in April I put on the second annual installment of Valley Fever here in downtown Chico, a small multi-day club fest with 20+ bands. Flat Worms and Warm Drag headlined Duffy’s on the Friday night, and the energy in that room was a constant combination of hypnotic and ferocious. Which is pretty much all you can possibly ask for.”

Band: Piranha Rama Photographer: Andre Magalhaes. Andre Mags Designs

Lucy Lane
(Richmond, VA)

“Lucy Lane is a DIY house venue located in Richmond, Virginia. It was founded by Richmond mainstays Lucy in Battle Armor back in 2014 and they have been hosting bigger and bigger events ever since. The goal has always been to help strengthen the Richmond community by providing a space to network and showcase art with like-minded people. Though music is the focus, artists across all mediums are encouraged to get involved in the events, reinforcing the space as a true collective rather than simply a place to go party and see bands. Shows include live music, live painters, flow performances, stand up comedy, and local craft merchants.

Most events are centered around a touring band with three local acts for support. Touring bands have come to view Lucy Lane as something of an oasis, a relief from the grind of DIY touring. Traveling bands receive a private room with bunk beds and amenities, a home cooked breakfast, a washing machine, and perhaps most importantly, a hot shower. Over the years, Lucy Lane has hosted several noteworthy acts, including Illiterate Light, Zack Mexico, Secret Nudist Friends, Palm Palm, and The Wormholes. Performers and spectators agree: Lucy Lane is the real deal – an operation that would rival any major venue in town any day of the week.

The Lucy crew’s fondest memory of 2019 was hosting a touring act from Japan called MushaXKusha, an avant-garde punk group with a jarring live show that will have you dancing and questioning your own sanity all at once. The vocalist of the group wears traditional Japanese face paint and does interpretive dance throughout the show. When their set was finished, the crowd emerging from the basement all had the same awe-struck look on their faces, like they’d just gotten off a 30-minute roller coaster. Only the drummer spoke English, but the love and gratitude they expressed required no translation. Andrew Smith, who handles the booking for Lucy Lane, had this to say: ‘Communicating with those guys through the language barrier was one of the most surreal and rewarding experiences we’ve had running the venue to-date.’

Lucy Lane has also been branching out into hosting charity events, and last July Lucy Lane hosted an afternoon fundraiser for the local SPCA. The stage was set up outside in the sun and had attendees bring their dogs to run around and play. The event was a success, raising about $400 for the charity. In the coming new year, Lucy Lane is gearing up for more opportunities to grow with the community and showcase up-and-coming artists. As a final thought Smith added, ‘The world can be overwhelmingly bleak; if we can create a space that allows people to forget their worries for a few hours, be themselves, and find a new best bud to share a moment and a warm fuzzy hug with, then we’re doing our part.'”

Montgomery Drive
(Orlando, FL)

“Since 2004, Montgomery Drive has worked to facilitate as many inclusive, fun, and safe events as possible. As 2019 comes to a close we’re thrilled to reflect back and see that we facilitated 593 events between FL and MD this year. We consider ourselves extremely blessed to have the opportunity to have worked with so many phenomenal artists and venues. We look forward to going even bigger in 2020 – join us on the ride!”

Material Girls perform at PRFM Knoxville, June 1st, 2019. Photo credit: Nicole Alexis Miller

Chris Rusk / Punk Rock Flea Market
(Knoxville, TN)

“One of my favorite shows I worked on this past year was co-organizing our annual Knovxille Punk Rock Flea Market.  Around 3000 attendees enjoyed over 100 vendor booths selling everything from records and skateboard decks to comic books and fetish gear.  We had two stages hosting over a dozen national and local bands, including Memphis’s NOTS, Atlanta’s Material Girls, Nashville’s Spodee Boy, and Columbus’s DANA.  We also had a skatepark in which skaters and BMX bikers ramped through a flaming hoop during NOTS’s set.  It was an all-day affair and was a long set up and clean up, not to mention the months of planning, but at the end of the day, the most satisfying event I worked on all year.  Looking forward to the next one – October 3 2020!”

Nora Dabdoub / Shea Stadium Presents
(Brooklyn, NY)

“The year kicked off with a big hit to the community. We lost Mark Fletcher, an integral voice and part of our family. We’re lucky to have had the opportunity to continue his memory and passion for the NYC music scene through a free, all-analog recording space he founded before he passed.  Celebrating the light he brought, the lives he changed through his involvement and support in the music world has brought us closer together and intensified our mission.

A good part of our summer was spent at Rockaway beach, which was a true highlight and a new tradition for us. We’ve been hosting our annual Summerjam show on July 4th in Rockaway since 20 Meadow wrapped in 2017 and this year we expanded to booking a series of shows with our friends at the great beach-front space Rippers. Hard to beat a beach day followed by a show looking out onto the sea, come on! It’s great to have been able to see new bands like Emmerson and her Clammy Hands, Janitor, Alexander Orange Drink, Dan Francis, Wallet, Greg Electric, Spirit Was [and others] out in the open summer air.

We’ve also continued our tried-and-true collaborations with spaces like Rubulad and Trans-Pecos, including our last show for the Mark Fletcher Studio a couple of weeks ago. We also came closer than ever to finding a [new Shea Stadium] space that had the true potential to work; it wasn’t the one, but we still want [to re-open] more than ever, and seeing how close we’ve come, we know the right one is near. We haven’t given up on the potential of the NYC music scene yet – we live in an incredible city that’s in need of more spaces to let folks come together, collaborate, dialogue and of course, party! 2020 has a lot cooking for us, including many collabs with The Mark Fletcher Studio, Wisebuck’s record release February 6 at Rubulad, and much more to be announced. See ya there!”

Snood City
(Pheonix, AZ)

“2019 was a big year for Snoodmen and our collective Snood City. It marked the opening of a brick and mortar spot on Grand Avenue in the Historic Arts District of downtown Phoenix. We opened up a neon studio (we do custom art and neon work, as well as set decor for special events) that doubles as a retail and gallery space, that also has a backspace attached to it which is a communal area where we throw events and host local (and sometimes even out of state) talent.

Our Motto is ‘Stay Unconventional’ so our goal is to bring things together in a way that hasn’t been seen before, like showcasing fire and fur in the same space. Each month we rotate the art and have a different set up to keep it fresh.

As a collective we have a lot of different types of artists involved, and Snood City is a platform to collaborate and support our creative peers. For First Friday shows, our residents will bring out and showcase their work to compliment the space. We have everything from graffiti muralists who will throw down doing a live mural on 50’+ wall that we set up outside the shop, to Cheeky Cholla who has a programmable LED wall that can kaleidoscope morph a live feed it’s attached to so attendees can interact and affect the art. We also host music, which sometimes we curate, or we will have a music collective take over and bring out their sound and roster. We host skit performances and even culinary arts, like Chezy Noodz, which is bike-powered man-n-cheese served out of a waffle cone.

Snood City was founded on art that comes off the wall and into the realm of interactive exchange so we aim to highlight that and give people that type of experience when they come to our spot.

DIY Tours Posting

“There are so many incredible DIY promoters, venues and collectives in the country and this Facebook community page of almost 30,000 people is incredibly helpful in connecting them. All you have to do is post something that looks like: “Hi, I’m _name_, and I am booking some dates for _band name(s)_. We need help with the dates below. Will happily return the favor in _hometown_! DATE 1 – [tentative location] DATE 2 – [tentative location] DATE 3 – [tentative location] [insert music links and relevant social media links]” and you’ll get in touch with other promoters, DIY spaces, bands, and musicians who will act as promoters and swap shows with you.”