I talk a lot in this blog about how much DIY means to me and that I will never walk away from it no matter what else happens in my life or the world; that is a 100% true statement that I fully stand behind. Through my work as a “venue grouch” and as a photographer, I get to be at shows in pretty decent sized venues regularly and I do love it, I really do and am always grateful to be able to shoot/work in those environments. I have also been fortunate in my time to play a few really nice bigger places too. But while all of that is cool and for sure definitely validating in it’s own way, there is nothing like being in a DIY spot- a basement, a warehouse, a backyard- and surrounding yourself with that energy.
Given a lot of the pressure in New York City in general with people being on top of each other all the time, plus the ever tightening grip of gentrification, PLUS fallout from the Ghost Ship fire in 2016 causing more scrutiny by authorities, PLUS a global pandemic, A LOT has challenged the survival of DIY spots in New York in recent years. To be clear, I don’t mean the spirit of DIY or the culture itself because despite those things and other issues, it still finds ways to survive and adapt, it always does.
Fortunately there is a steady dive bar ecosystem here too that helps sustain us when actual DIY spaces can not and that has proven to be a godsend too. But despite every other challenge mentioned above (and many more), DIY spaces do still crop up that can last for varying lengths of time. Right now, as the pandemic is still here but life has returned to a new normal, there has appeared to be a unique period of more goodwill by neighbors and less enforcement by the NYPD which has loosened the stranglehold around DIY events a bit so more folks are taking advantage of that and DIY spots are becoming a viable thing again here. (For the moment at least, I sadly can’t trust that it will last long term so I’ll take whatever I can get now.)
One of those spots is Putnam Palace, a backyard space run by friends who are all involved in DIY either through being in bands or through other creative ventures closely aligned to the music scene. I’ve been to a few shows there in the past and this was their first show after a little bit of a break from the dog days of summer, and dare I say, one of the very first “hoodie weather” shows of the season. It was also an early Halloween party as well as a birthday celebration for Michelle LoBianco, a Brooklyn photographer and one of the hosts of the Putnam Palace shows. And as it turned out, several other people attending as well. Libra season was in full effect at this show!
First up, shadow monster started us out and got the party started in this spooky DIY oasis, hitting the stage with the best eye makeup of the day. I don’t know about anyone else, but I really found their signature brand of grunge angst perfect for the start of fall hoodie weather and the spooky season because all the dissonance of the guitar and mournful longing of the lyrics fit in so well with the cooling weather. I was also very happy to hear them debut a brand new song “Long Distance Runner.” This was apparently also their last full band show for a bit, so it appears the upcoming show on 10/19 (at Our Wicked Lady with Castle Black, Nuclear Family Fantasy, and Vangelism) will be a solo set from singer/guitarist Gillian Visco. Solo or not though, it is sure to be a powerhouse performance (one I will be sad to miss as I am committed to another event already that night).
shadow monster at Putnam Palace
Gal Fieri probably has gotten some of the most coverage in FTA lately because they have been playing out a lot as a brand new band. And as luck would have it, my schedule has unwittingly aligned with theirs and I’ve been able to be at their shows a lot. They were up second for this show and it was probably better they played earlier in the event since they were defintely the loudest band, especially when the distorted and huge riffs would kick in and blast out of the 4×10 bass cabinet; they surely had to be shaking the neighbor’s walls. I have mentioned before that I have bugged them about recording a few times now and this time I took matters into my own hands and made a voice recording of their set so I can at least have something to hold me over. I joked to them and said “I secretly bootlegged your set and now I’m telling you to your face” and also informed them I’d be putting the files on Limewire (ha!) so be on the lookout for those (again, ha!). They have several more shows left this month (check their Instagram linked above for details) and told me they plan to slow down a bit in November to work on more songs which is exciting news.
Gal Fieri at Putnam Palace
Frida Kill are another band I’ve seen play (or played with) a lot since shows have come back and I always have a great time at their shows. They took to the stage with the best costumes of the day (see pics below) and blasted through a set of their fun bouncy motorik garage tunes. And while I was a little bummed they didn’t play one of my favorites “Mujeres Con Mangos,” that was quickly soothed by the end of their set when they ripped into a cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Fight For Your Right” which featured rhythm guitarist Jeanette Moses (and FTA contributor) on lead vocals (after her other turn on the mic for “Dancing With My Demons”). The crowd cheered and sang along particularly to the most famous of the lyrics (about porno mags, obviously) and it was such a fun way to end the set. I admittedly am a little indifferent to Halloween (a pumpkin t shirt is the max level of effort I put in every year), but one thing I do really love about this season is all the rad covers/cover bands that happen so this was an awesome treat for me even if it was only one song (hint hint, do a full Beastie Boys set please).
Frida Kill at Putnam Palace
The last time I saw Nevva play had been exactly one year to the day prior to this show. In the throws of the pandemic while live music was still very much thwarted and limited in the ways we could experience it, I saw them play an acoustic set on the sidewalk outside of OWL (there’s that DIY spirit for you again finding ways to survive). Sure that had been a fun way to see them, but really the best way to experience them is plugged in, “live and loud,” for the full level of their snark to really sink in. I had really missed them and was so glad to end the dry spell.
Their set was infectious and energetic, with some new songs in the mix along with most of the material from their stellar 2020 EP, Fer Sher. They also got into the covers game and wrapped things up with their rendition of “Dammit” by Blink 182 (which they sent out to Mark Hoppus who recently announced he is now cancer free). I may be grouchy and not really love pop punk, but even I couldn’t help but sing along to the “I guess this is growing up” line (the song and the album, Dude Ranch, came out in 1997 when I was still in high school so I admit I have a bit of a soft spot for it).
Nevva at Putnam Palace
And while we’re on the subject of Nevva, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that they put out one of my favorite songs of the last five years, their ridiculous (and ridiculously accurate) sneer fest “Boyfriend’s Band,” and I took great delight in yelling along “NO ONE GIVES A FUCK ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND’S BAND” as the song hit it’s crescendo. I also was equally delighted when they sent out their particularly sassy ode to (aka making playful fun of) sober vegans, “Sober Vegan” to me (full disclosure, yes I’m sober, but alas only a dairy free pescatarian at the moment. Maybe I’ll get back on track now after this though) because I certainly love a sarcastic song and poking fun lovingly at myself (once again, ha!).
“Boyfriend’s Band” official video
Was this a punk show in a backyard? Sure was and a damn good one at that. But above all, it had that special thing too that DIY events have in spades- a bond amongst friends and a chosen misfit family. Big shows are great, but they don’t have that feeling and how could they really? It is exactly that feeling of belonging and togetherness why I’m now a middle aged punk and still keep coming to these DIY shows after all these years, long after many other friends I’ve had along the way have “aged out” of it and moved on to other things. I’m glad that has worked fore them but it never could for me. I really feel there is no end in sight for me with engaging with this culture, and not a chance in hell of me even wanting there to be an end in sight either.
Scroll down to see pics of the show (photos by Kate Hoos)