DIY Differently


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Where's the Band?!?! Interpol opens for U2. We think that's Interpol anyway.

Have you ever been to a show at a venue so big you need a NASA telescope to see the band and everywhere you turn you feel like you’re being harassed by ads for things like Keeping Up With The Kardashians that make you want to punch the wall? And while at said venue sweating your butt off from being so packed in, have you ever saddled up to the bar to quench your thirst only to be presented with a horrifying $20.00 tab for a vodka tonic? My how the concert-going experience has changed. A once enjoyable, highly anticipated event has become an inescapable, interminable nightmare that makes you want to take your concert experience into your own hands. Maybe even throw your own show!

Milwaukee Hardcore

A.V. Club Milwaukee tells you how to throw your own basement show. So hardcore. Photo:

Going to a performance of any kind, devoid of aforementioned headaches, can often seem like setting out to find a unicorn. But alternative spaces are popping up everywhere all the time—venues that won’t rob you blind while providing a little breathing room, ideal vantage points, and memories you won’t spend years trying to forget. Obviously Do It Yourself performance spaces have been around forever but recently there’s been more of a cohesive movement with strong ideals behind it. On the site, DoDIY, Neal Campau lays out some of the basic principles guiding proprietors (if you can call them that) of these venues:

DIY stands for “Do It Yourself.” As a general ethos, it’s about taking direct action to live independently from capitalist society. We’re trying to create safer spaces for people of all ages, genders, skin colors, sexual orientations, and abilities. We’re trying to create spaces that foster community and don’t operate solely on selling alcohol or acquiring assets for already quite comfortable rich men. We’re trying to create art that doesn’t have to conform to whatever is most popular. We’re trying to share skills and knowledge. We’re trying to live freely and honestly. Some of us are trying to change the way we act and live to be more proactive and thoughtful…

Where (and How) To Find DIY Venues

An underground music venue in Oakland, California. Photo:

Getting a DIY space together is no easy task—legal battles usually centering around the lack of permits, liquor licenses, and underage drinking have been known to put more than a few venues out of business before they’ve even gotten started and set plenty of folks back financially. The potential legal woes have necessitated these spaces secretiveness, thus making pinpointing their exact locations difficult to say the least. However, there are plenty of publications that covertly expose many of these venues. Take a look at Showpaper for the New York/Tristate area, The List in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Portland Show Guide in Oregon, and NTX Show List for northern Texas. All have DIY venues discreetly mixed into their listings under names that look vaguely familiar and/or a little quirky. They’re usually venues showcasing unfamiliar bands and the addresses are in more residential neighborhoods.

Spanning the Globe

An underground rap battle at Shelter, in Shanghai (find it at Photo:

Though these spaces are harder to find, they aren’t invisible. Spend a little time digging and you’ll unearth some cool spots like PPZK in Saxony, Germany or ACE in Edinburgh, Scotland that’s “a self-managed social resource centre…open for groups or individuals to use who are trying to make a better society and improve their lives.” In Paris there’s Collectif Tralala, a “collaborative and deviant structure whose purpose is to plan events, live music and performances putting forth disequilibrium, modifying and reconfigurating the lines (physical and cosmic) to interact with the stage in a more direct (/brutal?) and playful way.” In Guangzhu, China there’s Loft 345, “devoted to exhibitions, a wide range of performances, and affordable booze offered as unpretentiously as possible in a world of nauseating pomposity.” I’ll drink to that!

Feel free to share your own DIY venue experiences below!

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure it was totally worth it! Hold Me Now is classic.

  • Stevendsp

    Love it…this reminds me of every great show I’ve ever seen which have never, ever been at a big, overpriced venue. Well, almost never. I did see the Thompson Twins in probably 1987 at a big venue and that was pretty hot : )