Silent Barn Fights for Its Life

Silent Barn has been through a lot. The community arts space opened in 2006 as a charmingly scrappy, art-filled, all-ages venue in Ridgewood, where bands played in the kitchen and avant-garde video-game cabinets occupied the basement. That space was shut down by the city and subsequently vandalized in 2011. The trauma led Silent Barn to grow and adapt, as its operators sought to transform their grassroots ethos into something more sustainable. They successfully raised more than $40,000 via a Kickstarter campaign to acquire a huge space in Bushwick that they now occupy legally, running it with the help of a seventy-person collective of employees and volunteers.

In the five years it’s spent at its Bushwick home, Silent Barn has hosted a variety of projects: artist studios and residences, a synth shop, a recording studio, diverse nightly performances, and a hairdresser/record store. In 2015, it had another setback: a fire that damaged the upstairs apartments and performance space. But the collective survived that too, and crowdfunded more money to recover.

Silent Barn’s mere existence is a feat in a time when nearly all its DIY peers — from Shea Stadium to Palisades — have closed, pushed out by raids, regulations, or rent increases. The space’s survival is even more impressive given that it’s run by a collective that has never had institutional or corporate backing. But Silent Barn’s extraordinary story doesn’t mean the venue is not at risk. Worryingly, after five years, Silent Barn is now closer than ever to closing its doors.


“It’s like we’re on a boat going down a river, and my job as the financial manager is to tell people, ‘Hey, there’s a waterfall coming up, we need to all get together and paddle,’ ” Silent Barn financial manager Jordan Michael Iannucci said over the phone last week. “This is the first time where it’s like, we can see the waterfall, we can hear the water, [and] we know there are rocks under it.” The Barn’s end-of-year fundraiser page currently states a goal of $25,000 to be reached by December 31. Three days from New Year’s Eve, that goal is only 44 percent funded. If the collective doesn’t raise at least $20,000, according to a public event on Facebook, “Silent Barn would have to begin planning to shut down this iteration of the project.”

“When we opened our place, we had basically about a month of cash on hand, maximum, at any given moment,” said Joe Ahearn, one of the original Silent Barn’s longtime residents and a founder of the new space, when the Voice spoke to him over the phone on Christmas Eve. “It’s basically just gotten harder every day since then.”

Unforeseen circumstances, like the fire and bureaucratic problems that delayed the venue’s new liquor license, ate into this already thin cash reserve. “We are [now] operating at less-than-zero-days-to-live margin,” Ahearn said. The collective expected a loss of $28,000 for 2017; at the end of the year, the actual figure is looking closer to $69,000.

This dire situation might seem inevitable for a grassroots arts space trying to survive in the increasingly insane rental economy of modern-day New York City. But it’s also the result of problems specific to Silent Barn’s community model and the obstacles it’s encountered along the way.

According to Iannucci, Silent Barn consists of three main business models. There’s the rental income from artist studios and the four apartments above the space; revenue from show tickets and the drinks people buy at performances; and the collective’s fundraising apparatus.

This model presents many problems for a space like Silent Barn, which is big enough to have a yearly budget of nearly $1 million, but small and young enough that it lacks an established base of large-scale donors. Instead, this year, the collective launched a membership system, where supporters can donate $300 a year for free access to all shows. Lower levels of monthly donation come with such swag as stickers or mixtapes. (Disclosure: This author is a monthly contributor.)

Silent Barn is currently registered as an LLC, but for fundraising purposes it functions as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, with Long Island City DIY art institution Flux Factory acting as the venue’s financial sponsor. Until Silent Barn’s own nonprofit status is approved sometime next year, it is difficult for the space to receive grants.

Show attendance also fell this year. Though the decline averaged out to only eight fewer people per show, those numbers add up in lost ticket and drink revenue. Even after the venue secured a full liquor license, four months late, its bar still needed to be remodeled to adhere to health codes for serving mixed drinks. That would have cost $10,000 up front — money that Silent Barn didn’t have on hand. Instead, the collective has chipped away at that number one item at a time. “When we had $2,000, we got an ice machine,” Iannucci said. “[Then] that’s sitting in our basement until we get another $2,000 to pay someone to install it.” In the meantime, he estimates that they are losing a potential $4 on every show attendee who can’t buy mixed drinks.

The amount Silent Barn charges for rent is also limited by its operators’ ethos, which is to provide an affordable space for a diverse group of artists to experiment and learn. “If we raised the rent to keep up with market rate, why the fuck would anyone donate money?” Iannucci asked.


According to collective members, what Silent Barn needs to survive and thrive is not just the support of one-time big donors or grants. It’s daily, consistent community engagement.

“The recognition that running a space like ours is inherently unstable and needs constant support from everyone involved is something that is widely understood, [but also] very easy to take for granted,” Ahearn said. “What has gotten us to this point is $3 at a time from people coming to shows, donating, buying drinks, helping out. That’s the thing that’s so hard for people to believe. But it’s the reality. And that’s only going to be more true in 2018.”

Despite the precariousness of its situation, Silent Barn doesn’t want to resort to a threatening narrative to get people to donate. “I don’t want people’s investment in the space to be dependent on a time clock for when we’re closing,” Iannucci said. “I want people to appreciate what we do and give us what they think we are worth.”

He and Ahearn both believe that this idealistic goal is achievable, despite the long odds in a time when people are reluctant to pay for even their favorite albums or magazines. “I think it is possible, with the right level of transparency, rhetoric, and public narrative, to teach people that Silent Barn is a community space,” Iannucci said.

“If I wasn’t permanently optimistic about the future of the space, I could not do it,” he added. “I’m imagining a future where Silent Barn books shows [for] a broad range of people, and 25 percent of those people give $5 a month. And then there are maybe ten to fifteen artists or arts entrepreneurs that cut us a check of over $5,000 a year. I don’t think that’s a far-off future.”

It’s a gamble, but it’s one the space has no choice but to take. “Just like how everyone learned that you pay $10 a month for all the music in the world, they need to learn that you also pay $10 a month to support the place you go to see bands you like,” Iannucci said. One of the collective’s often repeated slogans is “Silent Barn is people.” That reality has never been more apparent.

UPDATE: After the publication of this article, Silent Barn hit its fundraising goal. The venue was able to raise more than $30,000 total.


Bringing Aid to ‘Puerto Rico’s Haiti’

Under the motto “We give from what we have, not from what is left over,” a group of residents led by three teachers in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has been collecting food, water, and clothes to deliver to areas in the interior of the island, where — six weeks after the storm — it still feels as if Hurricane Maria hit yesterday.

After putting out a simple call on social media, the group received enough money and supplies from fellow Puerto Ricans to fill ten SUVs with supplies. Volunteers met last Sunday in the parking lot of a shopping center in the town of Dorado, forty minutes west of San Juan, to start the hour-plus drive into the mountains.

It was a remarkable effort by people who are themselves still struggling with power outages and shortages of food and water. “Helping is more gratifying when we give what we possess,” Glenda Rodríguez, a physical education teacher and one of the organizers of the event, told the volunteers who turned up to help. “Keep in mind that, in addition to supplies, we are going to deliver love and therapy. These people have been through a lot.”

Christian Valentín, also a physical education teacher and an organizer of the assistance effort, explained, “We chose this area because we were part of a similar initiative last week and we were told that much help was needed there. They said that part is Puerto Rico’s Haiti.”

Initiatives such as these have been replicated constantly across Puerto Rico, as many residents have put their personal situations aside to go and help those who are in greater need.

“We are teachers, we serve, we are educators, and we just couldn’t sit by waiting for others to take action,” said Rose Alma, another one of the coordinators, explaining why they chose to organize. “In the metropolitan area, we have the same difficulties and lack of power and water, but we are not facing the needs the countryside is enduring.”

The days are indeed complicated for people living in the metropolitan area. However, in the countryside town of Cacao, a trip to the grocery store to get scarce drinking water, for example, can take forty minutes of driving along roads that remain strewn with debris from collapses that left them blocked for days, or with some of their lanes reduced to rubble after landslides. As if this was not complicated enough, in small towns there is a limited number of bank branches open for people to withdraw cash, the main means of doing commerce on the island at the moment.

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It was precisely water delivery that people in Cacao were most grateful for during the group’s rounds.

“Oh, look, there’s water! That’s great!” exclaimed Reinaldo Fred, 76. “A million thanks!” added his son Freddy, 38, who moved in with his father after completely losing the wood house where he lived.

Until Sunday, no aid mission had trekked down the narrow road leading to the Freds’ home.

“This is the first time we see someone around here,” said Reinaldo. “They have come to the neighborhood, but they go through the main street — they don’t get here. This is a blessing.”

In all, the group spent five hours in the mountains delivering aid to nearly a hundred families.

Volunteers clean up debris as a resident waits to climb the ladder in the neighborhood of Rio Abajo in Utuado.

“This [the storm and its aftermath] has been very drastic, very critical, very sad,” said Alberto Pagán, father of two sons, 4 and 7, after receiving aid from the San Juan group. “The fact that people had this wonderful idea to share what they have is simply a blessing.”

While some have organized because their calling drives them to do so — or in response to the continued slow response of the authorities, both local and federal, including FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers — other volunteers joined because the devastation hit close to home. This was the case for personal trainer Rafael “Yogi” Rodríguez, who has a customer who lost her home to the hurricane.

“When we approached the area, we saw that everyone there needed assistance,” said Rodríguez. “When they saw us, they did not believe that we were here to help them because the government still hadn’t reached them.” The volunteers brought not only water, but mattresses for those who had lost theirs to flooding, and hot food and coffee. “When we arrived with the coffee, the ladies there went crazy,” said the personal trainer.

Of all the things he has witnessed, what impacted Rodríguez the most was seeing the children of the community go hungry. “It is rare to see that in Puerto Rico,” he said. “It really was a hard blow to see kids asking us for food and having seconds.”

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Despite President Donald Trump’s comments before his visit to the island that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them,” the reality is that Puerto Ricans began to take action just hours after the storm passed. People quickly took to the streets to see how they could help. Many grabbed chainsaws and machetes and began clearing roads so that people could pass, and freeing people from their homes, where they had been trapped by fallen trees and branches.

Other efforts organized across the island aim to bring entertainment and offer some release from the stifling situation created by lacking electricity and drinking water for so long. Currently, the island is able to produce only 30 percent of its needed power, and about 20 percent of the population does not have running water. In addition, problems with telecommunications persist, and connecting to the internet or even making a simple phone call continues to be a challenge. The situation drains the mind and is beginning to cause hopelessness in the soul.

This is what José “Chewi” Candelario and María de Lourdes Méndez, owners of the San Juan running supplies store En La Meta, had in mind when they brought together nearly 400 athletes for a monthly practice run. “We decided that we would continue doing things the way we had done them until now because we know that this is a space that people cherish,” said Candelario. “In normal times, people are stressed out about work, about their family situations, but now everything is three times worse: We are seeing things we had never experienced before. People need a space to let out that stress.”

The volunteers, meanwhile, quickly ran through their ten SUVs of supplies. “Their reaction was big — we did not expect so many people,” said Rodríguez. “We went to collect more provisions and came back.”



Between Two Furmans: Indie According to Brothers Ezra and Jonah

Like so many younger siblings, Jonah Furman latched onto his big brother Ezra when Ezra received a gift that made him instantly cool: a brand-new acoustic guitar for his bar mitzvah.

“I was nine, and suddenly I had this guitar in the house I could fuck around with,” Jonah recalls over the phone. Ezra joins him. “Do you remember the time I was trying to tune the guitar, and one of the strings broke, and we both started crying?”

Fast-forward to Passover weekend, 2014, over a decade later but still at their childhood home in Evanston, Illinois. Jonah once again found himself verklempt over guitar strings, but this time it was more serious. The singer/bassist of the cult-status punk band Krill showed his siblings his bank account. The balance read $12. “This is when Krill was actually doing well,” clarifies Jonah. “That was my 2009 to 2010,” adds Ezra, by that time also a working musician. “I was living in Brooklyn and I knew the pizza place that sold four garlic knots for $1 and five garlic knots for $1.” They both laugh.

The Furman siblings, each two years apart in age, have long turned to one another for commiseration, because their parents can’t really relate to their artistic lives: Their father is a stock trader and their mother a technical writer. Noah, the eldest and now a visual artist, had a record collection — the White Stripes, Smog, the Grateful Dead — that informed his younger brothers’ tastes. “I remember sharing a room with [Noah] when I was eleven. We’d go to sleep listening to Nine Inch Nails and I was just lying in bed terrified the entire night,” Ezra says with a chuckle.

Ezra broke into music first. He was a dispassionate English major at Tufts University until Minty Fresh Records — whose roster has included Veruca Salt and Liz Phair — signed his pop-rock college band, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons. Unlike the niche DIY network that would eventually support Jonah, Ezra’s career involved mainstream industry adults who were both a blessing and a curse, offering resources and propelling a false hope that the struggle would eventually amount to something.

Now, Ezra’s striking onstage persona with new band the Boyfriends channels a young boy trying on his mother’s clothes: black tights, bedazzled shades, smeared red lipstick. He identifies as gender fluid and draws parallels to avant-garde frontmen of the Seventies like Jonathan Richman and David Johansen. He jokingly describes his performances as “like Bruce Springsteen, but insane,” embracing his twin loves of classic rock and inventive arrangements. Playing to a packed Bowery Ballroom in February, the Boyfriends, blazed through a manic hour and a half, playing emotionally charged takes on Fifties doo-wop and classics like the Violent Femmes. Ezra growled about Boston (“Ordinary Life”) and breakfast foods (“Haunted Head”), later covering Nirvana’s “In Bloom.”

Jonah’s band could hardly be more different. Krill, which broke up last year, was all neurotic guitars and winding character narratives, told through postmodern prose and inside jokes. They were finally making it, too: Album sales picked up and Rolling Stone profiled them. To keep up with the growing attention, Jonah moved from Boston to Bushwick to be closer to his bandmates. The band broke up two weeks later. At a loss for what to do, Jonah enrolled as a graduate student at the City University of New York to study labor, something he gained an interest in when living on a near-negative budget as a musician.

“[At my day job] I’d sit in a windowless room, where no one cared if I was there, and got paid,” said Jonah. “Then I’d go out on tour where people go crazy and tell us how much the band means to them, and be paid nothing. So everyone cares about this thing you can’t get money for and you get money for the things no one cares about. It’s wild. And it was happening while Krill was getting all of this praise and —”

“Validation,” Ezra says pointedly.

“I went through a confusing time. I still am,” Jonah continues. “It’s like graduating college, but instead I’ve graduated my whole identity.”

Following the brief flash of his brother’s success with Krill, Ezra released a solo album, Perpetual Motion People (Bella Union), which made him a breakout artist, too: The record was named one of the Guardian‘s top 25 albums of 2015, in the company of Kendrick Lamar and Grimes. Björk dropped in on his soundcheck before a London show. The success amuses him, if only because this time last year he was determined to quit.

“You can hear how badly I wanted it in the title of my first solo album, Day of the Dog — I really thought this was going to be it,” says Ezra. But unlike Perpetual Motion, Day of the Dog went unnoticed, and things got worse from there. Lou Reed, a hero of Ezra’s, passed away while Ezra was on tour, and he took the news as a bad omen. It proved true at a show in Boise, Idaho, far from Ezra’s home in Oakland, CA. “There were eight people there,” he remembers. “I was just like ‘I’m 27. This is not my life.’ I didn’t tell anyone at the time, but I was 100 percent done.”

Except he wasn’t. Within weeks of that decision, a five-star review from the Guardian for Day of the Dog gave him a change of heart. His label told him a BBC radio DJ was stoking a U.K. audience for him. His band nudged him to tour Europe. So he went, but the experience of coming so close to the end loosened his artistic approach. Quitting — even just in spirit — taught him to sacrifice less. “I don’t say yes to everything anymore,” he says. “And I observe Shabbat on tour, which I didn’t think was possible for any band.”

“I loved that moment in Boise,” says Jonah to his brother, “because you do not experience brutality like that in a lot of other work. [Other] people experience having no future and there’s bleakness to that for sure. But there’s nothing like coming out blazing for a show and nobody is there.”

But it wasn’t that kind of night at the Bowery Ballroom, where Ezra was surrounded by friends, relatives, soul-baring fans, and his two brothers. Outside the exit, Noah scooped Ezra up by the torso and kissed his scruffy brown hair. Jonah pulled him in for a hug. The makeup Ezra wore at the beginning of the show was long ago sweated off.

“I saw the full arc of my musical career with Krill,” said Jonah. Two weeks into graduate school, he was sporting a shorter haircut, buttoned-down shirt, and a pocket pen at his brother’s show. But he appeared more willful and content than he had at any point in the last four years. “It’s like a branching task,” Jonah said. “My band broke up and stopped; Ezra’s band broke up and kept going.”

Jonah Furman performs at Shea Stadium tonight.


Why You Should Snap up Hella Bitter’s DIY Bitters Kit

DIY kitchen crafts are everywhere: cheese-making sets, beer brewing boxes, even grow-your-own-mushrooms logs. But until now, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a make-your-own bitters kit.

Starting this week, Hella Bitter, the company that stocks bars with New York-made citrus and aromatic bitters, is releasing a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a Craft Your Own Bitters Kit.

Why would you want to make your own bitters? Just like making your own seasoning salts, developing your own bitters gives you even more control over your final gastronomic product. For those who are cocktail aficionados, but not interested in distilling their own alcohol, bitters are a clear next-best: Utilize the pre-packaged aromatic blends to mix and strain your own bitter creations. You can improvise by adding other fresh herbs and playing with the base spirit; the Hella Bitter boys give the example of adding a chile and tequila to make a fantastic margarita bitter. “The spice blends simply serve as an aromatic base for backbone and structure,” explains Hella Bitter co-founder Tobin Ludwig. “In the end, we decided, let’s give people a reliable starting point and let them get weird.”

Each kit comes with a custom machined funnel, two infusion jars, a fine mesh steel strainer, four bottle droppers, a citrus spice blend, and an aromatic spice blend. “The dream of a DIY kit actually started out of a conversation we had over two years ago,” Ludwig told us. “We put together a wish list of everything we had fantasized about having at our fingertips when we started. That’s why there are 10 pieces in the kit.”

Whether you’re a cocktail novice or master, the bitters kit is designed to be easy-to-use and wide open to many interpretations.

If you’d like to support the project, check out Hella Bitter’s Kickstarter campaign, where you’ll be able to snap up a Craft Your Own Bitters Kit and whip up some truly unique recipes.

See also: Video: Hella Bitter Takes on an Essential Cocktail Ingredient


How to Hack the Heat and Feed Yourself Without Starving or Going Broke

Remember when we were all bitching about the cold spring? Yeah, me neither.

In this hot-ass weather, there are a few things you must know about feeding yourself. First, never cook. Second, you don’t need to survive on expensive takeout to avoid starving to death, nor do you have to brave restaurants that might not be air-conditioned, accidentally committing yourself to a full meal with only the wheezy ceiling fan left to contend with ventilation needs.

So do what Gwyneth Paltrow says (fun fact: she actually authored several cookbooks) and DRINK WHILE COOKING. I’d recommend a dry rosé with a fat ice cube (classy, I know, but you know what else is classy? Not sweating your face off while preparing dinner, and the ice helps) and lots of frozen fruit.

If you don’t drink alcohol (and you shouldn’t, it’s a filthy habit), make a similar drink with juice or seltzer and drink that instead. And don’t even think about turning on the stove unless you want to pass out right now.

Herewith, a few rules for beating the heat in the kitchen.

Everything you need to stay cool and healthy during a heatwave
Everything you need to stay cool and healthy during a heatwave

Rule no. 1: Your food processor (or blender) is your new best friend.

Married people, did you get that Cuisinart off your wedding registry? Bust it out. Single or otherwise un-Cuisinart-ed folk: if you can’t justify buying a Cuisinart right now (though you won’t regret it, promise), a blender will do. This is the only kitchen utensil that matters in a heat wave.

Rule no. 2: Now that you have that Cuisinart on your counter, think about the food pyramid and try to hit as many sections as often as possible in one cold, blended concoction.

For example, Exhibit A: Traditional Andalusian Gazpacho.

Here’s my recipe (a variation on something I found on Epicurious years ago):
(Yields sixish servings)

6 inches of a baguette (stale is fine)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium shallot, minced (1 small onion works, too)
3 tablespoon red wine vinegar (any light vinegar will do)
2ish lbs ripe tomatoes, quartered (that’s about 8 vine tomatoes)
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (the darker, the better)
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, sliced

Cut baguette in half and soak in water while you cut veggies. Squeeze water from bread and place half of it in food processor. Dust veggies with salt and put half of each in food processor with bread. Blend until smooth; add half the oil and blend until really smooooOooth. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, then place those in the bowl with the rest and mix thoroughly.

Now garnish with other food pyramid categories: I like to add crumbled feta, chopped Black Forest ham, arugula, and hard-boiled egg to mine, but other veggies and legumes–like avocado, bell peppers, cucumbers, radishes, black beans, chick peas, spinach, fennel, and endive–are also great candidates. See if you can hit all five food groups in proper proportion.

Serve immediately or cool for days.

Look for more heat hacks on the next page.

Freeze stuff...or let People's Pops do it for you
Freeze stuff…or let People’s Pops do it for you

Rule no. 3: Freeze things.

Blueberries, raspberries, and stoned cherries (and chocolate and oily nuts, like cashews and macadamia nuts) are all wonderful frozen. Eat them as snacks, or add the fruit to drinks (like that rosé you were drinking while cooking). You can actually buy Popsicle molds and freeze juice into them for easy DIY popsicles. Think about freezing sparkling beverages like those amazing Pellegrino spritzer drinks, or mix seltzer with Goya juices and freeze that. If you want to be extra sweet about it, dust the Popsicle mold with sugar. If you’re feeling super wild, line it with Pop Rocks.

Rule no. 4: Eat meat raw.

Make your own ceviche or steak tartare. None of these things are particularly difficult; the key is to buy really fresh, good meat. If you’re not sure where to begin, go to a reputable butcher or fishmonger, tell them you’re making tartare or ceviche, and ask what cut they recommend.

My favorite super easy ceviche recipe:
(Yields six servings)

2 pounds fresh whitefish, cut to half-inch pieces (I like branzino or snapper but tilapia works, too)
1 pound ripe tomatoes, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium red onion, minced
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 medium jalapeno, chopped
Juice of 6 limes
Juice of 2 lemons
1/4 teaspoon powdered coriander
1/3 teaspoon powdered cumin

Place fish, garlic and onion in a bowl with citrus; stick it in the fridge. In the meantime, cut the other veggies, and enjoy your cold drink (drinking while cooking, right?). After 20 minutes, remove fish from fridge, add veggies and spices and mix thoroughly. Dust with salt to taste. Let sit five minutes and drain any excess liquid. Serve with avocado, black beans, and arugula on flour tortillas (which are OK when cold, unlike their corn counterparts), or with the same over a salad. If you need meat, that Black Forest ham comes in handy here, too.

Rule no. 5: Eat WTF you want for dinner.

It’s hot, and you may spend much of your day angry for no reason aside from the weather: Why not have bread, cheese, and salami for dinner? Eat it outside at one of NYC’s breezy waterfront parks with a friend or loved one and watch the sunset. Pro tip: The cops are less likely to ticket you for drinking in public if you put your wine in a lidded coffee cup.

Rule no. 6: If all of the above is too much for you, order delivery that’s good even when cold, and get enough so you can eat it tomorrow.

Like pizza! There are few better breakfasts when it’s 85 degrees by 7 a.m. than cold pizza. Call me crazy, but I also like cold Chinese. Pork fried rice, for instance: It’s nice and crunchy and still good and salty when it’s cold so the flavor lasts.




NYPD Releases New Video That Teaches You How to Stop and Frisk

“Illegal weapons are flooding our city’s streets,” the eerie voice says amongst pictures of AK-47s. “Out of state gun hoarders have made it all too easy to acquire an illegal gun if the price is right. It is our job as professional police officers to legally detect and remove guns by arresting the offenders. This important task ensures the public’s safety.”

So begins the video presented to a Manhattan court this week by NYPD attorneys. The footage was used as a defense in Floyd v. City of New York, the case that seeks to upend stop and frisk as an unconstitutional and biased infringement on civilian rights. It’s shown to officers in training and basically runs as a ‘How To’ for the controversial procedure.

And, boy, does it make you uncomfortable.

The narrator advises officers to constantly be cautious of “furtive movements,” in which suspects look and act out of the ordinary. Given the present officer’s perspective and opinions, that could virtually mean anything. Later on, officers are told to not “be shy about going into the crotch area.” So that’s great to hear.

The video justifies stop and frisk as a deterrent to the illegal gun flow going in and out of the city. This is also the argument being taken up by the NYPD in the court. But that argument doesn’t necessarily make sense because here’s what we know:

Illegal guns were found in 0.1% of stops in 2012 and, as Bloomberg’s law enforcement force elevated stop and frisk in use by 700 percent between 2003 and 2012, only 176 additional guns were actually found. The bossman himself has even said stop and frisk doesn’t do much to stop shootings whatsoever.

Conclusion: there goes the entire underlying theme of the video and, as a result, the entire underlying argument of the NYPD’s defense. If we look at the situation in this angle, the future of stop and frisk is bleak as a justifiable practice for law and order.


Millennial Music: A Look at How DIY Technology Is Changing the Game Forever

Open. Click. Send. In a matter of seconds, Max Schieble’s pre-recorded vocal track from America appears in the e-mail inbox of his bandmate Danny Lentz, who is abroad in Paris. Lentz receives the file, pulls out a violin and plays his part from memory. The file is sent back over to Schieble, who then puts it through the mixing grind of free software programs including Logic, GarageBand, and ProTools (all downloaded in “the glory days of MegaUpload”).

Once on iTunes, an upload to SoundCloud and Band Camp — all free sharing programs that link to social media — is a token of victory. At a remarkable speed in a “more or less cost-free process,” Pharaohs — a jazz-pop group that Schieble and Lentz co-founded, along with other rotating band members, two years ago — have created a song.

Enter Converse’s Rubber Tracks. The famous Americana shoe manufacturer of Chuck Taylor’s opened a free studio in Brooklyn last year in an attempt to brand the DIY movement and bands within it, like Pharaohs. And the company did this by appealing to a cost-sensitive demographic: According to Keith Gulla of Converse in a press release, the company wanted bands to “help overcome one of the biggest hurdles in their career: affording studio time.” Converse provides the gear, the audio engineers, and the space to create; all a band has to do is apply and show up.

That’s it — no strings attached or sign-up fees necessary. And as an option, a band can choose to let Converse have publication rights to the produced music in order for them to pump it through their website and social-networking presence.

Like Converse, the once-online, now-in-Brooklyn clothing company Mishka offers their brand name as a free platform for artists soaring in the blogosphere. By releasing mixtapes online with Mishka’s name and insignia on them, local New York rap acts like Ninjasonik and Mr. Mutha****in Esquire have gained fame and success without either party shelling out the big bucks.

As with many of today’s hopeful recording artists, Pharaohs have circumvented the shackles of money, time and distance by knowing their way around a MacBook. Although Schieble points out this isn’t his preferred way of recording (in his opinion, “Pharaohs’ music loses its essence a bit” with a lo-fi sound), the DIY process represents the extraordinary synergy that now exists between the Internet and a band. But someone, or something, has been left out of the mix: the presence of a middleman, a/k/a the venerable record label. Long one of the pillars of the music industry, labels are going the way of MySpace: ignored and outdated.

Since popular music awakened in or around the 1950s, the record label’s job has been simple: Sign a band, help them make music, and promote that product by all means possible. It was the authority figure that bands had to overly impress to in order to get airplay. But the transfer of power away from this top-down hierarchy began at some point in the mid 2000s. While music blogs and Facebook slowly invaded the Web, performers like Lil Wayne and Drake used the sites’ sharing capabilities as an advantage by releasing free mixtapes that went viral in minutes.

This symbiotic relationship is the modern-age alternative, demonstrated by the unprecedented act of clothing companies being involved in music production. Instead of signing an agreement or contract, the record label is quickly being replaced by the record collective, where two parties benefit off each other’s brand — in this case, the company’s name generates hype for the band’s music and vice versa. It is the natural application of DIY logic to marketing or, as Schieble understands it, “having a PR-oriented group backing you, and that’s it.”

Singer, songwriter, and Millennial musician Andy Gruhin is an unusual holdout with a major label — in this case, Sony. But he still has his generation’s mind-set in the signing situation and recognizes the trend that is taking place: “We live in a time where Arcade Fire won a Best Album Grammy for a DIY album. The labels are losing power every day. Art has no price.”

Because of this, he signed what is known as a “publishing deal” with the record titan, in which Sony is strictly responsible for marketing and nothing more. By doing so, Gruhin can create and play his own music without “selling my soul and risking my dignity to take advantage of people.”

Another example of this Millennial concoction is Danny Rose and Aya Tello’s A mini Tribe Records, whose m.o., in Rose’s words, is to “reinforce a spirit of artists for artists, not CEOs for music.” In a space like this, he believes that “it’s all about bands making their mark and creating their own content, not about what will sell well or get more cash flow” — a common mantra of the Internet, where personal self-branding and uniqueness is encouraged.

To Rose, this is where the bigger names lose the battle. Limited to radio and TV — mediums the Millennials increasingly tune out — major labels “carelessly spend money trying to guess at how their artists fare.” Although he admits that public relations and marketing still require some financial support, promotion via social media is cutting costs by market specification: “Now we can directly access our fans and target the ones we want to target for free; this cuts upkeep by a lot.”

In what he sees as a “family,” musician Phillip DeVries is a member of the A mini Tribe clan, opposite Rose in the collective sync but “both in the same boat of obscurity.” He explains that the collective works by lending a helping hand where need be: if one vocalist is needed in another’s recording, a simple exchange is made. In his opinion, the days of having simple name recognition through live shows are in the past: Now, as the 21st-century circuit, “the Internet, in a way, becomes the new record label.” Thus, Rose becomes a partner to DeVries, not an owner.

DeVries has played in Greenwich Village music venues with his group Broken Down Engine, which includes drummer Lucas Brown and bassist Dominick Chang. After recording with Rose’s equipment, DeVries’s blues guitar is channeled through music blogs and Facebook — the “hype machine,” as he calls it — to reach a larger audience.

But with all this potential for maximum exposure, the expectation bar can sometimes be set too high. Or as superstar Kanye West reportedly once said, “It’s not cool if no one listens to you.” Aware that Facebook or blog attention does not automatically translate into real-world success, DeVries falls back on the live approach of his musical forbearers, like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn: “It’s the live shows where you play well and have people start talking about you.” With everything else online, the live show is the only offline device in the Millennial setup.

Nick Dierl of Life or Death PR & Management — the group that does promotion work for big names like SoCal rock pop duo Best Coast and erratic rap clan Odd Future — agrees that cyberspace has its limits. Even if your music permeates the blogosphere, “being Internet famous is still very different from having fame in real life,” he said, “Now, more than ever, it’s really important for bands to be on the road winning over fans.” Using, as an example, Odd Future — a group known for its Tumblr and Twitter takeovers — Dearl explained that the group has succeeded because it delivered on its hype.

For Neil Patel, this trip-up results in the only real cost for the DIY movement: “The only thing hitting bands right now is a touring band with gas prices.” Patel started booking shows at the age of 15 in Atlanta, Georgia, and, four years later, created the hardcore punk collective Back to Back Records.

Even as a record label owner himself, he admits his own outmoding: “I think, now, more than ever, you don’t need record labels, and bands should be DIY,” Patel remarked. To avoid paying any overhead promotion costs whatsoever, he scours the social networks to sell his product: “I’ve never paid for marketing. I spend time on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and message boards to promote Back to Back’s stuff,” he said. The records he releases for bands are available on “donation download,” or a pay-what-you-want basis — a distribution scheme unheard of with major record labels.

For him, “punk and hardcore is a lifestyle” that he transformed into a business: “[The music] saved my life,” and all he wants to do is release 7″ LPs by bands that he loves listening to.

From Patel and Rose’s collective structure to DeVries and Schieble’s chop-and-screw recording, the attitude becomes clear: Everyone can participate in an activity without one player dominating the rest; a leveled-through-technology playing field exemplified in social media and software programs. With help from companies like Converse and Mishka, the top-down record labels’ job responsibilities can be replaced by a bottom-up generation that is tech-savvy, skeptic of their parents’ ways and anti-authoritative.

As the summer ends and Lentz returns from Europe, Schieble plans on paying a visit to Rubber Tracks to record Pharaohs’ first full-length album. Besides the $2.25 MetroCard fees to get to and fro Brooklyn, they’ll pay nothing, and, to Millennials, that’s the way it should be: “[The Internet] is democratic,” said Schieble. “In that sense, it’s the ideal American way of making music.”


The Power of New York City’s Farmers’ Markets

In a populist sense, a farmers’ market is like the gastronomic version of a town hall; citizens come to barter with other citizens, trading locally grown strawberries instead of talking points. Every day of the week, you can find one of these fine establishments in almost every borough. It is a trend of the Great Recession: swap the supermarket for the cheaper, more utilitarian alternative. And, according to a report just released by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, New York City is steamrolling this food upheaval forward as farmers’ markets slowly take over public spaces.

The report states that there are now 138 farmers’ markets in the Big Apple – a number that, statewide, has doubled to over 500 in the past decade. And this isn’t just a metropolitan thing anymore: across the country, there are more than 7,000 farmers’ markets operating daily; in 2000, there were about 2,000. Why such a spike?

“Farmers’ markets boost local communities and promote a healthy and sustainable food system,” DiNapoli said. “These markets enhance communities and the lives of those who live nearby.”

So let’s take a quote from Bill Clinton to answer that question: it’s the economy, stupid.

To catch just a glimpse of this dramatic shift of where and how we obtain our food, yesterday, the New York TV station ABC7 reported on a farm school in Bushwick run by a group called Ecostation. According to news anchorwoman Lauren Glassberg, the urban farming educators have been overwhelmed by applicants; for 15 slots, they received about 150 applicants for their two-year farming certificate program. In other words, New Yorkers from all walks of life are lining up in swarms to learn the ways of agriculture.

These urban farms share what they grow with the farmers’ markets, cafeterias and surrounding communities. For example, the Battery Urban Farm in Battery Park sets up a stand once a month and sells its produce to Downtown Manhattan while also giving a bunch to neighboring elementary schools. It’s a cycle that transforms the corporation-customer relationship into a farmer-neighbor dynamic.

What separates the farmers’ market from the supermarket is where the profits are headed. In corporate food politics, the profits are spread out across the hierarchy, with most of the money going towards the top of the ‘food’ chain. Contrast that with local food politics: when you have a farmers’ market reaping profits, that money is going directly into the hands of the local community – the farmers, the workers, etc.

It is the lasting achievement of the DIY movement in the food aisle: communities trump corporations.