DIY music venues are like petri dishes but for beautifully blooming works of art. In these cultural incubators, artists are allowed to experiment with sounds, sights, and feelings, and take their work in totally new directions.
But because DIY means that there’s no big man footing the bills and no marketing firm “curating” each show for the masses, these venues are often closed before they can foster a supportive community, or they shut in the face of one. Long-revered DIY venues, such as Brooklyn’s Silent Barn and Shea Stadium, or Denver’s Glob and Rhinoceropolis, have shuttered in recent years. Sure, there are bars that offer space for weirdo shows—Brooklyn’s Secret Project Robot, Allston’s Great Scott, and Little Haiti’s Churchill’s Pub, for example—but DIY venues aren’t bars and generally are open to all ages. That means these places can introduce original work to a new generation of creative minds and foster their confidence to make their own individual sounds and creations.
Tom Tom rounded up a list of venues around the United States that could be considered DIY. They’re not traditional places your normie friends, beer funnel in hand, would catch a band. They allow artists to produce progressive sets and explore the emotional boundaries of performance. Support ’em if you can.
1464 Gratiot Ave., Detroit, Michigan
The folks behind artist-run Trinosophes are dedicated to preserving Detroit’s history in every way and providing space for its present art, music, and food scenes. They’ve offered their stage to acts like Sun Ra Arkestra and Mission of Burma. It’s also an art gallery and locally sourced vegan-friendly cafe. Located in an old spice processing warehouse in Detroit’s Eastern Market, Trinosophes has a library set to preserve texts that represent the Michigan city’s history. It’s also home to DittoDitto publishing and distribution and one of Peoples Records’ two locations. It’s one DIY spot that does it themselves and does everything.
1465 Old Oxford Rd., Waterford, Mississippi
What better place to DIY than on a ranch? The 80-acre Mississippi Foxfire Ranch offers concerts, retreats, and private events, and includes a 5,000 square-foot open-air pavilion and multiple stages. The place is kid friendly and driving distance from Memphis, Tennessee, and Oxford, Mississippi. It’s owned by Bill Hollowell, who grew up there as a kid but left for 40 years. He then returned to his childhood dream home and made it into a dream venue.
UPDATE: Boston Hassle opened a brick and mortar space, the Dorchester Art Project, at 1486 Dorchester Ave., Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Hassle is less a venue than it is a grassroots organization that activates spaces with art. With its zine-like flyers for shows, art events, film events, and flea markets, it embodies the DIY aesthetic to a T. Located in Boston, a city known less for innovation than for tradition, it offers an alternative to creatives who want to break free from the stodgy Old World mold.
80 N 6th St., Brooklyn, New York
Music is an art form, and that art form has a home at Brooklyn’s artist-led nonprofit National Sawdust. You can find newbies playing alongside established musicians at this unique venue. Its mission is to let composers and musicians flourish in a supportive space with resources available to ensure their success.
1111 Dickerson Pike, Nashville, Tennessee
Nashville may be the country music capital of the world, but with the mainstream comes an underbelly. Drkmttr Collective is an all-ages, volunteer-run DIY venue boasting house parties run by the people who attend. It’s DIY and BYOB.
PhilaMOCA: Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art
531 N 12th St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Formerly a showroom for mausoleums, the space occupied by the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art. PhilaMOCA was purchased in the mid-aughts by producer and DJ Diplo as headquarters for his Mad Decent label. Since 2010, it has been an underground multipurpose art space focused on film, performance, and keeping things interesting, and is curated by Eric Bresler.
Jam in the Van
11601 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, California
There’s not much more “DIY” than a live music venue in a vehicle. Jam in the Van is a Los Angeles–based, solar-powered recording studio and YouTube Channel. It’s like the Tiny Desk series but on wheels. Jake Cotler, Dave Bell, and Louis Peek started it up in 2011 as a backyard project, and now they’ve filmed more than 1,000 bands. It’s rolling DIY sound into the future.
The Mudlark Theatre in New Orleans
1200 Port St., New Orleans, Louisiana
The Mudlark Theatre in New Orleans is primarily a space for puppet shows, thanks to the vision of the venue’s proprietor, Pandora Gastelum. But the black box performance space offers experimental performers a location in which to explore just about anything. You can catch shows there such as the Bible Belt Abortion Storytelling Tour and femme rage collective ASUKUBUS.
107 Hanover St., Portland, Maine
Though Portland, Maine’s all-ages Apohadion Theater (formerly Fort Awesome screen printing company) is located in a nondescript building outside of downtown, it’s filled with an exciting mix of live music, theater, and film. Its look is DIY to the max, with flyers, murals, and vintage furniture. The theater is run by donations and fueled by the love of music.
Flywheel Arts Collective
43 Main St., Easthampton, Massachusetts
Easthampton nonprofit Flywheel began as the Valley Arts and Music Alliance, an organization through which artists worked to help each other produce free, all-ages shows. Once housed in a long-vacant cabinet store, Flywheel is open to everyone with an open mind down with having a good time. A change of location brought Flywheel to the Easthampton Old Town Hall, but its spirit remains DIY as ever.
The Seventh Circle Music Collective
2935 W 7th Ave., Denver, Colorado
After the 2016 Ghostship fire in Oakland, a couple of well-loved DIY venues in Denver were shuttered for not being up to code, but the all-ages underground venue the Seventh Circle Collective passed inspection and remains a safe place for experimental musicians and artists.
915 Wyckoff Ave., Ridgewood, New York
Trans-Pecos is one of the best known DIY venues in the world. Famed longtime New York City show booker Todd P is the man behind this “community resource center” for music lovers of all ages. It is located in the former Silent Barn space, and shows are curated by a crew of knowing tastemakers.