Without independent venues, indie’s most beloved bands like Tame Impala or Passion Pit never would’ve had a chance.
From July 9-15, Independent Venue Week spotlights small venues in cities around the U.S. by putting on killer local shows. Kicked off on Monday in Boston and Minneapolis, the festival goes on for seven days and includes cities such as Portland, Nashville, L.A. and NYC. (Check out the full schedule of cities and shows here.)
The festival spotlights a critical part of the music industry that is too often overlooked. Independent venues give bands opportunities to put on a show, no matter how the size of their following. “These venues open their doors regardless of knowing if people are going to actually come, if it’s going to be busy or if the band is even going to have a good show,” Independent Venue Week founder Sybil Bell tells BTRtoday.
When Bell ran her own venue in the U.K., it was no easy job. “It’s a tough business to be in—it’s not an area of the industry that gets a lot of recognition, but it’s a very vital part of the whole ecosystem for artists,” she says.
Since its debut five years ago, the festival has grown from only a handful of participating venues and a couple thousand attendees to dozens of venues getting involved and over 70,000 attendees.
“The initial response we got from just messaging that we were committing to doing this [in the U.S.] was so overwhelmingly positive,” Rev. Moose, head of U.S. operations for Independent Venue Week, tells BTRtoday. “Some of the people that we had planned on reaching out to reached out to us first, they just said, ‘look, we want to be involved, how can we help?’”
Rev. Moose says they want recognition for venues that are doing great things on their own. He also adds that as a minister, he’s up to marry anyone at the show. “That can be part of the plan too if you want,” he says. “We’re open to creative involvement.”
In NYC’s Lower East Side the 15-year-old venue Pianos hosts the festival with a lineup presented by BTRtoday and StereoactiveNYC (July 12 – info/tickets).
For Pianos Talent Buyer Steven Matrick, independent venues are “incubators for talent.” “There needs to be a place for bands that are growing,” Matrick says, noting that many clubs won’t book bands unless they can draw in hundreds of people. “I think it’s critical.”
“You’d be very surprised of some of the bands that played their first NYC show at Pianos,” Matrick says. “Tame Impala, Imagine Dragons, Passion Pit did a residency at Pianos and they play Madison Square Garden now, [and] Clap Your Hands And Say Yeah broke out at Pianos—we definitely play a huge role in breaking the careers of many bands.”
Pianos has outlived many independent venues around that area, like the beloved Cake Shop, which closed its doors in 2016. Now, it’s one of the only independent venues left in the Lower East Side.
Don’t miss out on the NYC experience for Independent Venue Week this Thursday at Pianos with The Night Screams, Grim Streaker, Dead Stars, Gustaf and Robot Princess with a reception and food beforehand.