Long Island DIY Music Is Not Dead

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by Kevin Urgiles, Jay Shah and Joseph Ryder

The piercing sound of Chris Graci’s Fender telecaster escapes through the clear-glass door of Shakers Pub in Oakdale to become little more than an inaudible soundcheck from the outside.

Graci’s band, Monster Bad, is playing at Shakers Pub, a bar-turned-venue that sits on a hushed section of a strip mall in Oakdale.  They are one of the five bands on the line-up, but one of the countless independent artists that are at the heart of the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) music scene on Long Island.

“Bands have been doing this for the last thirty years,” Graci said. “They started by forgoing any kind of representation and just doing it themselves. That’s the the DIY spirit.”

This DIY show took place on November 7th and was organized by Table Three Media, a small media company on Long Island that tries to help independent artists start their career.

Table Three worked for several weeks in order to get Monster Bad, Casanova, Secret Stuff, We Take Fire and An Old Friend booked for the show, and Shakers Pub was selected as the venue of choice because it is the only venue where it is free to book shows on Long Island, Tom Brown, co-founder of Table Three Media said.

Brown made $130 dollars from the show at Shakers Pub, but losing money is sometimes part of the DIY business for promoters because they take care of most, if not all, the financial costs for a venue he says.

“I’ve lost thousands of dollars doing this,” Brown said. “I literally love music that much, and I have also made so many friends from this that I think it is worth it.”

DIY ethics are based on working with minimal help, making your product accessible to the public and being accepting of anyone who tries to join the community regardless of background, Jeremiah Ryall, 28, the manager of Iron Chic who has worked in the Long Island music scene since he was 14, said.

The DIY scene on Long Island has not changed in ideology over the years, but some Long Islanders feel that there is no longer a DIY scene because bands that claim to be independent are getting added to small labels more often than ever, Ryall said.

“To me DIY is more of a mentality than an actual state of existence,” Ryall said. “You can have a band that is signed to a label still be DIY because they still make it their goal to make their music accessible to people for free or very cheap.”

Tom Brown, co-founder of Table Three Media

Tom Brown, co-founder of Table Three Media

Punk is the music genre synonymous with DIY culture due to the notion that both relate “making due with materials on hand, in which crudeness, often forced due to poverty, develops the aesthetic, which feels authentic,” David Ensminger, author of Visual Vitriol: The Street Art and Subcultures of the Punk and Hardcore Generation, a book from the University of Mississippi Press, said.

As long as punk is alive, and people want to create music with little resources, DIY will not disappear, Ensminger said. 

“Punk rock, whether from a cold garage, dank basement, or ramshackle club, remains part of youth experience because someone always feels different, alone, alien, left out, exploited, demeaned,” Ensminger said. “Punk productions embody, mimic, emulate, and promote that experience.”