How to run a D.I.Y. music venue with Rami and Jake of Glasslands
Even on a dull Monday, Glasslands has your indie music plans covered. From a ramshackle space to an up-to-code venue, Brooklyn's most homey and tasteful venue has managed to conserve its D.I.Y. spirit over the years while avoiding getting the boot from authorities. Ever wonder how to run the music funhouse of your dreams with your friends and for your friends, right in the heart of Williamsburg? Rami Haykal and Jake Rosenthal started party promoting at Glasslands in 2008 and bought the venue four years later. We recently sat down with the two young gun owners to find out how they got started, how they pulled off running a D.I.Y. venue, and what they’ve learned.
When was your first time at Glasslands?
Jake: I think the first show I was here for was in 2008. I thought it was awesome. That show was fun and successful or whatever, so every couple of months we'd do an event there. It was easy to bring friends since it was a fun spot.
When did you go from party promoters at Glasslands to their go-to, in-house bookers?
Rami: After CMJ 2009, we got the offer to be the in-house bookers, and then in January of 2010, we started the Popgun party series. Sometimes we'd book five bands per show.
Jake: Our first PopGun party featured Boy Crisis, Telepathe, Apache Beat, and Grandchildren. At the time, the mentality was let's get as many bands as possible so we can draw as many of their fans as possible. It was a very simple idea because we had no mailing list whatsoever and no fanbase.
When it was time to take over the managerial reigns, how did you manage running Glasslands?
Jake: There was a fair amount of chaos going on at Glasslands at that time, I would say, from 2008 to 2010. Everyone was wearing a lot of hats. Whether you were a bar manager trying to make sure that financials were in order or whether you were the owners trying to make sure the booking was running. Everyone was sort of trying to do like, at least three or four jobs to keep the place operating.
Rami: To us, the biggest part of what we were buying obviously was the name. The huge value to us was what Glasslands already was: the staff, the name, the art, what people knew it to be. This was a huge fundamental value to us.
Jake: There's definitely an attachment to the venue. It's where we started getting bigger shows for PopGun and we also wanted to stick around in the rapidly changing the Williamsburg neighborhood.
What's your favorite show you've hosted at Glasslands?
Jake: I think one of my funnest experiences at Glasslands was Tanlines in early 2010. It was just crazy. We had a crowd where every single person there was really into the energy and feeling the energy, and there wasn’t a self-consciousness about enjoying the night or the performance. That just happened to be that kind of night for whatever reason. They're obviously a great band, but also I think maybe it was the last show before they were going on tour or maybe their homecoming, but I know they had a lot really great fans and just friends in the room. I remember that show just looking beyond the steps at the front of the venue, and I've never seen a crowd undulate, people just jumping, the whole room going nuts. And that's super rare, you know? So that's awesome for me.
Rami: Tanlines was definitely a great one, Alt-J was cool, and Crystal Fighters was great.
What makes a space a DIY space?
Jake: I think that's a really good question. I wanted to talk about that for a really long time because I think there was a piece that came out that was a retrospective of the early 2000s to now of DIY spots. I think the very DIY community, which for a long time has been the smallest and the most ramshackley of spots, has a serious protectiveness about what DIY means. It’s interesting to be Glasslands, which has always been teetering somewhere in between. I think it's a fully licensed venue that carries a lot of what it means to be a DIY spot, which means that when something needs to get done, you've got a family of people who've cared about this place for seven years. A lot of our staff has been here for five years because of that. The office, the bookers, the talent buyers, people who help us promote, sound engineers, bartenders, door people. That's really uncommon for venues. The reason is because every single person has had a really significant role in being at some critical juncture when Glasslands improved in some way, and we're part of the effort that it took to improve it and take it to the next level. Even though Glasslands has had these moments where it's made improvements in an aesthetic way, I think from the outside, it may make it look less like a DIY spot, but it really all happened with DIY hustle. It happened because a small group of people really forced it to happen. There's almost nothing in this venue that was done by some outsider who got paid a bundle of money to do with the possible exception of the most recent renovation with the bathrooms. Even with that, we came to Glasslands at 1:00 AM and demoed in the bathrooms with sledgehammers.
Rami: At the same time, when the previous owners put together the whole space, it was a lot of their friends who had done the construction and decoration as well, so they had done a lot to get the place to where it is. In that transition when we were working for them and were able to take it another step into legitimacy and switching ownership, is when a few other things changed.