Todd P - by Jada Yuan
if you're friends with P

 



They've never worn mullets or go-go boots, they moved to Greenpoint first, they say the Boredoms are their favorite band. They think nothing of hopping on their bikes to catch a backyard show in Long Island City. Over the past few years, a certain subset of Brooklynites has formed a small community around Todd Patrick's rock shows. Todd P., as he's known on the scene, is part of a small cadre of promoters who are largely responsible for the DIY music scene that's been drawing progressively younger crowds out of clubs and into dive bars and loft parties. His list of influential co-conspirators includes friends Kyle Lapidus, Erik Z (founder of the loft performance space Mighty Robot), and John Fitz (who "discovered" the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and threw the first shows at the Polish National Home, now known as Warsaw). After much searching and moving around to other people's venues, Todd P. finally opened his own space in December, an unmarked warehouse by the river on Williamsburg's Northside which he recently dubbed "The Llano Estacado." Jada Yuan caught up with him two days after the venue's biggest show to date, when Animal Collective drew a crowd of 400.

You moved here from Portand, right?
Yeah. I moved to New York in March 2001, and put on my first show just after September 11, actually, in October 2001.

What were you doing before that?
Previously I'd owned a club in Oregon called 17 Nautical Miles. It was wildly successful for two years. But it was too small. The shows were, like, 200 people when the legal capacity was 49. And it was in a residential neighborhood so it was this stressful thing all the time of making sure the neighbors didn't shut it down. So we moved to a big warehouse space in Portland. I spent 12 grand on it from money I'd cobbled together. It was halfway legal and halfway illegal and they quickly shut it down. I decided that the best way to sort of clear my palate of Portland was to do something in a completely bigger place and to do it here.

So you came here to start a club?
Oh, I was following a girl. She was gone before I got here, but I mean, I wanted to move to New York anyway. I came up here touring with this band called A John Henry Memorial. And then I started throwing shows because I knew Peter who ran Sound and Fury records. We had a mutual friend and he was running that record store and he had all these people wanting to do in-stores, and his place was really tiny and he couldn't do all of them. He was just turning people down all the time and I was like, "Hey you know what? I'd like to do those shows. So for those people if you can't do it, if they want to do a loft show or a weird show in Brooklyn, I'll hook them up."

How did you get into promoting in the first place?
The first show I ever put on was in Austin, where I went to school, in 1995, when I was 20. It was above a record store and I knew the guys who owned it. Henry's Dress and Rocket Ship were coming through town. My girlfriend at the time and I wanted to open a business somewhere and it seemed to me that the cheapest way to open a business was to rent a room and start putting on shows at night and call it a club. Because that way you don't have to buy anything or have any supplies or materials. All you need to have a club is a P.A. and someone to stamp hands. And you don't need a P.A. half the time.

What was the first show you put on in New York?
It was actually right around here on Dobin Street, which is the equivalent of Union on the west side of McCarren Park. It was the Lowdown from Santa Cruz and Japanther, back when Japanther was still a proper metal band.

What's your ideal show?
A show that's more than the sum of its parts. When I moved here, the way they booked shows it was like, this band will bring in 20 people, this band will bring in 25 people, this band will bring in 25 people, and then a headliner that has nothing to do with any of them. I just find that really boring. The hope is to put a show together where the bands aren't necessarily the same, but they inform each other in one way or another. It was really uninspiring when I got here.

Why do you think shows like that weren't happening in the city?
I think a lot of people who own bars in the city, they're squeezed. The rents are so high that it's really hard for them to make money. So, if they don't see a frequent full-up room, they're going to freak out. They can't enjoy stuff as an art form instead of as a generator of cash.

What were your main venues when you first got here?
The first place I worked with was The House of Choi, a guy's loft on Dobin Street. Then I used the Local/Rock Star Bar/Mermaid Bar, all the same place. Then I discovered upstairs space at the Right Bank for a year before the owner sold the building, which was really sad because for the first time in years it was actually successful. Around the same time, I started doing a Sunday thing at Luxx, which was always whatever. They asked me to manage Luxx for the last four months. That was a shitty, terrible stint. It was the end of electroclash and that whole place's success was based on Larry Tee's party. That was kind of unusual because he wasn't working anymore. And the management had a sense of entitlement that they would make thousands upon thousands of dollars every weekend on tourists and foreigners coming to New York to see electroclash. It's really hard to recreate that kind of thing. And they had no commitment to making it a real live club. I was happy to get out of there.

How do you find out about bands?
It's a network. A lot of times they're friends with somebody else who is talented and interesting and they're opening for them, and I find that the opening band is someone I really like and I want to book them more often. I actually do listen to demos people give me, but I wouldn't say that many of the bands I book come from there. And I go to a lot of shows.

What are the most exciting New York bands right now?
I really like Free Blood. I really like !!!, but they're obvious. I'll always like Japanther. I think they're wonderful. I think White Magic is great. I love Gang Gang Dance.

How does DIY work?
I have a lot of help: Volunteers, friends working the door. They get paid. I have an intern now. I have an office at my apartment.

What's the most expensive part of DIY?
I find a way to do fliers for free. The most expensive thing is maintaining the equipment. I probably spend $200 to $300 a year on P.A. supplies. I'm big on lighting, so I buy a lot of candles and Christmas lights. I've never lost money. Except for one time at the Flux Factory, where the fire department shut it down. There really isn't a lot of expense. Just a lot of time.

How does the vibe in New York differ from Portland?
On the good side, the level of talent is amazingly better here. There's a lot of seriousness in what people do because it's so expensive to do stuff here. If you're a band here you have to rent a practice space. Whereas in Portland, you're playing in your basement. It can create great things that couldn't happen here, but it can also mean that you're a slacker.

And on the bad side?
On the bad side, the energy is fleeting. People are very fickle. You can have an amazing event that should go great but doesn't work because of the competition that evening. It becomes hard to generate enthusiasm because people are so swamped with other things, and also a certain New York cool pervades everything and keeps you from getting too drunk and excited and crazy happy about shit. But I have noticed that changing. I don't take responsibility, but I am happy to have been along for it.

How did you find your new space?
Erik [Z, who used to run Mighty Robot] found it. It was a building that had been abandoned for years. Previously, it was the original location of Flux Factory, this art and performance space where people lived. Our current landlord bought it, and some other buildings, I think with the goal of turning them into high-rises. But we're not zone residential, so at the moment they cannot turn our area into mixed use.

When did all of this take place?
I rented it around Thanksgiving and then we didn't really sort of get our shit together until December. Monster Island is the name of the whole project. It's a three-floor building and each of us has a floor. Each floor has two spaces that are almost the same size but they have a brick wall dividing the spaces. We each have a section we use and we rent out the other section. I'm using one space for shows and I'm turning the other half into six practice spaces. They're way cheaper than anything else in the neighborhood, but they'll pay for my entire rent and then some.

Where does the name, The Llano Estacado come from?
It's named after a part of West Texas, the area where the desert meets the Great Plains. It's very flat and arid. It means "the staked plain" and it was named by the conquistador Coronado. He was looking for Lost Cities of Gold, and, as the legend goes, he drove stakes into the plain so his men would not get lost, because there were no physical landmarks.

You'd been looking for a space for a long time.
I'd been looking very casually. My attitude was that it was more or less impossible to do a legit place in NY without investors, and I hate shifty investors. Then Erik found this space and the rent was so low, I didn't need an investor.

Do you pay the people who work at the space?
It's all volunteer labor, including my own. Everyone who works here is a friend, and they're the same people who helped me build. Door people get paid a wage. The bar people get paid in tips.

What do you charge?
Some things are benefits that charge a little more, but I to keep it between $5 and $7. I don't look to the shows to make money from. On the business side I feel like I have a reputation of being honest and fair. All the money, except for what I pay the door people goes to bands.

What was your first show?
The first show was late January, with Parts and Labor, Big A little a, Big Bear, and The Dirty Projector, all of which were my friends. I just wanted to do something with people who supported me and vice versa from the beginning. I think I put on the first ever Big A little a show.

What are your other plans?
I'm talking to theater groups in the sort of off-off-off Broadway, absurdist camp about doing residencies during the week. I want to do shows three nights a week and the other four nights would be theater and dance. And during the day, I want to use it as a nonprofit creative space to use for outreach to youth, trying to get kids involved in music and art. Anyway, The Rock Camp for Girls-which is where they actually teach 11 year-old girls how to play guitar-is opening a chapter in New York and we want them to come here. What else? FMU is not going to do a record fair this year, you know, where they have people sell collectible records under the cost of stores, and we'll do that at our space instead.

How are people responding?
People seem to love the shows. They've all been fun - there have been lots of crazy dance parties at the end of them. It's been a lot of fun and orderly. Certain shows have been lines of 20 year olds and 19 year olds. It's just amazing to see these people who've never experienced punk ideas and DIY ideas before coming out to an unmarked warehouse in Brooklyn. I'm hoping that by having this space, I'll expose young people to the idea that you can do things in a way that doesn't have to be pre-set or formal, or require fuckloads of money and being shuffled in and shuffled out. That's what I'm going for. I've put some money and a lot of love into this building, but if the building goes under, I'm good. I'll find another location.

The Llano Estacado was raided by the police exactly one week before a party organized by Todd for the Deli Magazine . It's been closed since then, but Todd says it's just a matter of time: when things will be ready it will open again. We wish him the best of luck.

 

 




" The level of talent is amazingly better here in NYC. There's a lot of seriousness in what people do because it's so expensive to do stuff here. If you're a band here you have to rent a practice space. Whereas in Portland, you're playing in your basement. It can create great things that couldn't happen here, but it can also mean that you're a slacker."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


japanther

THE DELI MAGAZINE 2006