Spawned by a strong sense of community within Broome County’s alternative music scenes, Avenue DIY has functioned as a venue for underground music and art since September 2017.
The space is located on Avenue D in Johnson City and managed by Binghamton community members KT Kanazawich, a photographer, and Paul Ghilardi, a musician who currently plays for grindcore band Street Feet and fastcore band Complex Crimes.
Ghilardi has been involved in the local music scene since his teenage years, playing in several bands and embarking on his first tour at age 17. At 29, he said he has now seen a shift in the Binghamton area from DIY spaces to bars, a trend that inspired the establishment of Avenue DIY.
“You see what’s going on all over the place and then you come back and things are good, bands are around, but then people go away for college or certain venues don’t allow that kind of music anymore or aren’t open anymore, so you realize the necessity of doing this,” Ghilardi said. “I want it to be my focus and I want it to be all I’m doing and I want it in my hometown.”
Prior to opening Avenue DIY, Ghilardi and a few other members of Binghamton’s hardcore, grindcore and punk scenes opened a house Downtown called Greasy Manor, which hosted shows for about eight months before shutting down. Through a GoFundMe page and fundraisers held at Greasy Manor and at the Genome Collective, a cooperative community home on the South Side, the group raised about $6,000 to open a new DIY space.
Ghilardi said that the local music scene made the project happen by donating and consistently showing up to shows, and although he is in charge of Avenue DIY’s maintenance, the space really belongs to this larger community.
“I do not own this space, I take zero ownership,” he said. “It is completely a group effort.”
The venue hosts mostly hardcore, grindcore and punk bands booked by Ghilardi himself or by local promoters, but it has also offered diverse genres like folk, reggae and hip-hop. Touring acts from across the country are often featured alongside locals. In addition to space for shows, the building houses seven studios rented out to local bands and small businesses as practice or office space. Ghiraldi makes just enough to pay the building’s bills by renting these rooms, putting on shows and hosting other ticketed events like game nights, karaoke, movie showings and dinner nights. The space is also rented to community members for everything from art shows to children’s birthday parties.
Avenue DIY is an all-ages, drug and alcohol-free venue, and while it sometimes hosts music that might be perceived as too aggressive or strange for younger audiences, Ghilardi said he deliberately avoids anything that promotes negativity or drug and alcohol abuse.
“It’s truly meant to be a clean area focused on art, community and bringing people together and enjoying the life that we have,” he said. “We just try to make sure this is very inclusive and safe, and people should feel like they’re wanted here.”
He said that while it has been a leap of faith to prohibit drugs and alcohol at a venue that might otherwise attract partiers, the policy fits a vision of inclusivity, especially for people recovering from addiction or for younger audiences who can’t get into bars.
“It’s a unique space,” he said. “I’ve been all over the country with bands and seen buildings that are considered DIY spaces. Most of them are garages or warehouses or someone’s house, which is awesome and there’s a certain grit involved in that, but there is also something unique in that [Avenue DIY] is all ages.”
The venue sometimes attracts Binghamton University students and has hosted student acts like Slag, natural born kissers and Roman Casper. However, Ghilardi said there is a general absence of BU students indicative of a decades-long divide between student music and local music, and he feels the inability to reach students is a detriment to the music community.
“If there was an extra 20 kids at every show, it would make this scene so much more fun just because there’s more people involved, different people,” he said. “We’re all about differences, that’s what makes us all unique and valuable.”
He also said the venue might be a good place for students to network, especially if they have career goals in the music industry. The venue accepts applications for internships and welcomes volunteer work.
“You can be broadening your horizons because you happened to not be in the same bubble for two semesters,” he said. “There’s tons of cool people that come to shows that lots of BU people would appreciate and probably learn from.”
While the space will be relocated by August to an undecided location, Ghilardi said he hopes to maintain Avenue DIY’s role in the community.
“It’s not just a bar, it’s not just some other space,” he said. “It’s unique, it’s special and there’s a lot of really awesome things happening here.”