Whoever said that whining to your friends isn’t productive never hung out with the creators of DIY PHL.
The idea for the calendar listing of DIY shows happening at unconventional venues such as houses, art galleries, bike shops and more came about after a conversation founding organizer Max Weinstein-Bacal had with fellow founding organizer Bonnie Zuckerman.
“The whole thing started out of a conversation about how [Zuckerman] and I had both not heard of a show that we would have loved to have gone to, because it was mostly promoted over a closed Facebook event, and we weren’t friends with the right people, and we didn’t even hear about it,” Weinstein-Bacal said. “That was kind of the grumbling that started the idea.”
The calendar, which is mainly supported by its online website, is also available in print at local coffee shops and record stores. The calendar is illustrated by a different local artist each month. DIY PHL also has Tumblr and Twitter accounts, which provide day-of reminders for shows.
“We planned the website, the Tumblr, the Twitter – everything at the first meeting, and decided the game plan for how it would go. We just went out of the gate running, I guess,” Ramsey Beyer, the third founding member, said.
Beyer had experience dealing with frustrations similar to Weinstein-Bacal’s and Zuckerman’s in another major city – Chicago.
“I did a calendar in Chicago called DIY CHI, and it was for the same reason,” Beyer said . “I was new to Chicago and I didn’t feel ‘in the know,’ because I didn’t know anyone who did shows. I felt like I had to make friends before I could find out how to get to places where I could make friends.”
That outsider feeling for those who aren’t already active in the DIY scene is what DIY PHL aims to eradicate.
“I think that’s a problem for a lot of people who are new to a city or new to punk or DIY – it kind of feels like an insider club in a way,” Beyer said. “That’s the main reason for it – to make sure it’s accessible for anyone who wants to be involved.”
Making a scene that’s seemingly difficult to get into readily accessible to the public takes networking – and that’s exactly where DIY PHL founding members began.
“We kind of just built up a list of anyone we could think of that was involved with or set up shows,” Weinstein-Bacal said.
From there, the organizers created an email list asking those involved in the DIY scene to submit events. After a full year of organizing the calendar, DIY doesn’t have to do much searching for events anymore. The current calendar’s contents are handpicked by those in charge. The organizers are determined to remain by their mission statement by not including any shows that may be seen as offensive.
Although Beyer has experience with a similar project in Chicago, DIY PHL is special because of the abundance of unconventional venues in the city it showcases, she said.
“In 2012, there were something like 72 different spaces that put on shows [in Philly], not including bars or legit venues,” Beyer said.
Not only does Philly have a lot of venues, but it has a lot of adventurous concert-goers, Beyer said.
“There are so many different people doing so many things,” Beyer said. “In Chicago, it seemed like only certain people went to certain houses. But in Philly, it seems like people do want to jump between houses and jump between scenes and support different projects if they know about it.”
For Weinstein-Bacal, Philly’s diverse DIY scene made finding the events the least pressing of their challenges.
“The really nice thing about Philadelphia is that with making the whole DIY PHL project, it wasn’t hard to get going because there’s already so much going on,” Weinstein-Bacal said. “We didn’t have to look that hard, it was just a matter of making everything that’s already there more visible.”
After a year of curating calendars, recently added DIY PHL-er Grace Ambrose thought a photo book would be fitting way to mark the project’s first birthday.
“[Beyer] pointed out that February was the one-year anniversary, and I made a suggestion that we do something that documented the past year of shows in Philadelphia,” Ambrose said.
Much like the project’s calendars, DIY PHL looked to those involved in the scene to submit photos for the book and received hundreds of submissions.
“It all came together pretty quickly,” DIY PHL organizer Michael Cantor said. “We were aggregating photos and would sift through them as a yes, no or maybe. If we had too many shots of a particular band, we’d try to pick up a different one to have more of a diverse spread. There are certain venues that we wanted to represent just to give a broader picture of what the year was like in Philadelphia.”
DIY PHL’s photo book launch party will also be a fundraiser for Ladyfest, an arts and activism music festival to be held this summer. Ambrose is one of the key organizers of the event.
The book will be available at The First Annual Galentine’s Cover Band Show on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at Cha Cha Razzi.
The book will also be available for preorder the week leading up to the release on diyphl.com. It’s $12 if shipped to home and $10 if picked up from an organizer.
For Ambrose, who lived abroad for much of 2012, the photo book was more than just a fundraiser – it was a crash course in what she had missed in Philly during her time away.
“I didn’t live in Philadelphia for most of 2012, so it was really fun for me to see all the shows that happened while I was gone and all the things that were developing and happened during that time. It was really fun to have sort of ‘wish you were there’ moments looking at the book,” Ambrose said.
While it may be bizarre for some to imagine anyone wishing they were in a less-than-glamorous basement, Philly’s music scene that DIY PHL promotes through its calendar and captures in its photo book is full of venues with character – and for Weinstein-Bacal, those are the places he likes best.
“I kind of like the crummy basements,” Weinstein-Bacal said. “It’s a love-hate thing. Those always seem very special, even though you’re choking on dust.”
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.