Death and Life in the DIY Showspaces of Rochester, New York:
Part I: Afterthoughts While Clearing Out The AV Space
July hung thick in the air, so thick you could wring water from it with bare hands; that is, if the humidity had been so kind as to leave you enough energy to raise them to the hazy sky. Inside the gaping, now-empty hall that had once housed The AV Space, three tired twenty-somethings traded sweat with dust. Sweeping a heavily glossed hardwood floor that could have been a basketball court in the 1940s, a machine-shop floor in the 60s and a loft apartment in the 80s, I paused and looked up at my buddy Trav, his Buddy-Holly black-rimmed glasses dotted with perspiration.
“What are we going to do next?”
He held a broom and looked off through the bank of 12-foot windowpanes, past the rusted out water tower, over the heaped bodies of abandoned railcars, into the haze that was and wasn’t the horizon.
“Something’ll happen. I mean, AV was great and all…”
He trailed off; Bud was still at the back of the room, sifting through show fliers and unsold albums, cloth patches and a motley collection of one-inch pins: whispers of the life and lives this place had come to embody.
“Yeah. It can’t end here.” I reached down to place the too-small dustpan in front of Trav’s broom. He was still looking out over Rochester, a city whose DIY scene shivered with the reverberations of what many thought would be its death knell: the closing of The AV Space.
Every week for the two years since I’d returned to Rochester, The AV Space hosted shows: art openings, independent films, noise bands, hair bands, punk bands, crust punks you couldn’t differentiate from a landfill’s contents and pop-punks with bubble-gum smiles and shiny red American Fenders. Every week we had something new: a folk collective called Dufus that travelled with a choir of oddly-dressed nomads, Israeli band Monotonix that played (literally) with fire and a Fender Mustang that looked like it’d survived the Six-Day War, the local lo-fi indie-pop of A Wonderful and Little Yellow Bird, van-weary bands from Plan-It-X Records travelling with hair clippers—“Punk rock haircuts, one dollar!”—and their lives in tow, and the magical (if not commercially-driven) madness of Harry and The Potters. Tucked away in Rochester’s Public Market—a haven within a dangerous neighborhood—clinging to life, The AV Space created something greater than the sum of its parts: it created community.
And the fear that was more uncomfortable than the sticky July air, more oppressive than being nearly unable to breathe without sweating, the fear lodged in the throats of us three as the burnished doorknob clattered for the final time on The AV was not that there wouldn’t be music again in Rochester; it was that we had lost something beyond price, beyond value. We had lost the only place that Rochester’s underground music community collectively called home.
—Timothy C. Avery