Regardless of political/economic beliefs, Bridgetown DIY is a non-profit social center and music/art space at which to enjoy intimate concerts, support local causes, or learn more about community-building and public issues. They have held concerts for local Southern California bands, such as Pinned in Place, Hillary Chilton, and Justus Proffit, and they have had quick-visitors such as Craig Owens of Chiodos.
Bridgetown also holds collective meetings on the first and third Saturdays of each month starting at 4:30 PM. Anyone is welcome to attend the meetings in order to become more involved or just to check out what the space is about. For those unfamiliar with Bridgetown who are interested in learning more, and, for those already actively part of Bridgetown, Daniel Torres was generous enough to answer nine short-interview questions via Email about what Bridgetown is about, how to get involved, and where to check out photography from concerts held at the space:
1) Bridgetown opened in April of 2013. Could you explain how Bridgetown DIY in La Puente was born and what its initial aspirations were?
The Bridgetown DIY Collective was established sometime in 2011 by a bunch of folks that were involved in the DIY arts and music community of the San Gabriel Valley. I (Daniel) personally wasn’t involved with the collective until just after their first show at the space (April 19th, 2013). The space was partly born out of a desire to be able to organize shows and events without having to abide by the rules of some random person’s parents’ house or church hall or restaurant side-room, but it was also born out of the necessity to have a space for us to organize and engage with our community seriously and effectively.
2) For those who don’t know anything about DIY (do-it-yourself), could you explain what it means in terms of making/playing music and what it means politically? What does it mean for you as a community center?
DIY is always something that I’ve had difficulty explaining. As far as making music, having a DIY ethic could mean up to and beyond booking your own shows, printing your own merchandise, and putting out your own records, but it also refers to the attitude you bring to your music, I guess the easiest way to describe it would be whether you’re making music to make it big or whatever, or if you’re doing it for fun.
Bridgetown’s do-it-yourself ethic is at the core of everything we do and hope to accomplish, from organizing events ourselves to fixing stuff around the space ourselves. Like music, it also refers to the attitude we bring to organizing and running the space. We’re all volunteering our time to keep the place up and running. We’re not doing this for anyone’s wallet, we want to do this for the betterment of our community as well as ourselves.
3) How diverse of age groups, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class do you get at Bridgetown? Who are your main participants/audience?
This is sort of a complicated question. I suppose the short answer is that it is a largely diverse group of people that come and participate. Everyone is welcome to come participate at Bridgetown obviously, but our goal is to empower those of minority groups to come and have their voices heard in a world that does its best to silence them.
4) As a not-for-profit how do you keep going year-after-year? Do admissions charges or merchandise sales of any sort allow you to pay a rent for using the space, or are you able to freely use it?
Donations that we make from admission to events are what allow us to pay rent, so our ability to make rent directly correlates with how many events we have a month and how well they do. Unfortunately, we’ve been in a weird/not-so-good place financially as attendance at shows have been very low over the past year or so and (probably as a result of this) participation in the collective (i.e. booking shows, meeting attendance, etc.) is at its lowest.
At its strongest, the collective that actively participated in the running of the space consisted of about 25 to 35 members, with about 10 to 15 being core members (essentially members that take on additional responsibilities and have keys to the space). However, as time went on, most of these collective members’ priorities have realigned and now we are down to about 4 or 5 members regularly attending collective meetings. Fortunately, core members that are unable to attend meetings and events are able to keep in touch and help organize pretty effectively through Facebook and emails, it’s just that we’ve been operating at a very low capacity compared to 2013 or 2014 when we first got the space and lots of people were excited about it.
To directly answer your question, we keep going year after year by taking it month by month — one month we’ll be doing really well, the next we’ll be doing worse than ever, but we persist and hope for the best.
5) What is one very memorable show or experience that you have had at Bridgetown?
It’s hard to pinpoint one exact experience. I guess the freshest one would be our 3rd Anniversary celebration that happened a few weeks back (April 23rd, 2016). This one in particular meant a lot to me because making it had been an uphill battle with finances, lowered attendance, and my inability to focus as much energy into the collective due to school and work. It was great to see so many friends coming out to celebrate all that we have accomplished. My band VRIL played alongside our good friends Dangers, Crush, Moon Bandits, and Heritage Unit. Rafa’s Tacos, who make the best vegan Mexican food in California (and probably the world) catered the show, and there was even a three-tier vegan cake! Everyone had such nice things to say to us about the space and what it meant to them.
Besides that, the friends I have made and the lessons and experiences we have all shared at Bridgetown are what I will hold dearest from my time spent being involved. I know that this will all sound super dramatic but I can’t really put it any other way: getting involved at Bridgetown DIY changed my life. Without it, I have no idea where or who I would be. When I was first getting involved with the collective, I had just turned 18, started a new school, and didn’t really have much in the way of direction, goals, or even friends. At Bridgetown, I found everything that I was looking for and more — I found a second family that I can depend on and turn to in times of need, I learned so much about myself, the community around me, as well as how I can engage with and foster it, and, not to mention, the varying artistic, educational, and even career opportunities that have presented themselves to me as a result of being involved. Knowing how much this space has meant to me and what it can offer others is why I will do my best to continue to be involved with the space in some capacity no matter what until the day we close the doors for good.
6) Could you describe the ways you educate people about DIY and spread the news about your venue?
I guess we try and educate people about DIY just through existing and organizing events and whatnot, we try our best to be as transparent with the way we operate as possible and we love talking to people about how we operate. Promoting events is mostly done on social media but we flier other shows and events often.
7) What are ways to see more photography of bands/artists that have played at Bridgetown DIY before?
That’s kind of a tough question to answer actually. Taking a look at the Bridgetown DIY tag on Instagram or whatever social media is probably your best option. You could also take a look at some photographers that have come to the space, some favorites off the top of my head/that I could find in the Bridgetown tag real quick are Kevin Lopez (IG: @kevinxlopez) who is another core collective member like myself, Alvin Carillo (@alvincarillo), Miguel Del Angel (@miguelrdelangel), Joseph Ipatzi (josephxipatzi), and Wayne Ballard (@toxicbreed). I’m sure there are plenty of others, too. I guess I’ll shamelessly self-promote here and plug myself as I take a lot of photos of shows and stuff at the space. You can find my work on my blog (http://danieltorresphotos.tumblr.com) or my Instagram account (@danieljtorres).
8) Bridgetown holds collective meetings every other week. Are meetings the best way to get involved? What are other ways to be involved?
Meetings have just been moved to the first and third Saturdays of the month and start at 4:30 PM! As I mentioned above, attendance at meetings has been declining, so we’d love to see some new faces that want to get involved. If you can’t make meetings, just talk to whoever is volunteering at an event at the space about how you can get involved — whether it be helping out at the door, cleaning up after the show or whatever we need. You can also email email@example.com and we’ll try our best to get back to you!
9) What advice for both life and for addressing current political/economic issues would you give to upcoming generations?
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