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The story of a suburban show house / by Alyssa Rorke

In the spring of 2014, a group of folks living nearby a Long Island college, Hofstra University, worked together to build a space that would provide a creative outlet for their peers. It lasted for one year. It was called Dong Island, a place whose name may fool you into thinking it was a frat house. The space was misunderstood in more than just this one way. The folks behind Dong Island cared about themselves and each other as a means of survival. They had to care, because no one else would.

The socioeconomics of the Long Island suburbs makes for a very specific experience for teenagers and young adults: you go to school, live with your parents, work at the mall. To create a DIY show space within this environment is to say, “there is more than this, and we won’t get trapped in this cycle." The creators of Dong Island grew up on music and the internet in suburbia, and then went on to bring big ideas to an area of New York with an existing subculture resistant to change.

“Walking into Dong Island, a DIY space with a responsive, fun, and above all, respectful audience, was inspiring," says Nick Pitman, the guitarist of Long Island emo-tinged pop septet For Everest. Pitman grew up in the same neighborhood where Dong Island existed. “The inclusiveness and the sense of community that Heather, Ana, and the rest of the crew there were able to create was truly magnificent. I miss Dong Island dearly, but I know that the ideals behind it live on."

The way Nick mournfully speaks of Dong Island may seem melodramatic, but for someone who has witnessed not only the status quo of the music scene but living on Long Island themselves—as Nick did—the sentiment seems par for the course. I reached out to the folks who worked together to make Dong Island happen, and sat down for a round-table discussion with three of the women responsible for maintaining the space: Ana Davis, Heather Levinsky, and Sam Senicola. I also reached out to PJ Larocco who booked shows there; Mitski, who played there; and Craig Warkoczeski who ran sound and lived at the house. Their thoughts are laced throughout, as well as some {general history} I gathered about the space.

How did you start setting up shows together?

ANA DAVIS: When I got to Hofstra in 2011, I wanted to feel around for what the music scene was like out here, and what people were doing. I started going to shows in bars and places around Hofstra and in Nassau county, and realizing—oh my god, girls are being preyed on and everyone’s drunk and everybody seems uncomfortable and nobody’s really having a good time. I had just joined Nonsense Humor Magazine as design editor at the time and the staff was just as interested in music as they were in “jokes", so I became a bit more connected with musicians and bands in the area.

SAM SENICOLA: I met Ana in 2012 when I first got to Hofstra. She was on the e-board of the humor magazine that I almost immediately got involved with. My freshman year Ana was throwing some parties that were also kinda shows and it was all a lot of fun. In 2013 Heather started coming to Nonsense meetings, and it was around that time that I first heard from Ana the idea of throwing shows in a more serious way and I was very down to do whatever I could to help make that happen.

HEATHER LEVINSKY: After the first show in December of 2013, we started hanging out more, and by the time that Ana booked the first true Dong Island show in April of 2014, we were all at least marginally involved.

AD: My first ever show came about in October of 2012 when my friend Aaron had put together an EP and wanted to play it for people. So I said, “Okay, let’s just set it up in [a friend’s] garage off campus, and people will come if they wanna come." We got Hofstra alums who had also just started a band, The Tallboys, in on it. To my surprise, people actually showed up and enjoyed themselves. That was really the start of it all. At that time I started listening to more Long Island bands and talking to other students at Hofstra about it and thinking, “Is it possible to do this on a regular basis?" People were very receptive to it and I knew then that this was something people needed on campus.

What kind of people were you talking to?

AD: Well the dude who was managing State Lines at the time also went to Hofstra so he clued me in on who to look out for. Long Island natives, Tin Can Collective, played the second show and they were awesome. They really helped me out with branching out to other people in the area. There were a few Hofstra bands around that I was familiar with who would just throw parties and perform for the people stumbling around the house, but they weren’t shows specifically. And so I thought just, “I could do the same thing, and maybe make it a little better, safer." Over that time, more and more people started coming to them and I was throwing shows more frequently, and getting other people to tell me about bands that they knew, Hofstra bands or otherwise. After a while of working at the Roosevelt Field Mall and local food spots, I got to meet more local kids and got to see more of what was really going on with music in both Nassau and Suffolk county.

{ In the beginning, cops showed up regularly because of the noise. When they realized what was going on, they didn’t care. As long as they weren’t serving alcohol to minors, they weren’t doing anything wrong according to the police. } AD: When my friend moved out of that house I didn’t have anywhere to be throwing shows anymore but I knew it was important to continue with what I had started. After moving off campus, and then moving out of a terrible house, I moved into 252 Lawrence Street (a/k/a Dong Island). Almost immediately I said, “Hey guys, this sounds crazy, but I booked a show for December, and I don’t live where that show is supposed to happen anymore. So let’s come up with some ideas." I knew some kid who lived in a party house out here and he was like ok, “You can have the show here but you have to pay us each forty bucks." And I was like, “That fucking sucks, but I’ll do it." Because I was so desperate to have this work out and not lose the momentum from the first shows. Then after the basement at the house on Lawrence was finished we all pooled our resources and kind of just made the whole space up and started doing the shows there in April of 2014. And that was the first real real Dong Island show. I wanted to make it a place where people could come and have a good time with other people who lived within their community and not have to be at a bar or some other sketchy place. Not to say that people didn’t get drunk as shit at the house, but that’s a different story.

But the point was that it was all ages.

SS: Oh yeah. And you were able to control the circumstances more. So if you were seeing shit going south, you could control it more than at a bar where people are just wandering in.

AD: Yeah, it was all ages so we just knew we had to be vigilant.

SS: There were rules to the chaos.

Did you ever get to reach out to high school students? Did high school kids ever come to Dong Island shows?

AD: Yeah, I mean, people who came to shows would bring their younger friends or their siblings. I also knew kids who lived in Uniondale from working at places in the area. It kind of got weird… Teens making stupid decisions. There was this one kid, he was like 16. And he was like, “yeah my parents, they kicked me out of the house." And I was like, “Alright, okay, I’m going to be responsible for you for a minute." Other people were kind of opposed to it because they were like, “We don’t know what he’s up to." And I’m like, “I don’t know, he’s 16 he says his parents kicked him out and he just wants to sleep on a couch." A lot of people just stayed there. It was like a hostel.

SS: If you’re gunna get too drunk here, you’re not gunna wander off. Just stay there.

What were the shows that you went to on Long Island when you were in high school?

SS: I was going to a lot of hardcore shows. I would go to shows at bars and hope they wouldn’t realize I was 15. Every once in a blue moon there would be an all ages show. It was a lot of guys a lot older than me and a lot of young ladies getting hurt. Actually before I met Ana, PJ and all of those guys, I had kind of retired from going to shows just because I felt very uncomfortable and powerless being there.

AD: Besides what we were doing, basically everything is pay-to-play out here. It’s almost impossible to find something that’s not.

So there’s no other house shows?

SS: Not that I was aware of at the time, at least none that I was like clued into. But now there are a few house shows popping up here and there on the Island which I think is pretty sick. I wish more people would do it.

HL: There’s one place on the North Shore called the Bone Zone and they’re doing shows. It’s a parents’ house kind of situation, which, you know, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Have you thought about trying to do this somewhere that isn’t a house?

SS: We have definitely had those conversations before. None of us really have the funds to make that happen right now. And also, things get a little dicey when it’s a setting that you can only partially control. If it’s at your house you have total power over what is going on and that really allows you to create the environment that you want.

AD: Most places like a Knights of Columbus or something, you’d have to pay them, and I'm all about making things as cheap or free as possible. But honestly it’s more about coming into our environment. This is our house and you can feel safe here because we’ll take care of you. Whereas if it’s in a hall somewhere, whatever happens…

HL: Like in a Knights of Columbus, I don’t have a first aid kit, I don’t have a futon you can lay down on in a separate room.

AD: There’s a lot of bars that we could be throwing shows at.

SS: But then it’s not all-ages.

AD: I don’t really wanna have a band come out, and play a set to people, and then also to the people who would be going to the bar to watch the Rangers game. What if the Rangers lose?

That’s so true. And scary.

HL: I’ve considered throwing shows at Hofstra but there’s way too much red tape involved for my liking. I’ve seen enough shows happen on campus to know that it’s a waste of effort. You have to hit that sweet spot of not only a safe environment, but also the space for freedom of expression, which is what the house was to me. Without going into too much detail, something like this doesn’t “work" there.

What were your models for running a show house, whose examples did you take from? You must have a had a frame of reference for doing a show house.

HL: I wasn’t necessarily “running" everything, but the first place I ever started going to shows at was the Golden Tea House in Philly, and I remember feeling totally comfortable there despite knowing zero people involved with it at all. Thinking of that place was how I kept it “professional" but also, relaxed. Business casual.

SS: I had been to maybe one or two random house shows before this whole thing started, so honestly it was new territory for me. I just knew that Long Island really needed some more options and I really wanted to help and be apart of making that happen.

AD: Just friends’ houses in Connecticut. There weren’t names and shit for houses at that point. It wasn’t like this house or that house or anything like that. There were a few houses in New Haven. I went to a lot of shows at the Space in Hamden, CT. That place was cool but it wasn’t a house.

PJ LAROCCO: There was actually a span of a few months in early 2014 where we tried to go to at least one show a week, either on Long Island or somewhere in Brooklyn, to take notes and study the atmosphere, and also to scout out prospective bands to invite to Dong Island. We would keep an eye out for all the little things at shows that you might normally miss if you’re just there to see some bands or hang out with friends. Like, how much time there was between sets, how many bands were on the bill (and how the type of venue would change that), how the people that ran the venue interacted with show-goers, where gear was stored...the list goes on. There were things that we liked that people were doing, and there were things that we didn’t like. So we implemented what we liked, and threw away what we didn’t. Not saying that our shows were perfect, far from it actually! It took us a few months to hit the groove.

Why do you think it was important to have an all-ages space in the area you were in? You said it was kind of like a hostel.

SS: To protect the teens. To protect the Long Island teens. Because nobody else is. Because it sucks to be like 14 and not feel like you’re allowed to be interested in the things you are interested in. Going to a show at a bar is terrible when you’re a teen with big Xs on your hands and everyone is looking at you like they don’t want you there. Being a teen sucks and it’s sort of our job to make sure the kids younger than us have it a little bit better. Give them some cool shit to experience and let them know that at least someone is looking out for them.

HL: It’s true because I was but a teen myself during this time. You gotta protect those teens. Also, because bars suck and I like seeing bands but 80% of the time I really can’t because it’s 21+. If I wasn’t able to see Speedy Ortiz, who are now the biggest band on earth, for $7 in some person’s house that one time I wouldn’t know about any of this at all. Shows at this level can seem exclusive and scary to a young person. I personally have been shit-ass terrified of walking into show houses that i’ve never been to before. But I think it’s important not only that this space is available for anyone starting to get into music, but also welcoming and understanding of young people about to make hella mistakes.

How would you handle harassment, or people making the environment unsafe, if it was going on in your show house?

AD: I didn’t have a problem letting someone know that they were doing something wrong in my house. I would automatically be like, “Are you fucking kidding what are you doing?" And I had to kick people out at times when they were just not acting right. All of us were really of the same mindset that we can’t let anything happen here.

SS: Yeah when you open your space up to the general public there are bound to be some unsavory things happening but you just have to let it be known that it won’t be tolerated here. That kind of goes back to what I said about being able to control the environment. You always keep an eye out and have to be ready to act on anything you see and don’t like.

HL: Like the last thing was the only thing, and that’s why we got shut down.

AD: That was the reason we couldn’t throw shows there anymore, because words got physical.

{ The show house came to an abrupt end because it could no longer serve as a safe space. }

SS: I don’t think anyone felt comfortable inviting people into our home once we knew that some of the people in that home could not control themselves anymore. Because the girl who threw hands that night even said, “you can keep having your shows here," and it’s like—no, we really can’t.

HL: Communication is key when it comes to a space like this. We used to do “friendpointments" which is a mature way of taking the time to sit down so you can fully talk about something and come to a constructive conclusion. Kind of midway between a meeting of professionals and a group of people just shooting the shit. It had been a while since we friendpointed when that girl started throwing hands. Had we had the time to talk about it, that might have been avoided. Tensions were high and there was nothing we could do about it at the time.

{ This wasn’t the first bump they encountered, however. In the beginning, there were kegs at the shows, and they quickly learned that a few people could ruin the fun for everyone. Drunk people at shows were a hurdle, as they often are in unsafe spaces. As Sam said, “We learned along the way." These show organizers were on a similar learning curve as the substance-experimenting teengaers who came by the house. As time went on that they became responsible for kids in their house, they started to realize what was safe and what was truly unsafe. They learned how to set up a good time that’s comfortable for everyone around them, while also taking care of themselves and watching out for those around them. }

Everyone in New York City is doing something weird, off-beat, you know. Artsy. But you don’t see that on Long Island. It’s almost as if it’s not encouraged in a place like this. Would you agree with that?

SS: It’s absolutely not encouraged and that’s why I think it’s so important. You have to be quiet here because this is a “quiet working class community" but there are all these kids who don’t want to be quiet and need some sort of outlet. The city is so saturated with people all competing to do the same thing but Long Island is just like everyone being so upset and having nothing to do with all those shitty feelings.

HL: Yeah, I totally agree. Even in my short time being here I’ve noticed that. It’s a total contrast to Philly where it seems like there’s a show house on every corner. Although there were good spots here, like the Woodshop and No Fun Club, it’s hard for spaces like that to succeed out here, and not just because of the rent. No one who lives in the suburbs wants you to be throwing shows in the suburbs because it’s a “nuisance." And no one who lives in the city wants you throwing shows in the suburbs either because, why not just do it in the city where everyone cool is? NYC is so fun and weird and offbeat and quirky and all that, but the second you mention you’re doing something on “the Island" it’s immediately irrelevant… But that’s just how it is in the ‘burbs. I highly recommend Arcade Fire’s Grammy-award winning 2010 album The Suburbs if you’d like to further enlighten yourself.

Is capitalism all anyone knows on Long Island?

AD: Long Island as a whole, from my personal experience, is just…

SS: Stifling.

AD: I would say that Long Island as a whole is mostly a place for older people in general. Which is why a majority of the shows I'd been to on LI before I started throwing them were in bars. Long Island was meant to be the quiet place you moved to to start a family. So a lot of the people who have lived here their whole lives do not want to see people who live alternative lifestyles in their neighborhoods. We learned that in our search to find a new Dong Island house. People would take a look at us and tell us straight to our face that “this is not going to work" and “this is a quiet neighborhood for families." That plus the fact that Nassau and Suffolk counties are two of the most expensive places to live in the entire country, really makes it hard for young people to succeed out here. If you’re doing something like this but you’re not doing it in the city, then you’re not really “doing it." Like some people would rather travel into city to see something than come to the house to see it. And it became a problem because we had to work out like, is this band going to play Brooklyn, or are they gonna play at the house?

Because even if the band was playing both, they’d rather go to Brooklyn to see them.

AD: For a lot of bands it’s expensive to get on Long Island, because you have to pay a toll to get onto the Island. If you have a big ass van, it’s like 60 dollars or something. But a lot of bands would tell me, “Listen, we were going to play in Brooklyn but I’m so much happier having played here." They say it’s the “vibe" or whatever. One guy said, “I love the Long Island vibe" What? Is that an insult? (laughs) I’m not sure but I love it too.

How do you think you used your venue to challenge the homogenous white male emo scene that has long dominated on Long Island?

AD: (laughs) Oh my god. I honestly got a fucking kick out of being the person that [bands] had to report to. Everyone would be confused. For the longest time people would directly dart to PJ or Craig or any other guy at the house, who would be like, “You gotta talk to Ana." And they have to be like, “Oh. Ok."

For a while I was very scared to do any of it, because I thought that those guys would be so pissed at me. And a lot of them did get very pissed! And they still cry about it on Twitter. One kid went as far as to say that we weren't really interested in safety and that we just wanted all the “power"—how the fuck dare you say that to me? I don’t know many other girls who are booking shows on Long Island right now. And if they are, they are definitely not a person of color.

CRAIG WARKOCZESKI: It was weird. PJ and I were outside a lot smoking cigarettes and I was around the PA and mixer a lot so people sort of assumed that we would be in charge. But honestly most of the time I only had a small idea of what was happening because I was so engrossed in whatever tasks I was taking care of that show. But it certainly is an apt reflection of a lot of those people.

SS: I mean I don’t know if that was even intentional. But when I started seeing that there were more and more girls standing in the basement it became kind of obvious what was happening. I think a lot of people were feeling a little alienated by the seemingly constant all-male show lineups so when Ana or Heather or PJ would book something that was a little different than the usual, I think that resonated with people.

HL: Booking bands that we cared about and not because they’re “relevant" for one reason or another. “Good dudes backed hard" only goes so far, you know, and that attitude leads to a pretty incestuous and boring ass scene. I think a big part of it too was that it wasn’t like we were booking bands that were irrelevant or bands that no one wanted to see, just bands that didn’t fit the image. Not that we didn’t have our fair share of emo shows. But our most successful shows, I think, were the ones that no one was expecting. I think the night that Mitski took the train up last minute was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, period. Every single person in that basement was so reverent of the whole performance, it was honestly magical. That was the first show that I knew this was going to be “a thing." And no one was expecting to experience that when they walked in. So now all the people in that house know that the “acoustic bro" is not the be-all and end-all of the scene. You went out and had a good time and you let a girl sing to you and you liked it [gasps sarcastically]. Now go do that again. That sounds stupid but it’s honestly stuff just like that. Branch out a little.

MITSKI: I've played hundreds of shows since then, but I still clearly remember that night… it really felt like those 15-20 people there were so excited to get to hear live music in their neighborhood. It didn't seem like any one social group was dominating the space, and everyone in the show space was attentive to the music being played. Or if they weren't, they were shushed by the others around. I still remember every single person who watched me play that night, because it felt very personal... Maybe it's because it was still quite new when I played there, but Dong Island felt very hopeful. And I remember after the show, waiting on the platform for my train home, I called my partner just to say I loved them, and that I had a good show in suburban Long Island, of all places.

{ That was one of the first Dong Island shows that featured a female-fronted act, and despite the overwhelmingly positive response, the rest of the Long Island music scene is hesitant to stray away from the status quo. }

AD: Thank god for the Internet honestly because if I had to pick and choose bands from just Long Island, it would be over. I mean like Oso Oso is sick, you’ve got the Magic fucking Fountain, which was awesome. But I wouldn’t have been able to do it for as long as i did.

What about as far as the people that came to shows?

AD: The crowd kind of balanced itself out. There were a lot of ladies in that basement! It was amazing to see that. It was so fucking cool. There were a lot of bands that I would have wanted to book, like, more like queer-centric, but getting support from [outside booking collectives] - those guys who go to those shows, they’re not really into that. The environment wasn’t right for that.

So East Coast Collective, for example, wouldn’t be quick to do that kind of thing, because they knew it wouldn’t draw a crowd?

HL: I mean, they did book Mitski. Tom (Lizo) got into hot water on Twitter about a year ago because they took the flyer for this big LI hardcore festival and removed all the bands that didn’t have any female members. I think there was one band left up on there who had a female guitarist or something.

What was your favorite show you had?

AD: They all blend together for me honestly. A few of my favorite performances were People Like You, Mitski, Trashlord, Perspective, A Lovely Hand to Hold, Lovechild, Disinterest, Palehound, and there were so many more. The first and last Dong Island shows were amazing and I mean, my favorite show that didn’t even get to happen, was gonna be Prince Daddy, Oso Oso, and The Obsessives.

SS: This is so hard because I was having so much fun but was also like so stressed that it all kind of blends together. The time that State Lines played kind of sticks out to me because the basement and the backyard were packed and people were climbing down through the basement windows to get in because the stairs were out of order. Everyone was very sweaty and very excited and I don’t think I will ever forget how it felt to be there.

PJ: The show that The Caulfield Cult played was sick and was their first time playing in America! All the way from Singapore. We all stayed up super late and just talked about America and Long Island. They were like, damn The Movielife is from here right? Also, what’s up with your government?

If Dong Island was still active what kinds of things would you like to organize there?

HL: I wanted to do short plays. Like 3 bands and a short 1 act as one of the sets. I was really into that idea for a while and was planning an immersive staging of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. That’s obviously not a 15 minute play, but I was planning that as a whole separate event. Just different stuff. That and DIY stand-up comedy which really is something that I would still like to get into. There are a lot of funny ladies on LI twitter.

AD: Honestly, so many. The energy out here is crazy, within the community of people that was coming to our house all the time.

SS: Everyone’s waiting for their outlet.

AD: When I started, I really wanted for DI be an art space also. So doing art shows and having a permanent gallery that we would change periodically. I really wanted to do that because at the time I was in the art department at Hofstra and it seemed impossible to put something together without jumping through a bunch of hoops. I also wanted to have it be a practice space for local bands - set up a time then just give us whatever you want! You don’t have to even give us anything, just play for a few hours and then we could all just hang out. We all just wanted to hang out with each other so it just kind of worked out that practices would happen there because we’d be hanging out anyway. Craig was gonna try to start recording. I would have loved to been able to have a kind of place to have like, “town hall" type meetings, but that’s not gonna happen here, ever.

{ People on Long Island are just not ready to talk, Ana believes. Dong Island was giving people the opportunity to stand up against the forces in the scene that were delaying change, but that revolution was cut short. }

SS: We had kids tell us that we fucked up our house venue, but this was a house full of people trying to pay rent, and coming from their shitty ass jobs, and then a show is starting in like twenty minutes, we have to get this shit together. So yeah, we missed the light payments or whatever. But that’s because everyone was trying to do everything. Yeah, we fucked it up, but there were a lot of balls being juggled. So many. Just dropped all of them at the same time.

CW: We didn't drop any balls. It fell apart because so many people started taking ownership and authority where they really had none. Instigating just to do it, like be heard. Also the shortcomings of the housemates have little, if nothing, to do with the venue. At the point that it stopped there were some 15 people in and out of the house on a daily basis. It sort of came this weird power play.

AD: One of the guys who lived there, when we sat down for the last “friendpointment," he told us that what we were doing was just a fantasy. “You guys cannot live this way and you have to join the real world."

SS: Maybe it’s a fantasy. But if we’re just trying to create something good that we want, and that other people want, I’m totally fine living in that fantasy.

Reading about the Long Island music scene (in Nothing Feels Good by Andy Greenwald) made me realize how punk and emo are two totally different scenes. Like kids that are the punk kids are so different from the emo kids. And the emo kids were on Long Island because they were all from suburbia. And everyone was very isolated from each other, because they all had their computers, and they just learned about music when they were by themselves usually, so you’re wanting to go to shows because it’s your way out. It’s not so much a community thing. I feel like in other places it’s a lot about community building but out here it’s not. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

CW: There is something wrong with that though. It's exactly why Dong Island didn't work. People don't want that kind of community functioning near them, despite all the other people that need it and crave it. It was a network of friends and comrades that we had. People that we could not only see play a show but go see a show with. Meeting all the people I have, including many of the bandmembers and these lovely ladies, has absolutely changed me and shaped into a person that I've so desperately wanted to become. And it's all because I was able to interact with these intensely inspiring people within this safe and inviting community. It's something that I feel is necessary for art. Arguably inherent.

AD: The thing with Long Island is that it’s literally so long. There's a bunch of kids to keep track of in both Nassau and Suffolk. It's hard to be a teen without a car who lives out East and get to a show happening in Uniondale.

Basically this exists for the sad lonely suburban kids, as we’ve known it since the mid-00s, that trope. And it falls into reasons why people don’t like millennials- the “all about me" generation and shit. That’s kind of what all of this is really about, you get to “be you" with other people. I wanted to acknowledge that because in some show scenes it’s kind of like, this is a community building thing. And I feel like it’s not like that here because it doesn’t have the foundation for that.

PJ: If the foundation for a communal music scene is, or was, on Long Island, I definitely never saw it. Even when I first started going to shows, and I was guilty of this too, but people only stick around for their friends’ bands, and then leave. Or just rag on the other bands while they played. It always seemed like more of a competition for who could be most like the famous Long Island bands from the late 90’s and early 00’s. I had to learn that it’s much healthier to build each other up instead of constantly competing against each other. Not that competition is always necessarily a bad thing, but when competition becomes the focus, you lose sight of what it is you’re all trying to do. And that’s dangerous. I hope that Long Island can rid itself of that.

AD: And on a broader scope, all young people are fleeing Long Island because you can’t fucking pay rent out here. You can’t even live together here, we tried and we saw that it’s impossible. And that’s a big thing that they keep talking about, “why are all the young people leaving?" It’s like yo, you made it so terrible, you made it impossible to live out here.

SS: They’re closing mad elementary schools because no one’s even having kids anymore.

There’s going to be no kids left to want to do something like this anymore, that’s scary to think about.

AD: That’s why a lot of Long Island kids go away to school and start throwing shows in other places. Like upstate or in other states.

Because they grew up with that kind of sentimentality of emo and doing shows. That’s why you’re the only ones here.

AD: That’s why I came to Hofstra, to do that. But then I realized, oh, this isn’t the right place to do that. But then I fucking did it anyway. I feel like for a little bit, I tried to do [community-building initiatives], and I noticed it wasn’t going to work. And that’s when I started thinking—should I keep doing this?

AR: It kind of makes sense though because none of these kids ever had to rely on any kind of sense of community. Because they never really needed to.

AD: You don’t talk to your neighbors. I just had a canvassing job that I had to quit because I was like, these people don’t want me to be at their door. You can’t just talk to a stranger out here. It’s not okay. It’s just families just trying to make enough money for themselves and just their family.

What advice would you have for the kids that are stuck on Long Island, or suburbia in general, far from the arts and more liberal atmosphere of New York City? I guess, the people coming after you now that you won’t be able to help because you’ll be gone?

SS: Please look out for each other. If you see something that doesn’t sit well with you say something about it. Don’t just talk shit and then leave it at that, be the person that makes the changes you want to see happen. I wish that I had been in that mindset earlier but I was too scared to make people listen to me. Also please be nicer to the people around you. Everyone here is very standoffish but don’t be intimidated by that. Life isn’t a damn competition and “being cool" isn’t a real thing so just be nice.

AD: I know that there’s a very Long Island mentality and it’s very... everyone out here is very scared. Don’t be afraid to scare them… You gotta teach other people. And listen also. Learn as much as you can from everyone else. And don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to do whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Just because other people aren’t doing it, that doesn’t mean it’s because people don’t wanna see it, or because you can’t do it. It’s because you haven’t done it yet. After I learned to stop trying to please everyone on Long Island, I had way more fun.

HL: Crack that hard outer shell and let your genuine self make friends with other people. If everyone is doing this then it’ll be a lot more fun. In my own personal experience, people are way more willing to talk to you outside of NY. I think there’s something in the water here. I’ve made good friends just because they walked up to me and were like, “hey I like your glasses" or something simple like that without hitting on anyone. I mean, you can if you want to, of course. But also make friends. Reach out to people. Don’t assume you know anything. And above all, keep it lit, but respectful.

SS: They’re gonna not like you anyway. So you might as well just do something.

AR: And if you’re scared you’re just being sucked into the Long Island mentality that’s been trickled down to you.

SS: If you’re scared, they won.

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