Brooklyn’s Shea Stadium: Headquarters of the So So Glos
Behind the doors of the dilapidated red brick building standing strong at 20 Meadow Street in Brooklyn, N.Y. exists a whole world of DIY music that you’d be surprised to discover. That’s where Shea Stadium rests -- and we’re not talking about the former New York Mets' home field. We're talking about the DIY music venue, recording studio and headquarters of local punk rock luminaries the So So Glos. With no sign on the building’s facade -- located on one of the most desolate streets in Williamsburg -- you’d be hard-pressed to find the place if you didn't know any better.
I climbed up a flight of stairs and walked in on the soundcheck for Baked’s LP release show. Zach Staggers, the drummer of the So So Glos, was walking around filming the soundcheck, the crew and the crowd. He was documenting every aspect of the night for what he said was going to be a sort-of documentary for his friends in Baked, which he would likely upload to Shea’s website. I say likely because almost all of the shows that take place there are recorded and posted on the venue’s site for free streaming.
Like we said: DIY.
The main stage is barely a foot off the ground, and the space itself is kind of tight, with an even smaller balcony -- almost like being in someone’s loft. It adds to that ambiance of being at a house party, which appears to be what they’re going for. If you’re thirsty, you can grab a beer or water bottle from the bar that sits in front of a regular old fridge. In fact, everything is old and worn out -- including the stained, ripped up couches, a.k.a. the seating area.
The So So Glos were formed by brothers Alex and Ryan Levine in 2007 with their childhood friend Staggers, later adding guitarist Matt Elkin prior to their first tour. The band helped start this space in 2009 with Sean Heeney and Adam Reich, who not only produced their self-titled debut album, but now play in Titus Andronicus.
The band worked shows at Shea for the first two years, practiced there, recorded a couple of demos and a few of the members even crashed there from time-to-time. According to Staggers, they still do. He was even crashing there that night now that they’re back from touring. “It's been so great to see Shea evolve into the community it is today. When we started Shea with Adam four or five years back, I lost count -- we had no clue that one day we would be hearing about Shea Stadium from kids out in the Midwest who never set foot in it,” he tells me. “But that doesn't matter, because Shea is accessible not only online in the recorded archives but even just in its concept. It's just a place we set up to have shows that everyone could go to. The underdog spirit of the project is what people get with and when bands come through from far away places they are so happy to play the stage we built. The community continues to grow outside the walls of Shea Stadium, which to me is really f---ing wild to see.”
In addition to his duties with Titus Andronicus, Reich is also a huge New York Mets fan, hence the name of the space, in tribute to the team’s former home field. It's a shame that big apple that used to pop up after a home team home run during Mets games is cemented in front of Citi Field now -- it would be the perfect rooftop appendage for the venue.
There’s plenty of Mets memorabilia hung up on the walls though, including a foam finger -- remember those?!
“There was a lot of improvising going on in the early days -- we knew that we wanted a headquarters, a place where we could make our own rules, but a lot of the infrastructure that governs the space now was not in place yet,” Reich explains. “We had all had some experience doing this sort of thing, but this was the first time we were truly independent. It was all spit and glue before we learned how to do it for real. A lot of those early days were spent jamming a lot during the day, and then working the shows together in the evening, hoping we'd make it through another night so we could keep the space alive. We didn't really know what we were doing yet, but we knew we wanted to keep doing it.”
The place itself is not much to look at. In fact, the reason it's special is because of the music, camaraderie and lack of aesthetics. One local patron, 27-year-old Dan Kilberg, tells me, “It's a nice establishment. I've been to a few shows there. The ambiance at a packed show is just sweat. Sweat everywhere. You're just f---ed if you go there over the summer. The place is hot as f--- and is packed with sweaty, smelly hipsters who hate deodorant. Other than that it's no different than any DIY venue in the area.”
The So So Glos have always had a strong affinity for the DIY movement, first opening the Market Hotel back in 2007 alongside the infamous show promoter Todd P. While helping other local bands that they’re passionate about get on their feet, they've released some pretty stellar music of their own. Their most recent -- and one of their most celebrated albums -- ‘Blowout,’ dropped last year via their own label, Shea Stadium Records. If you haven’t already, you should check out the track ‘Lost Weekend’ below. It’s got a Misfits vibe to it; it's punchy and punk as hell.
It’s one clear example of their old-school punk intentions:
They've performed with the likes of Titus Andronicus, Say Anything and several other artists. As a result of their non-stop hard work, they're set to embark to Europe this October with the Hold Steady. With an always increasing fan base, one can imagine how hard it must be to ward off hungry record companies just to stay true to their DIY roots. Somehow, though, the So So Glos do it -- and we're OK with that.