Remembering Violence Barn (an excerpt)

I was recently alerted by some shit on twitter that Silent Barn in New York is still a functioning entity. Well golly, wasn't I overcome by a fond wave of nostalgia. Here is an excerpt from Journey to the Center of the Dream, chronicling a midwestern rube's impressions of the Big Apple and Silent Barn in particular. Don't expect accuracy; I was drunk and dumbstruck.

photo by Tina at

Chapter 11

We got into New York in the middle of the night. Already my impression of the eastern seaboard was of one sprawling mass of human insanity with no seams between cities. But as we funneled into NYC, the whole thing grew exponentially, like something angry rising up out of the ground. Here was the great beast Bob Moses had unleashed on the world with his clandestine, Jew incantations. It looked like every set of headlights in the world was converging on Triborough Bridge.

Dessy started playing with the radio dial. He found the frequency he wanted and turned up the volume. “This is the station that’s going to put us on,” he said. Dessy had arranged for us to play on some indie-rock radio show at NYU on Saturday. “This show kind of sucks,” he added, referring to the current programming.

Two DJs were discussing politics in over-the-top tones:

- A particular politician said . . . what?! Out of his mouth?!

- I know, right. He professed to believe that . . . what was the correct side of a particular issue?! Publicly?

- I mean, does he not know that we and those like us believe the exact opposite to be correct?

- What an ignorant buffoon! Anyway, I saw the Strokes the other night, playing with the New York Philharmonic . . .

I rode in the front, next to Dessy. The city continued to crowd in around us. Suddenly, Leo leaned his leonine head into the front of the van. He had been silent for some time. “I’ve got to make a stop,” he said.

“Ah . . . we’re only about 20 minutes out,” Dessy said dismissively.

“It’s an emergency.” Leo sounded completely serious.

“Are you going to pee your pants, Leo?” I ventured, though I would have thought it strange. Leopold had demonstrated the bladder function of a desert camel. He ignored me completely.

“I need to make a stop,” he repeated. “It’s an emergency.”

Dessy was visibly irritated, but he chose not to make an argument. He found a 24-hour gas station that was not far out of the way. There were plenty of people milling around, going about their business as if it wasn’t three in the morning. Leo got out of the van without a word. We watched him walk inside. “What the fuck is he doing?” Dessy wondered aloud, peering in through the window of the station. I squinted my eyes and found Leo inside the store. He appeared to be dialing a pay phone. He waited with the phone to his ear. He talked for a short time, then stopped and looked quizzically at the receiver. He hung up and dialed again. This time he talked even more briefly before hanging up for good and coming out to the van. He was grinning slightly.

“What was that about?” Dessy asked him.

“Oh nothing,” Leo chuckled modestly. “I just had to touch base . . . talk to the people. I think we’re all on the same page now. I feel much better.” He did seem more relaxed than he’d been for several days. Dessy, Dante and I were all a bit mystified.

The silence in the van was accosted by the late-night clowns at NYU radio.

- Hey! Looks like we’ve got a caller who’d like to weigh in on this particular topic. Go ahead caller.

- Yeah . . . hello? - Go ahead caller.

- Hello?

- Hello. Hello! You’re on the air. Go ahead caller.

- Yeah . . . it’s (beep)ing over. I’m (beep)ing jumping . . .

- Whoa, buddy! What’s that? Hang on now!

- I’m standing on top of the North Tower right now. I’m gonna jump. If I don’t, the (beep)ing terrorists have won. They’ve won and . . .


- Whoa, I hate to tell you this, buddy, but that tower is not standing anymore! So you can’t be on top of it! What a nut job . . . Oh, hang on. It looks like we’ve got another caller. Hello? Go ahead caller.

- Yeah, it’s (beep)ing over. The (beep)ing terrorists have won. I’m jumping . . .


Dessy, Dante and I spent the rest of the drive enveloped in the stunned silence induced by the heavy presence of genius.

We would stay in a converted warehouse in Brooklyn dubbed, Violence Barn. Dessy kept a room here. Entering through the front of the building, we were confronted with a huge, empty space where Violence Barn hosted shows. There was a tiny bathroom and kitchen space at one end of the room, I suppose as a tacit nod to necessity. Three levels of risers were built in one corner and these supported several ratty sofas and armchairs. This, incidentally, is where 3⁄4 of Black Darkness would sleep. A little hallway at the back of the room led to the sleeping quarters of the residents of Violence Barn. There was no one about when we arrived.

After we’d loaded in our equipment and bags, Dessy took us to a 24-hour Guatemalan taco cart a couple blocks away. A throng of people crowded around the cart – just as if it wasn’t 3:30 in the morning – and those who ordered in Spanish received the quickest service. I got two gigantic tacos al pastor for $4. On our way back, we hit an all-night liquor store and grabbed 40 oz. beers.

Back at Violence Barn we dined in semi-darkness, the only sounds, that of greedy chewing, lips smacking, and the buoyant glug, glug of big beer bottles tipping.

In the near darkness, I could feel the great metropolis sprawling out around us. We were her anonymous heirs, welcome to whatever of her pleasures we could, by our wits and our wiles, put our hands upon. I felt, somehow, like I had finally come home.

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