“Tomorrow We’ll Remember, Tonight We’ll Celebrate,” reads a banner hanging above the small stage in Danger Danger Gallery’s first-floor performance space, a motto that seems to pay homage to Danger Danger’s steady forward motion.
A DIY music venue operating out of a commercially zoned West Philly rowhome on Baltimore Avenue between 50th and 51st streets, Danger Danger Gallery is run by 28-year-old pals Tristan Palazzolo, Aaron Kanik (both of Pittsburgh) and Jeff Blinder of North Carolina. Before DD was legit, Palazzolo and bandmates from electroacoustic/roots band Grandchildren held consistently packed house shows from their nine-housemate home at 47th and Warrington as early as the summer of 2005.
“The shows were just whatever we liked, somewhere within the indie rock vein,” says Palazzolo. He recalls hosting then-underground artists like Coughs, Weasel Walter Quartet, USA is a Monster and Dan Deacon. “We were providing a needed service for the community. For as cool a vibe as [this neighborhood] has, in terms of the music I’m into, you really don’t have that many shows to go to. [We thought] it would be nice to have a venue around here that brought in really good subversive arts.” The friends started to contemplate opening their own venue, for real.
The shows’ success, coupled with their neighbors’ anger at the constant noise and crowds, prompted them to look for a space that was zoned for commercial use without losing the house show vibe, and so they bought 5013 Baltimore Ave. in the summer of 2007. With Kanik as acting handyman, the guys soundproofed the first floor, built a makeshift stage from found materials, cleared a second show space in the basement so there could be two or more rapid-fire sets, and started putting on shows in February 2008.
Though their new neighbors, largely other businesses, welcomed them, and shows like Tune Yards, Vivian Girls and Future Islands brought people to the venue, Palazzolo and his five-person volunteer staff weren’t turning a profit. Door money went to touring bands with DD taking a percentage to cover operating expenses.
“We started thinking, man, it’d be so nice if we could actually sell something at these shows,” says Palazzolo. Enter the idea of a music store as part of the DD umbrella. When the vintage clothing store next door moved out in May of this year, the guys had one week to decide if they could rustle up enough capital and support to take on another major project. They took the plunge.
The store, set to open later this fall, will sell music gear, records, clothing, local zines and guitar strings. It will also be home to a School of Rock run by Stinking Lizaveta frontman Yanni Papadopoulos that will instruct students in drums, guitar, keyboard and bass.
“This neighborhood really needs a music store,” Palazzolo says, adding that, in addition to the music venue and store, DD plans on eventually playing host to art shows, film screenings and plays. “There are so many musicians here, but no place to go. And this is the perfect place to do it.”
Time for a big Bang breakthrough?