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"Yoni definitely had a vision and persevered through it," Gordon says. "We all book shows here and there, but 80 or 90 percent of the shows at Big Snow were booked through Yoni. And everyone knew him for that, and from his working at the door. You could always rely on him being over there, unless he was onstage playing some music. He was definitely that driving force that kept us driving toward what we all wanted."
David met Aquilino, Gordon, and Arnes while attending SUNY Purchase. The four, having spent substantial time in the Brooklyn DIY community, particularly as staff at Shea Stadium and as patrons at Silent Barn, hoped to create a similar kind of space, but serving slightly different needs. It could function as a recording studio or an art gallery, a theater, a hangout, a hideaway—really, whatever anyone wanted.
"When we all graduated college and we were all living on our own in New York City," Aquilino says, "we decided instead of working for other spaces, we'd figure out how to do it ourselves."
"There weren't enough places out there that were just small," David says. "Small enough to where you could go play your first show and it wouldn't feel awkward, but also small like we could pack it out and make a 100-person show feel like the craziest night of your life. We didn't need a space to show what we were capable of doing. We needed a space so that what we were capable of doing could cater to everyone else's needs."
David dropped out of college on the first day of shows at Big Snow to fully commit to the work; everyone else graduated. The venue was coalescing at the same time the original Silent Barn was crumbling: First it was robbed, then raided by police, and finally shut down. The first Silent Barn, before they "went legit," as David says with respect, was a venue that meant a lot to all the Big Snow crew. Having learned the bare bones of operation from Shea Stadium and seeing the far-out potential of Silent Barn, the Big Snow crew were ready, too.
"It was logically our turn to step up," David says, "and so we did it. We did it our way."
"I've grown to love that place so much over the past two years," Aquilino says. "It's so surreal to me knowing that I'm not going to ever play there again. It's mind-blowing because I built that stage."
"Big Snow had a really distinct vibe and a part of that died with that accident," Gordon continues. "That place will never feel the same. No one wants to be there anymore."
"But everything is trumped by the fact that Yoni's alive and that was my primary concern since the moment this happened," Arnes says.
"I'm just grateful that everyone's okay," says Aquilino. "At the end of the day we can all look at each other and be like, 'Well, shit, man, at least we're all alive.'"
David is genuinely grateful he was the one who was shot. "I'd take 10 more bullets if I knew that everyone else was going to be okay," he says. "I could never forgive myself if something like this happened to someone who comes out to see a show, or to RJ or Dan or Jeremy. Or anyone. These guys come and hold my hand and walk me down the hall."
His nurse Deanna changes his IV. He eyes a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos that have just arrived in a care package. He offers them to me. "I haven't had much of an appetite since this happened," he says.