Remembering Ariel Panero: Damon Dash, These Are Powers, Grooms, and More on the Man Behind Less Artists More Condos
The news began to circulate on Tuesday--Ariel Panero, the audacious NYC promoter behind Less Artists More Condos, had passed away suddenly, at the age of 25. Two days later, the details of what exactly happened are still in part unknown. But the farewells have already begun. (A service, set for Sunday, will be held at the Montauk Club in Park Slope.) The Brooklyn-born Panero, young as he was, had fashioned himself into a New York institution, a bold promoter and a hard worker, a guy who in life earned the trust of both former Roc-a-Fella mogul Damon Dash and Brooklyn DIY institutions ranging from Death By Audio to Showpaper to Jelly NYC.
I didn't know him well, but I did know him--every once in while my phone would ring and it would be Ariel, calling either to castigate me for getting another outlandish show of his inadvertently shut down, or, more frequently, to tell me about the next one. The last time we spoke it was when he phoned to tell me that he had somehow persuaded Dipset's Jim Jones to make the trek over the East River to perform at Death By Audio with Philly art-rockers Snakes Say Hisss and Panero's own band, Tough Knuckles.
It was this kind of spectacle that he was best at. He managed the band Grooms. He helped out with the label Famous Class. He booked shows in Damon Dash's Tribeca basement, in parking lots and on boats, in churches, under bridges, and in condos in the West Village. Sometimes, his parents would come to his events. "If you told me two years ago that I would be doing this," he told Ben Westhoff last year. "I wouldn't have believed you." But he did it, and did it well, and over the past couple years, few in the DIY community have done more memorable things in New York City. Below, we've asked some friends of his--Dame Dash, members of These Are Powers, Cyrus from Famous Class, and others--to remember him. Their recollections of Ariel are below:
Damon Dash, DD172:
All I can say is I just saw a lot of potential in him. I don't respect many people on the level I respected him, because of his taste. And I really think it was a big loss for the world. Because had he reached his potential he was definitely going to affect the world. He just had the potential to run the world, because his taste was so good and just the way he went about doing things, you know, everything he did to me--I saw things he did affect the rest of the planet, you know what I mean? Like outside of the world that he was in. Everything he did, it trickled down around the whole world to me. That's how powerful I thought he was.
Seva Granik, Abracadabra:
One great memory Ariel left me with--one of many--was the random phone calls. His prime mode of communication was the phone call; he'd call, with blatant disregard about what hour it was, to talk about various ballsy nonsense he was about to pull off, and everything else that happened in between. I loved talking to him.
Travis Johnson, Grooms:
I'll miss hearing what zany, fucked up, often terrible idea he's got for the next show he's putting together. I'll miss quoting Simpsons with him. I'll miss thinking he seemed like an overgrown kid in a lot of ways.
Lavinia Wright, Writer, Friend:
At the end of one of our monthly catch-up phone calls last year, Ariel said "Isn't it amazing how much this city has to offer people like us who are looking for it?" He had a genuine inflection of wonder and enthusiasm in his voice. It took me off guard, not because it was rare to hear Ariel talk enthusiastically about New York or live music or life, but because I was tired that night, and almost every night that year, from too much going out, too many shows, too much searching for the things hidden in the city at night. Ariel's words, and the way his voice came through the phone infectiously eager, have come back to me many times as I was about to complain to someone about the pressures of a career in music and life as a young Brooklynite - things he was reminding that we should consider ourselves lucky to have and be. Ariel gathered people together in their search, his events were experimental and exciting, he was a reminder to stay tuned in and to keep your ears and eyes open for the new and the weird and the perfection that those two things can sometimes contain. His friendship energized me, and will continue to, even though there won't be any more catch up calls or 4am house shows or texts asking if anyone knows where he can find a generator to set up amplifiers on a bridge.
He'd laugh if he saw this, so I wanted to put it here:
Because he brought this to my house one night, just after we met, and we talked about it for over a year. One of the great things about Ariel was that he wanted to do that, talk about a single song for years. To him, there was endless depth in everything.
Edan Wilber, Death by Audio, E4E1:
I'm really at a loss. Its almost unfathomable to me that Ariel is gone. I keep expecting him to pop up or text me about some show he wants to do. Ariel did really great work for the music community and he believed in it and he believed in me and it's a pretty big blow that he won't be around anymore to lend a hand or try and pull off some crazy show. He was always taking big risks and getting little to no reward for the work he did, but that didn't really matter to him as far as I can tell. He accomplished some great things in a relatively short time; he co-founded one of the only DIY spots in Manhattan, Less Artists More Condos in the Village, and allowed me to book some shows there. Then he did it again when he opened Under 100 in Tribeca. He really outdid himself there, booking Mos Def and Erykah Badu just to name a few. I was really looking forward to his next achievement, whatever that may have been--it would've pushed the boundaries of what we can do on such a small level. He helped me understand that it didn't matter what level we were at, we could make crazy shit happen.
Cyrus Lubin, Famous Class Records:
Ariel was exciting to be around; he was fun and he was driven. He would come to me with seemingly impossible show ideas but then always managed to pull them off. He approached his work with a sense that yeah, there might be consequences but the good and fun will outweigh the fallout because we have the right spirit and if I don't try and get this done it'll never happen. One of Ariel's most triumphant moments in my eyes was when he somehow convinced the skipper of Clipper City to let all the Famous Class bands charter the boat for a quarter of the usual price. The feeling was unforgettable, sailing around the Statue of Liberty having a beer with Ariel and watching friends play and dance. Last year he began working with me at Famous Class, helping us take some big steps forward. It breaks my heart that he isn't going to see the results of everything we worked on together. He was a dear friend and a brother, we love you and miss you.
We're nearly done with the Tough Knuckles album but here's the last thing Ariel ever recorded:
Julian C. Duron, Jelly NYC:
When we first started working with Ariel in the summer of 2009 we were blown away to find out how young he was. He had such a unique sharpness to his personality, a professional demeanor, the spark of a brilliant producer and overall he was an awesome guy to know. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy. Ariel was our friend and a part of the Jelly family.
Anna Barie, These Are Powers:
Ariel really championed These Are Powers and the Brooklyn DIY scene. He strived to host not just shows, but large events that would be meaningful for everyone involved. I think he was an idealist with ambitious ideas about music. He treated bands with respect and fairness, and I really appreciated his belief in us and in the music community. I am sad that he is gone.
Joe Ahearn, SleepWhenDeadNYC/Showpaper/Silent Barn:
Ariel was incredibly dedicated to the underground arts and music scene in New York, and to creating sustainable ways for the same seething energy (we cut our teeth on together) in Brooklyn to reach Manhattan and larger platforms. He wanted everyone to have access to the artists, music, and friends he cared about, and I have a lot of respect for the urgency and enthusiasm that he brought to everything we worked on together. The support he lent to so many can't be replaced and I'm very upset to hear that he's gone.
Mark DeNardo, Graffiti Monsters/Fables:
Ariel Panero was a friend. In the DIY Punk scene, he was a Duke.
One cold night we took a boat from the South Street Seaport, and saw bands play astride the Statue of Liberty, on the Hudson in the moonlight. It was a good moment. He was responsible for making moments like that.
I remember talking with him about his shows/bands, running into him in Austin, TX, being a part of a Brooklyn posse.
His ambition was very clear, and his site Less Artists More Condos chronicles a very successful career in the NYC community. He knew many people and bands that still support him like a family. He has introduced me to good friends.
[Some of] Ariel's last words written were "breaking is a memory." It's true that we each fall apart in time, but memory persists. Ariel, we will remember you.
Pat Noecker, These Are Powers:
Ariel Panero-one of the nicest people on the planet.
He would go out of his way for you and make you feel great for being you. He would say things to you or your band like "I just want to see you do well," and "I care about you guys." And you could tell he meant it by the firm sincerity in his voice and the calm demeanor of his face.
He would throw a show for us and leave me wondering how one gets to his level of niceness. He was so egoless in his giving, but admirably confident in his nature. And in the end, he was a friend many of us could count on.
Here's an example-
My band was in a bit of a predicament before leaving for our European tour this summer. At the last minute, our booking agent informed us she could not cover our air fare. We had to come up with a lot of money in a very short time. I racked my brain for a few minutes wondering what to do. And it hit me. Call Ariel.
I felt confident about the call because he was always so willing to help out his friends and other musicians. He was the kind of person you could reach out to without fear of being judged. He would listen to you. He gave a shit. And he would do whatever it took.
He found a way to loan us some money to help cover the tickets. And he said those very meaningful and unforgettable words to me "I just want to see you guys do well."
Thanks Ariel. You were very, very true.
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