The Wild and Wonderful Story of Under 100, the DIY Show Space in Dame Dash's Basement
Greg Finch is the 20-year-old Pitchfork.tv intern who, along with Less Artists More Condos' Ariel Panero, runs Under 100, the DIY show space located in former Roc-A-Fella kingpin Damon Dash's basement. How did one of the more pivotal figures in hip-hop over the last 15 years or so come to be hosting Sleigh Bells shows in his cellar? The answer is complicated. Last week we called up Finch, who has been booking shows in NYC dating back to last year, when local concert maverick Todd P took the young aspiring promoter under his wing, to talk Dash, DIY, and what may be the most interesting and undercover venue currently operating in all of New York.
Sleigh Bells perform at Under 100 in front of an extremely focused Ryan Schreiber. Photo by Rez Avissar/Pitchfork. Used by permission.
So Under 100. Is that the name of your promotion outfit, or is it literally the name that you guys have given to Dame Dash's basement? For that matter, how did you end up in Dame's basement at all?
That's the name we've given to Dame's basement. Dame reached out to Ariel Panero who used to run the [now defunct West Village apartment] venue Less Artists More Condos, and Ariel invited me onto the project.
Before we go forward--Do you have any idea what Dame is doing writing Ariel in the first place?
I think Dame just knew about the shows that were happening at Less Artists and he reached out because he wanted to film some of the later shows that were happening there. Less Artists stopped as a venue in mid- 2008; I think Dame was at the last two shows, and he'd brought a film crew because he wanted to help document what was going on in DIY in Manhattan--
Hold on a second.
It's really surreal.
You just said that Dame Dash wanted to help document what was going on in DIY in Manhattan?
Yeah. Now that I've worked with him for about a month or two I have so much respect for him. I really admire how he runs a business, how he works. Since he broke away from Roc-A-Fella he has been his own independent entity. He's really the closest thing in the hip-hop world to a Beggars Banquet. He has his own company, Dame Dash Music Entertainment Group, and what he's trying to foster is just a progressive, non-contractual thing--artists collaborating with each other in a very open environment, where there is very little pressure. The entire Blakroc project that he did with the Black Keys happened with no contract, just inviting friends to come over to his studio, putting no borders or boundaries on what was going to happen during the session, just saying, "Just come hang out and we'll see what happens." And that's incredibly different from how things are structured at Island Def Jam or how things were structured at Roc-A-Fella Records for the 10 years he was involved there.
Do you have a sense of how Dame came to be interested in indie rock? It's not the most obvious post-Jay-Z step.
I think that one of the things that he was trying to do about two years ago was have some of his artists collaborate with indie rock--I hate that word--indie rock artists. Jim Jones did a track with MGMT about a year ago. What else? And then he reached out to the Black Keys around March or April of this year. That's I think one of the angles he's trying to do at his new label and the attitude, like I've said, is progressive--just open, free-thinking, trying to have artists he admires just come together and make new music.
When you started working at Pitchfork I assume it was because you were interested in the sort of music that they cover. I wonder when you started working with Dame were you aware of the stuff he had done before?
That's a very good question. I prepped myself before I met him. I went through Roc-A-Fella's greatest hits and I read up on the history. I've always been aware of him. I remember when I was in high school hearing that Roc-A-Fella was dissolving and a lot my friends feeling terrible about it. How did I know him before? I knew him as the guy in the "Big Pimpin'" video who's pouring champagne on women in the pool. I think that's the main way I knew him.
And now you hang out with him.
[Pitchfork Editor] Ryan [Schreiber] was excited to meet him. Dame also loves Pitchfork, which is very endearing to me. He was very excited to meet Ryan.
I think those are all some great answers to my questions.
How much can you curse in the article? Because if you can curse I have a very funny anecdote for you.
We're the Village Voice. We're built on swearing. Go ahead.
The one very delicate thing about working Damon is he uses the word "fuck" in ways that I haven't heard before ever in my life and he uses them interchangeably. If he wants to work with you and he really likes you, he says, "All right, I wanna fuck with you." And that means that he wants to work with you. But in the same sense, he'll say that he's, like, "not anyone to fuck with." But that means not to mess with him. And sometimes he'll use both phrases in the same sentence, so if you're having a conversation or you're in a meeting you have to stay on your toes and actively dissect the uses of the word and what they mean.
And how's that coming for you?
So far I've just nodded and everything's been okay. Just nodding and smiling and appreciating how surreal everything is. I feel very blessed to be a part of it.
Which is a story unto itself, it seems, how you came to part of it. Dame calls Ariel in summer of last year, and he's like, "Let's work together"?
Yeah. He said that he really respected what was happening at the venue and the artists that were playing there, and he reached out and said he'd like to help or be involved. He's been incredibly nice. Like this venue that's in his basement right now, he's not asking for any of the proceeds and we're not working for him or anything. He just basically gave us the resources to make shows happen with artists that we want. I was really nervous going in cause his reputation precedes him but it was really remarkable the way it came out. He's been incredibly hands-off and he fully understands the risks of doing an operation like our business. Brooklyn is a much safer place to pull it off because of the many risks involved and just trying to keep what we do safe. Dame was privy to all that and said the bottom line is just the art that comes out of it and not to worry about it, basically.