Big Snow Buffalo Lodge Closes For Good After Co-Owner Yoni David Is Shot
In the west wing of Bellevue Hospital, Yoni David sits dazed in a hospital bed. His shattered left arm is in what the doctor calls an elevation dressing, a cheesecloth-like tube that keeps his hand raised. He's been here since he was shot at the Bushwick/East Williamsburg DIY arts venue he co-managed, Big Snow Buffalo Lodge, last Wednesday. He'll spend his 24th birthday--July 24th--in this bed. The hospital staff just weaned him from Morphine to Dilantin.
Photo by Dale W. Eisinger
As a result of the shooting, Yoni and his partners at Big Snow Buffalo Lodge--Jeremy Aquilino, RJ Gordon, and Daniel Arnes--have decided to end their run as one of north Brooklyn's DIY venues, this one known for everything from grungy rock to borderline acid-house, girded by an unpretentious, welcoming air. The team announced Big Snow's closure via Twitter Saturday. Concerns over heightened security, the safety of Big Snow patrons, and the stigma of the shooting all led to the decision.
"I don't think anybody can have the same affinity for that place now," Yoni says from his Bellevue bed. "Had somebody been walking to the door to buy admission at that moment, they could have lost their lives."
One of the lease-holders and the doorman of the nearly two-year-old venue, Yoni says doctors tell him that, had the bullet gone another inch into his abdomen, he would certainly be dead from internal bleeding.
On Wednesday around 10 p.m., Brooklyn guitar-driven electro-beat crooner Fasano had just finished the night's opening set. As he swapped out gear on stage with the night's special guest Darkside, Big Snow's hired security hand, Edwin Walker, alerted Yoni to a disturbance outside the venue. Yoni went to check it out, which is standard practice for the space, he says. Before he was able to even get outside, a shot fired during a dispute apparently unrelated to the venue struck him. It was one of at least two reported shootings in the neighborhood that evening, police told Yoni's father, and one of about a half-dozen in the area since Yoni was hit. The shooter fled on foot.
After he was hit, Yoni ran past his post at the door, past the soundboard and couches, and past the stage Aquilino is proud to have built, and toward the bathroom. His eyes bugged slightly, visibly in shock. He alternately looked for a place to collapse and tried to maintain his composure. A splatter-trail of blood ran from the front door, past the psychedelic mural-painted, graffiti-pasted walls.
Many shouted in confusion. I was there, and called an ambulance. Many others called 911. Yoni's friend Lydia Velichkovski applied pressure to the wound, leaned her head against Yoni's shoulder, and offered comfort. Aquilino started mopping up the blood. The EMT arrived within 10 minutes and Yoni was carted away; the police arrived within 15. They locked down the street. The lights in the room came up. The music stopped. Chatter idled. Walker, in a lime-green Big Snow tank top, tried to keep patrons calm. One young woman in a pink tank top doled out Poland Spring water from gallon jugs into small plastic cups. Detectives and officers in many different uniforms stalked in and out of the space. Arnes mopped up a second time.
"The instant I cleaned up my best friend's blood off the floor I made the decision to close," Arnes says. "Nothing is worth that. We built something that was important and dear to us and hopefully to other people. But anything else in my mind evaporated the second my friend was in danger. It was a shock. Surreal. Extremely unpleasant. We never thought we'd have to deal with something like this."
Photo by Jeremy D. Larson
Since Big Snow Buffalo Lodge opened its doors to the public on October 27, 2011, at 89 Varet Street between Humboldt and Graham, the crew had not faced a notable security issue. (The venue's first show was an eclectic mash that included Brooklyn pop-punk mainstays The So So Glos, Bronx avant-folk duo Pigeons, Baltimore looped guitar virtuoso Dustin Wong, left-fieled psychers Lost Boy? and garage-poppers Day Dress.) You can triangulate the place from the roofs of public housing towers in the area: the Bushwick and Williamsburg Houses, the Marcy Projects down the block. A smattering of repurposed buildings dot the area: the McKibben Lofts, the Opera House Lofts, 3rd Ward. The neighborhood is characterized as being at the brink of gentrification,, perhaps becasue of the crowds and music Big Snow helped bring to the area.
Big Snow always seemed to be a place strengthened by the tangle of its moors. Flashy murals came and went both upstairs and down: Aquilino painted carrot and mushroom-hugging Gnomes who overtook a feet-high skeleton strumming colors in the tune of Dia de los Muertos. Painters Kate Kosek and David Briars were the resident artists in the basement. WATCH YOUR SKULL was thoughtfully and deliberately tagged above the steep narrow stairs. The crew--that included Luke Chiaruttini before he bowed out for steady work at Shea Stadium--took down and repainted every ceiling tile in the front room. Couches and chairs were second hand.
"We were all at the point of trying to figure out what's next for us," Aquilino says, "It's just shitty that it all had to come down to this."