Updated: Mar 12
And No Rest For Brooklyn's Own Punk Hardcore Band Get Off My Lawn. A look at the Artists And Venues Fighting To Keep The City Alive.
What 2020 and the arrival of COVID-19 did to our lives in some ways is indescribable. What it did to some aspects of the music industry is still being measured. To put it simply, it rocked it to its core and in a way only scientists saw coming.
As you can imagine, bands don’t start out at these places. They earn that spot on the stage by many years of scratching and pulling their way up the ladder. To get there, it’s always been the small venues that turn the unknowns into stars and the local bands into household names.
In a business where failure happens more often than success, musicians desperately need the support of the local small stages and those venues, in turn, need those bands cranking out the tunes on their stages to keep the doors open. It’s like an ecosystem unto itself.
So what happens when it all comes to a screeching halt? What happens when the musicians who get by on cover charges can no longer play? What about the bars that draw a crowd that spends money to drink and rock out? Well, people find themselves partying on the sidewalk standing six feet apart eating french fries they really didn’t want just to have permission to order a locally brewed beer and the bands write music until their fingers melt off.
In some cases, it all falls apart. The lead singer gives up on his dream after being beaten down one too many times and the band crumbles or the killer bar that everyone wants to play can’t keep its doors open no matter how many budget cuts it makes.
I have never personally been in a band but I have been around many. I have worked in many bars and restaurants however, and the common thread that the two shares is that they become a family. When the bar owner has to let go of most of their staff it’s like kicking your kids out. They look at you with fear in their eyes not knowing what to do next and it weighs upon these proprietors heavily. The good ones anyway. For Bands it’s the same, it’s like brothers or sisters parting ways and abandoning the tree-house they built together.
Fortunately for music, and the economy there are some who hold on so tight it would take death to end the show and in 2020 for so many, they had that death grip on their dream.
Curious to tell the stories of those holding on, my partner and I masked up and headed out in search of stories of musical resilience. We didn’t have to travel any further than Brooklyn N.Y.
In the Gowanus neighborhood, across the street from a park where a family was trying desperately to capture a bit of normalcy by playing hoops and grilling some hot dogs, we found the studio of Brooklyn’s own punk hardcore band Get Off My Lawn. The name would imply that they wouldn’t be so welcome to our intrusion but they were very hospitable. Perhaps because we had all been isolated for so long a couple of strangers with cameras felt like The Queen had just come over for tea.
GOML consists of three guys, but only two greeted us that day. The bassist was sick--recovering from COVID-19. He’s a young guy but it hit him hard, effecting his heart and it took him quite some time to get back on his feet again.
As we exchanged hellos and reached out to shake hands and instead opted for the elbow bump we all realized just how much things were changing.
Crammed into their tiny rehearsal space we were given earplugs and a seat, and then the walls began to shake with some of their latest music. The music they hadn’t played together in months.
They broke in a bit rusty and without Face, their Bassist who usually handled the sound, they were a little off of their game at first. They had been stuck at home trying to keep things together with technology while separated, but after a moment they fell into their groove.
I always love the faces musicians make when they play. When they really play. That moment when the audience falls away and becomes one with the song, and instrument of sorts. When they are lost in what they are doing, in making the music, and their face has to contort in just a way as to ease the note out perfectly. That’s what I witnessed that night as these two loosened up and fell into their zone.
Sitting in on this rehearsal was just as much a treat for me and my partner who had been being deprived of live music. Little did we know how long it would be until we would see our next show. None of us had any idea how long this would go on.
COVID-19 numbers skyrocketed, indoor service shut down when outdoor dining was nearly impossible in New York. Small music stages braced for the worst.
There were other members of Brooklyn’s music scene hurting also. Small music venues were and still are bleeding money big time. The number of businesses that have closed are in the double digits and the ones that are struggling would probably top the 90th percentile.
Lucky 13 Saloon, a heavy metal bar has long been a favorite of metal music lovers and bands alike. The place is small with a bar running down one side and a stage in the back, but the drinks are good, the bartenders are great, and the high-energy bar-top dancers are never a disappointment.
The place opened in 2003 and is home to many Brooklyn locals. The customers feel like it’s an extension of their living rooms and a place to hang out with friends with the music as loud as you can get it. But then the music went silent and the streets emptied as the virus ravaged the city.
Everything stopped, except for the bills. The rent still had to be paid, power, licences that were due for renewal, all of it. The same was true for the bands who were no longer playing on the stage. Life came to a screeching halt and very few were prepared.
The Venue has done their very best to stay afloat. When allowed they began seating outside keeping social distancing in mind as well as the ever changing rules on what was and was not acceptable food to accompany a beverage. The regulars came through and donations starting rolling in through Venmo, some on a regular monthly basis.
They did live-stream fundraising concerts and were able to build a new outdoor space to keep patrons reasonably warm during the colder months, but with the city’s 10 p.m curfew and the 25% capacity cap, which for a place this small is less than 20 people, they were forced to temporarily close the doors on Dec 14, 2020.
GOML makes "esoteric references in their music, but it’s actually all about self empowerment."
We left the guy’s practice studio and took a walk through Brooklyn over to one of our favorite spots and another local business doing their best, Dinosaur BBQ ,to have some dinner and a chat. The atmosphere that night was almost as if there wasn’t a pandemic going on. The night air was perfect and per usual the city held it’s romantic charm. It wasn’t until we approached the restaurant and was greeted by the mask-clad hostess that we were again reminded what we were all going through.
The guys In GOML were dealing with the pandemic coming at them from all directions. They all had Jobs and bills and a life that didn’t stop just because the world seemed to have.
Mike Delfino who is the vocalist and plays lead guitar is a music teacher at the high school he graduated from. He loves all types of music but holds a masters degree in Jazz “and all that shit” as he put it. He went from biking to work everyday to a classroom setting to trying to teach music online from home to high school students.
He is originally from New York and started getting serious about playing when he was around 13. The progress he made was due to some dedicated teachers at his schools and his love of music.
Mark Thom, also a N.Y native and the band’s bass player is affectionately known as Face. Every time the guy entered the room he was wearing a big grin on his face and the nick-name stuck over the years. He and Mike met in high school back when they were both into skateboarding. They ended up being in a few bands together and even roommates at the young age of 17 when they both left home.
Drew's Drum Kit: A Frankenstein mix of: A Tama Swingstar from the 70's Mixed with Some Meinl and Zildjian Cymbals.
Fast forward a few years and the two guys are working at a store in midtown together when in walks Drew Green who just transferred to N.Y from Indianapolis. Like so many before him, he felt as if he didn’t fit in where he lived and New York City felt like home. The three guys have been friends and playing together ever since. It’s been about 20 years now.
Drew Green, is the drummer in the band and an entrepreneur who recently received his Bachelors degree in marketing from Baruch University. In retrospect he says it may not have been the best decision, as he can’t fathom having an office job now, but it did “teach him the language of professionalism, which has been very valuable.” That and he feels that if “he is a good marketer, he is a good song writer.”
Drew’s education also comes in play when dealing with the marketing aspects for the band as a whole, and the demographics from their advertisements of who their listeners are. From a marketing perspective they want to appeal to the group of people who can relate to them as well as know how to branch out and reach a more diverse audience.
Drew Started playing piano in kindergarten and then went on to play the drums as a member of the school’s Jazz band. His parents are very religious and he wasn’t allowed to listen to secular music so Jazz was his first introduction to the big broad world of music with Stanley Clark being one of his first favorites.
His parents are very supportive of him but the lyrics aren’t quite their style so the guys are tossing around the idea of recording a “clean” version just so Drew can send it to them. “I still go to church on Sunday’s” he said as he chuckled and continued, “Not what you would expect from a guy in a Metal band in Brooklyn.”
That may be true, but I have learned to expect the unexpected when it comes to artists. Drew for example put down the drumsticks and flew to Paris with his father to bike around Amsterdam. Mike, who lifts weight across from the school where he teaches as a way to let the students know he’s not to be messed with, unwinds to Stevie Wonder or Stanley Clarke. How we all ended up in a conversation about Gregorian Chanting did surprise me however.
Though the guys have been friends for years the band itself is still in it’s infancy, only officially coming together in 2019. The guys talked, they wanted to do something “hard, fast, and heavy” and Get Of My Lawn was born.
The songs are collectively theirs although some songs have a bigger influence from one member or another at times but it’s always random and never planned. They come in with what they have and then make it gel as a unit. For example “Marqsong” has a big influence from mark. Whereas “The Villain” came from the mind of Mike.
As he explains, he likes to make esoteric references in his music, but it’s actually all about self empowerment. At the end of the song he says the message is really clear, other people may not accept what you are, but, “never listen to what they say.”
GOML was able to accomplish quite a bit considering all the setbacks the year had in store for everyone and they are still going strong. As for The Lucky 13, they are rolling back in as the vaccines are rolling out, with a lot of hard work and perseverance the crew is hoping to reopen the weekend of March 19th, so keep your eyes on their Instagram page for details.
Photography by Mike Sweetman Photograpy