Coronavirus

How a Brooklyn Metal Venue's Kickstarter Fosters Community During Shutdown

Saint Vitus
Frank Longhitano

Saint Vitus

Nestled unobtrusively within the Brooklyn's Greenpoint area, Saint Vitus has a reputation that far surpasses its modest size. After all, few 250-capacity metal bar/venues have attracted everything from a secret Megadeth show to Nirvana's 2014 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction after party (featuring everyone from St. Vincent to Kim Gordon playing alongside Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic).

But in the competitive and unpredictable New York City real estate market, no venue can coast by on the occasional star-studded event. No, Saint Vitus' true success stems from its status as a no-frills neighborhood watering hole that's hosted just about every Tri-State area punk or metal band worth its satanic salt (plus, its karaoke night is one of the best in all of Brooklyn).

So perhaps it wasn't all that surprising that when the beloved venue launched a Kickstarter in the wake of coronavirus-forced NYC closures, more than 1,200 backers helped Saint Vitus blow past its $15,000 goal to reach $75,000 in less than a week (the total is now around $87,000).

"It's been pretty humbling honestly to see how people are helping out," says Caroline Harrison, the bar/venue's marketing coordinator. (A regular at Vitus prior to getting the gig, she says the owners offered it by telling her "you seem like you understand computers better than we do.")

At a time when so many venues and musicians are economic tight spots, the wild success of the Saint Vitus Kickstarter – which will help the venue and its staff as NYC faces an extremely uncertain future for live music – is a testament not only to the loyal clientele but the sense of community that this particular Kickstarter helps foster. Even as people remain indoors, receiving rewards such as rare photos, posters, t-shirts and virtual lessons from metal veterans helps keeps the venue's spirit alive even as its doors remain shuttered.

The latest round of rewards for contributors, which we can announce in full below ahead of their availability Tuesday (April 21), includes a photo bundle from the famed Nirvana show, a Skype guitar lesson from Revocation's Dave Davidson, a Descendents poster from the venue's long-time art contributor Jay Morris and more (see below).

-- Skype guitar lesson with Dave Davidson of Revocation + a t-shirt
-- Nirvana photo bundle (two photos from when Nirvana played Vitus, by Keith Marlowe) + a t-shirt
-- Original drawing by Caroline Harrison done for the Kickstarter Vitus logo tee + shirt bundle
-- Until the Light Takes Us DVD (black metal documentary) + a t-shirt
-- Show poster (by Jay Morris) & photo (by Nathaniel Shannon) bundle from the Descendents at Saint Vitus + a t-shirt

While the staff has gone out to some friends of the bar with no-pressure asks for reward item donations, plenty of people are volunteering to pitch in, too. To that end, the ongoing effort of keeping this essential Brooklyn venue afloat during turbulent times speaks not only to the clientele's loyalty but the relationships the owners and staff have fostered over the years with fans and artists.

"The whole point of Vitus is not that it's a bar or venue," Harrison says. "Any venue is only good as the people that it brings, the musicians who play there and the people who come to shows."

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