(Editor’s Note — Entrepreneur, musician, promoter, leathersmith, writer, photographer — Vini Tre has a deep passion for pushing the boundaries of creativity. He also has a deep passion for the local scene — of which he’s been part, and has observed, for more than two decades. There’s something happening here these days. It’s palpable. Still, the scene is also confronted by a host of challenges. 1120 Press sat down recently with the man behind 716gigs for a wide-ranging discussion. We’re thankful for his time. — Below: Promoter and business owner Vini Tre works on the creation of leather goods in his Buffalo loft. Photo by JDM.)
1120 PRESS: Thank you for talking with us. So, 716gigs… our stories are somewhat similar: we both moved back to Buffalo not too long ago and both decided at some point to create something that focused on the scene. What was your catalyst in starting 716gigs?
VINI TRE — I was in Chicago for about 10 years. I was in New York, and I was in Finland for a little while, too. I’ve was all over the place (laughs). But let’s stick with Chicago. I was there for 10 years, and I decided to move back to Buffalo and, you know, the scene here was always my life. Punk rock has always been my life. I was a studio musician in Chicago, so I was doing some stuff with some artists out there, doing a little recording of my own and dabbling. I really just wanted to get back into punk and rediscover my roots because this has always been a great city for it. Buffalo always has been, and the whole Rust Belt really. But Buffalo, this is where my heart’s been.
…so, as I said, when I came back here, I wanted to do something for the scene. I couldn’t find a band, that’s tough to do when you’re 39, so maybe a year went by where I was just going to shows, trying to meet people. As I began to reacclimate myself with the scene, I started with my business, Ovlustandleather — designing leather pouches and bracelets, bondage belts and all sorts of stuff. I’d go and sell at shows, and I would try to do a couple shows a month. In doing so, I would talk to as many people as I could. And I was thinking, ‘Man, how could I do more with this? How could I get more involved?’ … In trying to position myself better with Ovlustandleather, it kind of led me down the path of, ‘You know what? Why don’t I just create a public calendar, then nobody ever misses a show again. I’ll know where every single show is and it’ll help me meet more promoters, meet more people who run venues, meet more punks.’
1120: As you reacclimated, what did you discover about the scene now compared to a decade ago: What ways after 10 years did you find the scene changed for worse or for better?
VT: For better? There’s a lot of great bands here. I mean a lot of great bands. So many. For worse? Unfortunately, personal politics are being allowed to interfere with the music. For instance, a band from Los Angeles called Deaf Club was supposed to come here. A great punk band. They are named after The Deaf Club in San Francisco, which was a former well-known punk venue that originally operated as a (social gathering) place for deaf people. It was called The Deaf Club then. Anyway, the band’s name is not offensive or ablelist. It’s a homage to a place that no longer exists. Well, there was an activist who went on social media, accused the band of being ableist and told them they were not welcome in Buffalo. They were actually scheduled to play here. It turned into a thing and, so, the band was like, ‘Fuck you and your city too.’ When something like that happens, the scene here loses. There are so many more important issues and larger problems out there confronting us.
1120: What about in terms of venues?
VT: There’s some great art venues. There’s Chemical #2, Café Oblivion, Timeless Babez, The Lavender Room is a great venue run by the LGBTQ community … There’s definitely a lot more. And we’ve lost places too which is tough. For instance, we lost Show Place, and the Continental, obviously… But yeah, we have these great underground venues. I can’t speak highly enough of Greg at Amy’s Place. They have helped keep the scene alive.
1120: Does there being more venues spawn more bands since there’s more opportunity to play out?
VT: I think it does, but it also spawns competition. For instance, I’ve run into this problem multiple times where I’m putting shows in the calendar and there are eight shows on the same night in a city of 300,000 people for a scene that has maybe 800 people — and that includes some of the Rochester folks who make the trip here, as well as Niagara Falls and surrounding areas. We cannot have eights shows on the same night. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t make sense.
1120: We go and shoot shows, and for example, there was a show we shot the other night. It was promoted for more than a month and still, there was about 12 people there. It was basically bands playing for other bands and a few other people. And still, it was great, because the people who were there wanted to be there. But it can be demoralizing too. How would you characterize the state of the scene in Buffalo?
VT: I know exactly what you mean. I would say the scene is growing. We’re doing something special here. If not, you (1120 Press) wouldn’t be doing what you’re doing, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, Brandon Olesky(pre-eminent photographer of hardcore shows) wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing , Bailey (Simone — Yuga Dharma Press: Buffalo Hardcore; ‘How to Start a Hardcore Band and Please Do..’) wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing … None of us would be doing any of this if there wasn’t something tangible here. You can feel it. Things are starting to shift. And some of it also has to do with what’s going on in the world and what we just went through (during the pandemic.) That sparked a lot of people to get off their asses and do something.
1120: So, then what are the challenges the scene faces?
VT: I would say there’s a promotional issue. There are people who are out for themselves — hence the eight shows in one night. It hurts the scene. It hurts bands. It’s like: ‘Hey, why don’t you take two bands from that bill over there, and two bands from this bill over here, put them together and actually throw a good show — instead of putting on a bunch of shows all over the place on the same night that will only draw 12 people?”
Another issue is there’s a bit of gatekeeping to a degree, where some on the scene make others feel uncomfortable. If the big dogs, so to speak, aren’t familiar with certain people coming to shows then there’s some intimidation sometimes. I’ve had kids tell me they won’t go to certain shows anymore — Skinhead shows, for instance — because they feel intimidated. That’s not right. That’s not cool at all. And I’ve talked to those guys and they’re like, ‘Yeah, we could be a little softer.’ Then do it. Just be nicer to people, because you are losing fans and driving people away from our scene.
And the last thing would be there’s no incorporation of different styles of music on bills. Why would you want to go to a show and hear five bands that all sound the same? There should be more diversity to these shows. Why not have a show where you put two great punk bands on the bill, with a hip-hop group, and maybe a metal band. You’ll bring out more people.
1120: Well then what has to be done to overcome these challenges?
VT: It sounds cliché, but hard work. Hard work on all of our parts, with everybody doing something for the betterment of the scene here as opposed to glamorizing yourself. The scene has to be what matters. For instance, you’re not doing (1120) for yourself. You’re not making money. And I’m not doing this for my ego. But there’s a narcissism out there, and maybe it comes with the social media world we live in, where it’s about ‘look at me.’ Instead of making it about yourself, support others and maybe they’ll support you.
And back to the eight shows on the same night: Why are they doing that? It’s silly. Stop hurting the scene. All you’re doing is driving people away, because guess what: If a handful of people who never go to punk shows decide to go to a show one night and it’s one of those shows where it’s only the bands watching the other bands and there’s no other people: well, they’re never going to another punk show here because they think our scene is dead. And it’s not true, but that’s what can happen if on the off chance they happened to go to the wrong show that night.
Part of the problem is with promoters not getting together. And that’s part of the reason I wanted to do the calendar, so promoters could go to the page and say, ‘hmmm, Aug. 8…there’s four shows that night already, so let’s book ours for Aug. 9.’ These aren’t touring bands. They’re local bands, so just change the date of the show… Check our calendar before you book a show. If you are booking a hardcore show on a night where there’s already two other hardcore shows, well, then, people might not show up.
1120: So, then what steps need to be taken to move the scene forward?
VT: Tearing down some of the walls and stereotypes that exist would help. Let’s make our scene as welcoming and open to everyone as possible. Anyone who is a poison pill, get them out or have somebody sit them down and talk to them. Let’s figure this out. We don’t want anything keeping people from attending shows. We want a scene that is hot and fresh, and that people want to be part of. For instance: Bailey’s ‘How to Start a Hardcore Band and Please Do,’ — EXACTLY! And you know, ‘How to Start a Punk Band and Please Do.’ Do it! We want kids in the scene. We need them.
We need the scene to be as welcoming as possible. The more people we can pull in, the bigger our shows will be, the bigger our scene will be, the bigger our name will be and maybe we can start pulling in bigger names… But they’re never going to come to a city where the best show draws maybe a hundred people, if that. If we can have several hundred people though, all focused on the same end goal, and who are friends with one another, or at least ‘friendly’ with one another, then there’s a chance we can really do something cool and make our city one of the meccas of punk rock.
I’ve also been trying to branch out a little into soul and hip-hop. Some people on the East Side might like what we’re doing with punk and hardcore. I don’t want to look out at a crowd and only see white faces. I want to see Black people at our shows. I want to see Latino people. I want to see people from all different races having a good time from all different sects of the city. Throwing mixed shows is a way to do that; incorporating black hip-hop artists with white hardcore bands, with white punk bands, for instance. I think that’s the way to do it: put a rap artist on some of these punk shows. You can’t tell me none of these people on the scene don’t listen to any rap. Everybody likes a little rap. And we can unite a whole city, just on the grounds of music. I don’t see why that’s such a far-fetched idea. Diversify.
You start getting people together and that’s how new bands start. You bring a rapper in, and he meets a bunch of hardcore people, and they say, ‘Well, shit, let’s have him sing for us!’ Boom. New band, right there. I think that’s the way to do it. That’s how we grow our scene… Let’s bring people together.