Music News

Astroland founder Zack Roif on getting robbed and rescued in the space of a weekend

During last Friday's Larians show at Astroland in Boulder, someone stole well over $700 in cash from the venue. The space needed $850 for February's already overdue rent, and donations were solicited on Facebook. By Monday, $1,000 had come in from 25 donors. We talked to founder Zack Roif, a senior at CU, about the robbery, the donations and what will become of Astroland when he graduates.

The episode serves to demonstrate the pervading ethos of these sorts of DIY spaces: They are more-or-less constantly at the mercy of the community they serve. The idea there is that's better than being at the mercy of a corporation or some other unseen institutional power.

Westword: Were you surprised at how quickly the donations came in?

Zack Roif: Yeah, definitely, I was really impressed with how responsive people were. We had a few hundred dollars within only an hour or so. I remember waking up the next morning to around $500 and feeling really good about the whole situation.

I know it can be a pretty thankless thing to run a space like this -- was this week's outpouring of support in some way vindicating?

Actually, it's extremely rewarding. Fairly often, people acknowledge the importance of the space and talk about how much it means to them in an area that is pretty much devoid of a independant art and music scene.

What was the show like on Friday when the cashbox was stolen?

The show was going really well. We had a pretty full house and an extremely respectful crowd. There were actually quite a few people I had never seen before who seemed really psyched about the space.

Eight or so months in, what has running your own DIY space been like? Have your goals/expectations changed in any way since you started?

We're actually just over a year in now! Running the space has been an incredible experience that is truly incomparable to any other endeavor I have been involved in. Since Astroland is a DIY space, not only do we get to book shows, but we also have to learn how to mike bands, run sound, promote shows, design posters, maintain a website, etc. It's an involved process that is definitely tricky to get the hang of, but it's also an extremely valuable experience that you can't really get anywhere else.

As for our goals and expectations, we've always been striving to exist as a creative, community-driven space that focuses on connecting people and providing an outlet for the lesser-known -- yet equally, if not more talented -- musicians and artitsts. Astroland has always wanted to throw affordable shows and create and develop a new scene within Boulder where like-minded creative people could come to network and be themselves.

Most of all, we want people to perceive us as a welcoming cultural entity, and I think the whole robbery situation has really affirmed our goals as a DIY space. We've seen just how much the space means to so many people, and why.

Who were the donors? Was it bands that have played at Astroland, or people who go to the shows, or people who sort of support what you're doing more generally?

The donors consisted mainly of people I do not even know personally, which still amazes me, and then we had a few donations from friends, people who used to play a pretty significant role in Astroland. It was the people who attend our shows regularly, who understand the importance of this kind of space in a community, that really kept us alive and feeling good about what we do.

What's going to happen to the space once you graduate? Do you plan to stay in Boulder or hand off the reins?

Initially, the plan was to move into a bigger space, where we could obtain a liquor license and all that, but unfortunately, Boulder is just too expensive to realistically be able to make that kind of move. I know for sure that after I graduate, Astroland will live on, and we will definitely be handing over the reins. I think it's going to be a lot of fun teaching other people how the space is run, and showing them that it's really not as hard as it may seem. I would also encourage people to do more within the community and get more house shows and spaces alike up and running as well.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Kiernan Maletsky is Westword's music editor. His writing has appeared in alt-weeklies around the country as well as Miley Cyrus's mom's Twitter feed.
Contact: Kiernan Maletsky