How do you get a dozen bands to assemble for your benefit? Well, if you’re Sam Hillmer, you just ask.
“I called in a lot of favors,” said Hillmer, who co-organized the 12-hour benefit at the DIY music venue Death by Audio last Saturday, said. The marathon concert was thrown to raise funds for You Are Here: The Maze, a sculptural maze and performance festival that’s coordinated by Hillmer and sculptor Laura Paris. “A lot of people have fond memories of [You Are Here]. People wanted to see it happen.”
Hillmer and Paris, who dubbed their art collaboration Trouble, had the first You Are Here festival in 2007, at 44th street between Sixth Avenue and Broadway. Paris drew out the floor-plan of the maze, while Hillmer, who plays tenor saxophone for the Zs, booked bands to play in the space and coordinated efforts to bring people inside to interact with the maze.
“It didn’t seem like the kind of thing that could just sit in a gallery, it needs constant traffic,” Hillmer explained. “That is the piece, people dealing with the situation [presented by the maze].”
This year’s festival, scheduled for Spetember 10th through October 2nd, will take up the entire space of Death by Audio and feature a maze constructed out of salvaged doors from Built It Green, a nonprofit organization that sells surplus building materials. The space will also have woodchip-covered floors (“to reference mazes built out of bushes,” Hillmer notes). The twists and turns of the venue will be littered by some 200 of Paris’ sculptures, molded from some of her pieces and then cast repeatedly.
Saturday night’s benefit kicked off at 4 pm with a DJ set from Dave Longstreth, of Dirty Projectors fame, and stretched on into the wee hours of the morning. Performers included Sam Mickens from Dead Science and Charlie Looker of Extra Life, as well as bands like Ninjasonik, Aa (often referred to as “BIG A, little a”), and Knife Hyts.
Musicians were stationed at both the back and front rooms of Death by Audio, with DJs spinning between sets.
Many of the benefit musicians, like Charlie Looker and Dave Longstreth, had played in the first incarnation of You Are Here, and others, like Nine 11 Thesaurus and Dome Theater, are slated to play within the Death By Audio maze once it opens this fall. Calvin Johnson, the founder of K records, will stage his particular brand of twee pop at the festival, too.
The event finished far into Sunday morning, with Hillmer himself playing the last set at 3:30 am. The money collected from the benefit will be used to pay a team of set builders to build the maze, though volunteers and friends get involved to paint the doors and transport materials. Hillmer plans to finish it all in a little less than a week, and then open the festival for 21 days every night from 8 pm onwards.
“It’s a pretty involved affair. It’s kind of insane.” Hillmer laughs, admitting, “it’s a long way to go to get to a vibe.”