The start of a monthly meeting at Badlands is a little bit like picking teams for gym class.
Westin Czerkies stands with a dry-erase marker in front of a calendar of upcoming events the new arts venue has booked. Beside the dates of the most anticipated shows, volunteers have already scribbled their names to work the events, taking money at the door or manning the merchandise table. Now Czerkies reads the dates and lineups of each of the leftover shows, the events no one is particularly excited about, and waits.
There is some back-and-forth, all of the "I'll have to checks" and "I think I cans" to be expected for a volunteer-run non-profit. But the process takes all of 10 minutes, and the group moves on to other agenda items: finding fans to cool the space in the summer, stocking the mini-fridge with cold drinks, expanding the zine library and building a bigger shelf to display for-sale records.
It's been a little more than six months since Badlands, a tiny music and arts collective at 1007 E. Fayette St., hosted its first event, an all-vegan Thanksgiving potluck dinner and fundraiser.
Since then, Badlands has set the stage for upwards of 30 of happenings, mostly hardcore, punk and indie shows, maintaining a strict all-ages show policy, (which means no booze or other "druggery," as one member puts it), and aims to provide a cheap, reliable and safe space for performances of all kinds.
Located in the same building as SU's student-run Spark Art Space, Badlands is the sort of place you probably can't find unless you already know it's there.
(Oh, that's also on the agenda for the monthly meeting: signage.)
But to hear the founders and members talk about why and how Badlands came to be, the venue seems to be filling a niche so long lacking that one begins to wonder, what took so long?