You ain't goin' nowhere!" shouts an agitated band member as he blocks the exit doors of the Black Box Collective with a Jeep. For a moment, it seems the two dozen or so kids trapped inside might instigate the smallest riot this town's ever seen, but everyone comes to their senses in no time.

The antagonist is upset that the band who just finished playing seems to have brought most of the crowd to the Black Box Collective, and when that group was finished, so were the kids. It's not in the spirit of this place to ignore the rest of the night's bill, the man with the Big Bird voice says, and his point is taken.

Such is a fairly typical night in this new, nonprofit warehouse venue at 630 W. Central Blvd., which also serves as an art complex (graffiti and otherwise) on the outside. In the few buzz-heavy months it's been open, the volunteer-run "community space," one of four warehouses on artist Robin Van Arsdol's compound, has booked night after night of interesting, even adventurous, punk, hardcore and hip-hop shows, and their future plans are fittingly daring.

"There was this one great quote that read, ‘A punk show is the celebration of punk itself,'" says BBC member Keri Smith. "The celebration is there because there was a lot of work to be done. Eventually, we're going to have a library, and some `volunteers` are trying to get a bike co-op going, too. The shows we have are our celebration for the workshops and community activities."

True to its name, the space itself isn't much more than a box. The lack of air conditioning keeps the after-show musk in the atmosphere long enough to generate its own nostalgia, and no alcohol is allowed inside (though, in true garage-venue form, the parking lot sees some creative rule-bending). But there's enough going on inside the box to embrace the DIY flavor: an array of random pieces of art, a ping-pong court, a broken foosball table, couches, stacks of zines and VHS tapes for trade and, of course, a stage.

"I just went in there one day and started to build," says member Adrien Rierson. "It took me, like, four hours because I was by myself, but that's what volunteering is like. Sometimes you can find people to help and sometimes you just got to do it yourself. That's what `Black Box Collective` is about: not waiting around."

On another night, a crowd of young people gathers for Orlando grindcore group Republicorpse, who announce their set with firecrackers while the frontman runs sideways in the circle pit. A girl at the edge of the fracas, dangling a cigarette, runs into another girl and accidentally stubs out her smoke on the girl's chest. It's another of those BBC moments where harmony stands at the brink of anarchy. The two girls burst into laughter and hug it out. Just ahead of them, a kid in a patch-covered Casualties jean jacket scopes out the scene on a goddamn tricycle.

As any fan of Plato can tell you, a place of peace, art and creativity requires some pretty high standards. The Collective's bar is set accordingly. Drugs and alcohol are, in effect, banned from the space, as is offensive language and racial, gender or sexual intolerance.

"We're not here to tell people how to think or act, but this is a progressive space," says Smith. "If someone calls someone `else` a ‘bitch' or ‘faggot,' we're going to pull them aside."

If these guidelines continue to be followed, what results will be a completely democratic live music system. Local and independent acts from all walks are welcome to play with little more than a polite request sent to the Collective's MySpace account.

"A lot of the bands that book shows here are small bands," says Smith. "They tour with their own money, so it's like this network of kids doing things for themselves and playing shows at places like BBC."

This December, the Collective will host the annual This Is For You music festival, which until now has called Daytona Beach its home, and which showcases punk bands from across the country. They're currently assembling screen-printing, stenciling and art history workshops.

"Some have thrown in the idea of having a garden out back, too," says Rierson. "I'd like to see everybody involved."

More by Daniel Alba


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