Evan Nicole Brown
Most Saturday nights, if you walk past the wood-paneled facade of Father Knows Best, you’ll likely see a deep wash of purple-blue lights emanating from its depths and hear the alluring hum of local, live music. But on certain Saturday nights—the third one of each month, to be specific—it’d be impossible to not pause and get pulled in.
The collective responsible for some of Father Knows Best’s most electric nights is In Plain Sight, a group of beat makers, producers, and DJs, who come together every month for their residency at the neighborhood hang. The monthly hip-hop party was established in September 2017 by co-founders Omar Jones and Travis Shapiro, and attracts a crowd as dynamic and diverse as the sounds they play.
Before settling in at Father Knows Best, a Bushwick cafe and bar, the party started as a celebration of beat making from Jones’ home, “I played my first beat show in January of 2017 and after that I kind of had this itch to play another one. [So] I started hosting a livestream event at my house called ‘In Plain Sight.’”
Shapiro, a producer and DJ, met Jones when they both worked at Urban Outfitters years prior, and they kept in touch because of their shared interest in music. He already had a pre-existing relationship with Father Knows Best, so after Jones’ livestreaming event (and a subsequent block party) gained traction, they were able to pivot to providing an in-person experience at a consistent venue. Having collaborated together and with other people at Father Knows Best in the past, Jones and Shapiro were able to start In Plain Sight—an extension of the old collective—pretty smoothly.
Every In Plain Sight night is divided into two halves, as Jones explained, “When we got the opportunity to throw a show at Fathers I thought, since they gave us a slot from 8 p.m. to 4 in the morning, why spend the entire time doing just beats when we could flip it and turn it into a party too?”
From 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. the producers put on a live beat show, which allows the audience to experience the power of good instrumentals. During this section, singers and live bands occasionally perform over the finished beats.
“What we’re offering is beat culture, that’s different than what a lot of people have experienced,” Jones said. “And it goes beyond just producers and beat makers, it goes to vocalists and rappers [too].”
The second half of the night is reserved for DJs only; this is when the crowd really starts to build until the space turns into a bona fide party. Part of what helps ease this transition halfway through the night is that many members of the collective play more than one role.
“A lot of producers are DJs too, so our ears are just trained differently,” Jones said of his and his friends’ ability to go from making beats to making the crowd move.
“The whole concept behind Father Knows Best was originally to be a community center for neighbors to be neighbors and creatives to be creatives,” said Christopher Taha, owner of the bar. “It’s so cool that there’s now a place for [Bushwick creatives] to come together and collaborate and share ideas. The whole idea is to create an open space for everyone.”
The team at Father’s practices what they preach: from trivia nights to acapella bands, the space hosts a range of free events for the community throughout the week. “All of our events are always free, we’ll never have an entry fee or a door fee,” Taha says. “We want to be the neighborhood spot that you go to for your morning coffee and your nighttime drink….having to pay an entry fee for your neighborhood bar seems kind of stupid.”
Jones agrees that throwing a free party makes In Plain Sight’s mission more accessible for everyone. Jones and Shapiro make it a point to involve both seasoned artists who have supported them and musicians who are more up-and-coming, so they understand the importance of making attendance “low risk” for people, especially if they’ve never been to a beat show before.
The way In Plain Sight has been able to gain such a diverse following is another feat altogether—one that illustrates the work both the venue and the collective have put into creating a safe space.
“We open the door for people who don’t have opportunities and unfortunately that tends to be marginalized folks, like people of color and queer people,” Jones said. “They’re not able to find the same spaces, and when they do they’re in service of white folks.”
All of In Plain Sight’s residents are people of color, and beat and DJ culture is primarily dominated by people of color too. As a result, their appeal to a diverse demographic is pretty natural.
Every month, you can expect the parties to have a different theme. In March, they’re celebrating Women’s History Month by featuring a female headliner. You can also expect that they’ll always play something you’ve never heard of, but that you’ll want to Shazam to reference later.
“We’re not playing just top 40, we try not to take requests,” Jones says. “[We] try to give our audiences a different journey so they leave with new favorite songs and new artists to look into, otherwise you could just turn on the radio and listen to whatever’s playing and wouldn’t need us.”
All images courtesy of In Plain Sight.