By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
By Michele Eve Sandberg
By Abel Folgar
By Ashley Zimmerman
By New Times Staff
By Abel Folgar
By Laurie Charles
The Talent Farm in Pembroke Pines has unexpectedly been forced to close its doors following a dispute with a neighboring business. The all-ages venue, initially built by owner/operator Kevin Burns as a state-of-the-art recording and rehearsal studio with a larger room for showcase performances, has hosted shows for nearly a decade, providing a proving ground for young bands and playing an integral role in keeping South Florida's hardcore-punk scene thriving.
To break the proverbial fourth wall, I have performed and seen shows at the Talent Farm since it opened its doors and can personally attest to what an absolutely selfless class act Burns has been over the years. An all-ages venue in the middle of a warehouse district in the swamps of Pembroke Pines never made for an easy business model — particularly when housing the sort of violent shows that had become Burns' bread and butter — yet he always fought through the lean times to provide a safe and welcoming home for a community that really had nowhere else to go.
Burns is the sort of guy you don't often encounter in this industry and has displayed a sort of generosity that simply cannot be overstated. At the Talent Farm, touring bands always got paid decently. Locals always got paid if there was anything left after the touring bands were taken care of. Bands on the road were always provided a warm meal and a DVD recording of their set. If a band couldn't find a place to stay the night, Burns would frequently let them sleep in the venue (which had rehearsal rooms with couches and a clean bathroom). Kevin Burns quite literally allowed some of us to move into the Talent Farm for periods of time when we could not find our own accommodations.
These things may sound paltry to the uninitiated, but anyone who has spent any time on the road in a hardcore band or performing in one around town will tell you that Burns made the sort of sacrifices over the years, financial and otherwise, that should qualify him for a local sainthood of some sort.
While we're sad to see the place close its doors so abruptly and pointlessly, we remind you (as we have with the recent change of the guard at Churchill's Pub) that you cannot kill a community or an idea, and while the Talent Farm will now live on solely in fond memories and YouTube videos, the area's music community will certainly survive. We spoke with Burns for the full scoop on the situation and his future plans.
New Times: The news of you closing the Talent Farm's doors is most unexpected! The rumor I've been hearing is a neighboring business owner put you in bad standing with the landlord. What happened?
Kevin Burns: Well, it's been cumulative over the years. Lately, people have been out in the parking lot — mostly everybody has been just hanging, not doing anything wrong.
So he just complained to the landlord or the city about people in the lot?
Basically, yeah. The landlord can't cover my back anymore because he put the landlord in a situation that made him aware that my maximum occupancy is being circumvented. The landlord had to cover his ass, you know?
It's been almost a decade of shows at the Talent Farm, yeah?
It's been nine years!
I remember playing some of the first couple of shows you put on when you first opened the place, and I know you've had some hard times over the years keeping the lights on and the ride hasn't been easy, but it has to be difficult to leave something you built with your own hands behind.
Oh yeah! No doubt about it. There's plenty of memories; there's plenty of kids who literally grew up here.
Has the place had an easier time financially as of late? It seemed to be on the upswing from the outside looking in.
Yeah! I was finally able to pay my rent on time, my electric on time — still never took a salary — but I was able to keep the place going without worrying about how I'm going to do this or that or the other thing. Shit was really happening! And I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a freight train!
What's next for you? Are you going to look for a new location?
I'm already looking for new locations. I have a couple of people interested in doing business with me, but that's kind of at arm's distance, because I just can't be in business with somebody I don't know necessarily as a partnership to open a new venue.
I don't have the money to open a new venue, but if I find the right partner and I find the right place, I'm opening a new venue. And I'm going to do it right, and it's going to be a 300-cap venue, and I'm not going to have to look over my shoulder or worry about some douchebag that comes in and doesn't care about anybody but himself.
With Churchill's spiritually dying at the same time, have you ever considered doing something with a bar or something a little less strapped to the all-ages concept?
I'm open to anything at this point. It's just that I'm so busy trying to get the fuck out of here that I can't even communicate with people. I have so much shit in here that I have to organize and get rid of. The thing I want to do most is maintain this live internet thing, because I still think it's got potential because it's what put me on the map. And I really want to use this as a business model to launch franchises because I still believe in my heart that this would be a very cool franchise for somebody to open.
I would like to think that I could do all-ages, but that probably won't pay the bills, so it would be a combination of the both. Maybe just do an all-ages thing and have my bigger shows somewhere else. To tell you the truth, I really don't know what the fuck I'm doing. I really gotta just step back for a few weeks and clear my head of all the emotion and things that I want to do and figure out what's best for me as a person.
I know there's a long list of collaborators that helped make the Talent Farm remain viable over the years...
You know, John McHale... I would've been done a long time ago if it wasn't for John. I've got Veronica guarding the door and Lucas... You know I finally got a good fuckin' crew, where I could stay home every once in a while and know that the show was running on time and things were good, and this shit happens!
You know I'm going to shout-out John because he's just a beast. But especially all of the people that came here and didn't fuck up the place in one way or another by drinking in the parking lot or doing stupid shit in the venue, because that's 99 percent of the people. It's that 1 percent that fucked it up for everybody.
You once told me that after you sold your business, you were planning on either building the Talent Farm or buying a Ferrari. With all that has transpired, the multiple generations of bands, so many notable shows, and such an unpleasant end, are you happy with your decision?
Yeah. Oh yeah! Absolutely. You know what, a Ferrari is a piece of meaningless nothing that expresses your wealth and your ego. I feel that I've done more here as a human being for other people — I mean, I'm no saint, and I didn't do it to try to be a saint — but just reading what people have sent me, shit was pretty cool!