Stop by Ortlieb’s Lounge in Northern Liberties and chances are you’ll see Kyle Costill running around like crazy, doing a dozen different things at once. He serves drinks, assists the staff, works with bands and DJs and generally makes sure everyone is having a good time.
“If I work non-stop, I can make it successful,” says Costill, the bar’s manager, referring to his life’s mantra.
Costill, 32, has been hanging out at bars since he was 14-years old. The Blackwood, New Jersey native booked concerts at the old Pontiac Grille on South Street long before he was allowed to drink. While in high school, he and his friend David Kain started a few bands, eventually finding success with their project Trouble Everyday.
Their debut album in 2004, Days vs. Nights, was really well-received and they rode the post-punk revival wave around the world, opening for bands like Franz Ferdinand and The Killers.
“We had some crazy times,” says Kain. “It’s funny to think about a night in London after a show when he jumped behind the bar with our guitar player and started pouring drinks. Who knew?”
They always returned home where they had families and regular jobs, both of which ultimately won over touring with the band. Costill did graphic design. Then the economy crashed and the job market soured and Costill found himself back in a bar—Lucy’s Hat Shop in Old City, where he bussed tables.
One day, while sitting in his Oaklyn, NJ home, he had an epiphany.
“I just started looking at the backyard and I wanted to do something,” he recalls.
He contacted Kain, who has a background in video, and they decided to invite bands to Costill’s home for outdoor performances that would be turned into music videos. In August 2011, Bands in the Backyard (BITBY) was born, a community-building website that provides exposure to local bands.
At the time, there weren’t a lot of people creating videos of local acts and their website quickly became popular. Seemingly overnight, BITBY was ubiquitous.
When the owners of Lucy’s—Four Corners Management—took over Ortlieb’s in August 2012, Costill and Kain began running BITBY shows there. Their energy and connections helped revive the club that had been internationally revered as a jazz hall but was closed for more than two years. This year, Costill parlayed his years of hard work into the manager position.
“I feel like the pairing of him and Ortlieb’s has been mutually beneficial,” says Kain. “He’s been pumping new life into that place constantly with great bands and events, and the job’s been giving him the structure and fulfillment he’s needed. Plus it sets up a great home base for all things BITBY.”
BITBY continues to promote shows, usually with local rock acts, but every night at the club is different—some days, there is hip-hop or punk, others folk or experimental. They continue to offer jazz every Tuesday.
“I want everyone to feel comfortable,” Costill says. “Our music and beer capture that.”