How often do you get to neatly wrap up an era? To glorify and simultaneously come to terms with the end a fruitful, memorable period and place with a send off that endures its true spirit? Most things of under-appreciated value seem to suffer ingloriously and fade away, or pass over into darkness suddenly like nightfall.
Death By Audio went out scrapping.
The wacky, vibrant, beer-stained creative dynasty has always had a fighting mentality throughout its seven-year existence in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Fierce mosh pits, bands that played loud and hard, chaotic and confrontational artists that spit and shed blood and writhed half naked on the checkered tile floor, the sweat and funk trapped inside a burning cinderblock shell on the hottest summer nights. It was also inviting and surprisingly egalitarian (the slight air of non-pretentious pretentiousness was shared equally all around the board), and it was an encouraging hub for countless musicians and artists. Not every creative moment was great, or even good, but it was awfully fruitful nonetheless.
What had hundreds of people lining up blocks away for the last show ever at the venue was more than that. These fabricators of culture and taste did something different; they opened their doors to a community of kids and music fans that desperately wanted to be part of something.
These places have always existed and kept an independent torch, but DBA survived under much harsher conditions. The venue’s entire existence took place in the midst of one of the greatest housing, economic, and demographic shifts New York has experienced in recent times. High-rise condos popped up one after another, and major retailers devoured up land, tugging at gravity and warping the space-time continuum of Williamsburg. Yet the DIY space in the un-marked and un-remarkable industrial building off the prized Bedford L subway stop - directly by the rapidly revitalizing waterfront and soon to re-done Domino Sugar Factory - persisted, fighting the immense pull of a super massive black hole.
Absurdly enough, the only institution powerful enough to unhinge it was Vice Media, another locally nurtured business that possibly lost its indie roots while en route to becoming a global media giant now partially owned by Rupert Murdoch. Its like fighting off a deadly, decimating infection only to have your own potent antibodies turn against their host and kill you right where you stand. Despite all the good work they do, Vice is a hard thing to love sometimes.
DBA never had that problem. Even as the venue grew and become more legitimate and perhaps less loose and free – side story: there was a second door for the residents/staff of the space, who were originally all one and the same, and in the beginning it was usually open or could be opened up easily, and the beer was always free if you were friends with a housemate, and you could just hang around the venue and throw knives at the walls if you so pleased with Oliver or George or Mac or Alex or Matt or any other of the crew – it kept its honesty and purity.
On this last night, Grooms and Jeff The Brotherhood, one local and one Nashville band that always seemed to revolve around the space, played first. An obvious nod to loyalty and friendship. As the concert and party further unraveled, the bands got louder and fiercer. A Place To Bury Strangers, the project of DBA co-founder Oliver Ackermann and probably the most well known band to have directly emerged from the DBA scene performed an obligatory set in the place where the group's music was created. Up-ended torsos crowd surfing through smoke and lasers and deafening drones never abated. Lightning Bolt, one of the most bewildering and exciting acts to have graced the DBA stage, and one of the few bands that could out ear-split APTBS, played the final set. It was gorgeous and violent and cleansing, just like the best nights at DBA always were. Punching its way out the door – resilient and obstinate and yet thankful and hopeful - Death By Audio was living through audio - life with a soundtrack.
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