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Some reasons Death By Audio was probably the best NYC venue ever

November 13, 2014 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: news

I’ll let you count the reasons yourself. But I’m serious. Death By Audio may be the best music venue that New York City has ever had. Sadly, the beloved DIY-style Brooklyn space is closing up at the end of November due to Vice taking over the entire block (Glasslands is also out) but it has had an amazing run.

My claim might seem like exaggeration. Certainly NYC has had a number of legendary music venues. There are probably some which can boast a more impressive list of legendary bands they’ve hosted (though DBA is no slouch on that front). But great bands are only a part of what makes a venue ITSELF great. The comments are open for any debate, but before formulating any argument, consider the following questions:

  • Were the people who worked at the venue NICE?
  • Were the bands always treated and paid fairly?
  • Was the sound always great?
  • Could you buy a drink for cheap?
  • Did you feel safe and welcome there?
  • Did shows start and end (mostly) on time?
  • Would you get a response when you tried to book a show there?
  • Did they give weird noise bands a shot?
  • Would they book a band because they’re nice people and make great music even if they don’t have big “draw”?
  • Was every show a bill where the bands had something in common and you’d want to see them all?
  • Could bands run through the crowd or smash instruments without being kicked out or security intervening?

At Death by Audio the answer to every one of these was YES, and that’s not the end of my list. Unlike some similar DIY spaces, Death By Audio has been entirely music-focused with a dedicated room for bands to play in, of the perfect small-but-not-tiny size, with a stage (which bands can play on or not). Bands don’t have to worry about knocking an art installation off the walls or breaking the residents’ dishes. (I love those sorts of spaces too, but am still counting this as a plus.) Tireless booker and sound-guy Edan has always been incredibly easy to work with. He also happens to be my personal favorite between-band DJ. (At most shows I’ve been to he just puts on a Sightings album. Seriously, how could you do better?)

So, are there still any other contenders for NYC’s best music venue?

I’ll concede one negative: no outside space for smokers. There’s also no back stage or “green room” but seriously what kind of rock stars need that? So thank you Death By Audio for showing us a better way and let us hope more venues will follow in your footsteps. (There are some others carving out a legacy: Silent Barn, Shea Stadium, more) There are still some more shows coming up, most listed as “Special Guest” or “Top Secret” and which are guaranteed to be something great, so you should probably see as many as you can.

I’ve collected some of my favorite photos taken in recent years at Death by Audio HERE.

 

Tom Smith and Sightings, Fat Worm of Error, Child Abuse, Don Fleming at Death by Audio 01-04-2012

January 10, 2012 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .9

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio

I showed up to this show and the place was, surprisingly to me, already full. Sometimes shows that are can’t-miss line-ups of legends in my mind have single-digit attendance so I’m not really able to predict these things. But I was happy to see that these bands are apparently not just legends to me.

I completely missed the first act, which was Tom Smith and Don Fleming playing together. Don Fleming is a longtime NYC avant-rocker and Tom Smith is best known as the central figure from the post-music band To Live And Shave In L.A. Tom currently resides in Germany and was briefly in the states around the holidays, playing a few select shows. So I’m sad to have missed their performance.

The second band, Child Abuse, was going on. No photos, I was in the back of the room and they wouldn’t have been good anyway. Child Abuse are a bass drums keyboard trio who play metally brutal prog. Very technical, very tight, but with very messy and grungy sounds. It’s funny actually, most of the time the keyboard sounds like a distorted bass and the bass (run through some synth pedals I’m guessing) sounds like a keyboard. They were as great as ever.

Then the anti-rock, max-confusion band Fat Worm of Error was up!

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .1

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio

Notice how it’s not even clear what’s going on in this photo? That’s how they sound, but much moreso. Of course 5 people just noodling and doing separate things would be pretty boring. Okay, maybe I’d think that was pretty cool too, but what makes Fat Worm really mind-bending is the way they have a plan and they’ve really honed their own style of playing – in a way that sounds like chaos at almost every moment. Until both guitarists suddenly play the same sequence of notes exactly together and your brain twists 360 degrees in your head in an attempt to figure out what just happened. More Fat Worm photos:

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .4

Fat Worm of Error after one of a few costume changes

Fat Worm of Error at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .3

Fat Worm of Error, feeling it at Death by Audio

I spent a little time chatting in the back room and realized this was almost like a reunion (to me) of people from a show waaay back – at the Polish National Home, now known as the Club Warsaw. Maybe I’ll write all my recollections from that show someday, but it’s where I first met lots of the people playing or in the audience. Anyway, with all these long-time friends and acquaintances in attendance, there was definitely a very friendly and supportive vibe going on. You could tell from all the chatting and joking and cheers, but also from the huge smile on Tom’s face between songs.

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .4

Tom Smith with Sightings at Death by Audio

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .2

Mark Morgan's guitar moves

Sightings were doing their thing, sounding as focused (yet blurred) as ever. I was told there was exactly one practice for this show but it would have been hard to guess they hadn’t been playing this set for a month on tour. Everyone seemed 100% in command, holding back or cutting loose exactly when needed with no nervous or puzzled glances. It’s a pretty perfect pairing too, Sightings and Tom Smith, as they both work in a similar mode: composed but loose, planned but spontaneous. Sightings works with sound shards and Tom works with words, both of them stretching their material to the breaking point.

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .3

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .7

Mark Morgan of Sightings, bending spacetime

Sightings w Tom Smith at Death by Audio 01-04-2012 .10

Sightings w Tom Smith (and Pat Murano!)

Oh yeah, this fellow named Pat Murano also played with these guys. You can see him lurking behind that synth in the photo above. I can’t say too much about his playing, which is probably a good thing because it means it blended right into the Sightings vibe.

The set was short but satisfying. Definitely worth catching, but if you missed it some people seemed to be videotaping and recording so hopefully that will turn up online soon. Great show all around!

Even more photos over at the NO-CORE Flickr.

 

Rat Bastard, humanbeast, AIDS Wolf, Shawn Greenlee, Diamond Black Heart, DubKnowDub at Death by Audio 01/15/11

January 24, 2011 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

HumanBeast at Death by Audio

HumanBeast at Death by Audio

Phew! Some kind of line-up, right? This is going to be the Brooklyn show to top in 2011. And there were lots of big cameras popping off everywhere, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this event has already shown up on a bunch of other music blogs. But hey, I was there, I took pictures, it was awesome, I may as well put my show review out into the virtual world too.

dubknowdub – live at zebulon

So first of all, I missed DubKnowDub, but they’re great. I know the show had 6 bands on the bill, but this being Brooklyn, I still didn’t believe the show would actually start before 9PM. So as a consolation, hit play on the above track and let it be your soundtrack to No-Core browsing. (Music starts about the 1:45 mark.) I don’t know who DubKnowDub are exactly, but they get on lots of great shows somehow and they’re tons of fun. Yup, it’s kinda dub, and also kinda noise. Great live. Don’t make my mistake next time!

Diamond Black Hearted Boy at Death by Audio

Diamond Black Hearted Boy at Death by Audio

I did get there in time to catch Diamond Black Hearted Boy, a guy I’ve met before though I didn’t mentally piece together that it was the same person until I talked to him at the show! DBHB comes from the same Richmond freak scene that Narwhalz and Shams do and performance-wise you can tell he’s on the same page. Live, it’s kinda confrontational (for anyone who’s not into it) or just good fun if you are into it. Lots of goofy genre tags have been slapped on him, but honestly, I’d say his music is sort of proto-industrial. Claustrophobic, pushed-too-far-into-the-red samples and loops, usually rhythmic, sometimes with actual beats. Tonight DBHB also made ample use of a piercing whistle blown straight into the microphone which sounded pretty awesome (maybe a little tiresome after a while though) like it was hitting the resonant frequency of your eardrums.

Shawn Greenlee at Death by Audio

Shawn Greenlee at Death by Audio

Shawn Greenlee’s performance was really fantastic. He used some kind of camera to scan from a handmade book, and then what must have been custom software to turn the images into noise. Then there was a weird spinning disk, and he’d use the trackpad kind of like a Kaossilator, and… well, just watch him do his thing here. That’s my best guess as to what was going on. It sounded super-sweet too, better than it came out in this video. I was captivated.

And then, humanbeast. This was SO GOOD.

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 3

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 3

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 2

HumanBeast at Death by Audio 2

Last year at the International Noise Conference in Miami, I, like any mortal person, had to take a break and miss some of the acts. When I got back and asked people what I missed, everyone kept saying “Humanbeast! Humanbeast!” (I’m using the no-space spelling that appears on the tape I got) – so I was excited to finally see these guys. They did not disappoint! Their music was absolutely gorgeous, while at the same time being really dirty and messed up – which was also sort of how their performance played out – and how the theme of their lyrics go – taken together it’s cohesive, deadly effective, and totally entrancing. Amazing music meets amazing noise. Again, I couldn’t really capture the sound in full, but here’s my video of them playing “Come Through the Cloth.” I just watched it again and got chills at the point where she sings at the top of her lungs without the microphone.

Rat Bastard & Co at Death by Audio 2

I don't know if all those expensive cameras are safe there...

And then Rat Bastard of INC and Laundryroom Squelchers fame took to the stage, with his guitar with only 4 strings and 4 tuning pegs remaining. He was joined by Roger of Monotract fame and another guy who I probably should know but don’t, both on guitars. This was basically a performance following the Laundryroom Squelchers M.O. – a terrific squall that sounds at first like sheer white noise. The infamous Nondor Nevai made his trademark after-the-band-has-started appearance and took over vocals, striking poses but largely inaudible over the din. The thing about these Rat performances is that the beginning always seems just like random loud noodling, but if you’re willing to keep listening it starts to take shape and details come out at you. And these guys must have been listening to one another, because somehow they all knew when it was done around the same time.

AIDS Wolf at Death by Audio

AIDS Wolf at Death by Audio

AIDS Wolf went on last, and this was the first time I’ve seen their new(ish) 3-person line-up. (and Chloe’s new glasses!) Losing a guitarist has certainly not diminished the volume or chaos of AIDS Wolf live. In fact, I think I like the new sound even better. The band members really seem to be working toward some sort of Harry-Pussy-like psychic communication music that relies on feeling and intuition more than counting beats. They also introduced some sampled sounds and vocal effects which broadened the sound pallet. At least, I think that was an effect and not just a technical difficulty – but you know what? I really enjoy it when a band can make me wonder what’s intentional and what’s not. Living at the edge of chaos. I was also happy to see that the musical chaos inspired some physical chaos in the crowd. It looks like people are just standing around in the above photo, but there was some serious mosh action happening.

In closing: Awesome show. Good people, good times, great sounds. Show ran on time?!?! (props to Edan) Amazing. I went home feeling reinvigorated about music in general.

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