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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.

 

Doomsday Student, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Dan Friel, Bananas on Strings, Pardalince Bird at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

April 08, 2012 By: M*P* Lockwood Category: shows

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .9

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

I caught this awesome, slightly mixed-bill show last Thursday. Doomsday Student, the sorta-resurrected Arab on Radar was the main draw for me and I’ll jump straight to the main takeaway: They’re amazing. But everyone else was great too, so let me start from the beginning.

Bananas on Strings at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

Bananas on Strings at 285 Kent

The first act was billed as Ramble Tamble, which is Turner of Guardian Alien’s project with a drummer, but apparently it expanded to include a whole list of guest stars and became a new band called Bananas on Strings. They went straight for a deep and heavy psychedelic rock, like Acid Mothers Temple minus the rock riffs and any of the quiet parts. The lynchpin here was drummer Adam Autry (of Olneyville Sound System fame) who was able to punch through the thick sound and keep things driving ahead with rolling, off-kilter beats.

Dan Friel at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

Dan Friel at 285 Kent

Then Dan Friel did his thing, which is maximally loud and distorted, but also very melodic and tuneful keyboard music. The rhythms are generally huge, crunching sounds but the lead keyboard lines are usually the type of tunes you could easily whistle while you work. There’s headbanging. 285 Kent’s sound system is booming, but not always really clear, which worked perfectly for Dan Friel.

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .3

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

And then Doomsday Student was up. This band is most of Arab on Radar and a member of the post-Arab on Radar band Chinese Stars. Now, I don’t know the whole back story, nor is it fair to dwell on it, but Arab on Radar reunited, broke up again, and then this band was formed minus one original member. There’s a new name and all-new material, but it’s impossible to ignore that this is essentially the new Arab on Radar. So for those of us who fondly remember that band and their cathartic live performances, the main question is how does Doomsday Student measure up? I am happy to report that they are every bit as great. None of the energy is missing. Here’s some video I took of them. The sound is terrible but the video is good.

The anti-melodic guitars, the looping dance-unfriendly beats, the nasally shrieked vocals (all imitated by almost every No Wavey band since AoR). I want to compliment them on the unified look, something I like in a band. Doomsday Student all wore black t-shirts and pants and matching orange sneakers. A band in uniform says that they’re here to do a job, or perhaps go into battle. I also appreciate the stark light show, all the house lights down and 2 very bright industrial lights on the floor. It makes for great photos. (to see more of the photos I took, go to the Flickr account, starting here.)

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .4

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .7

Doomsday Student at 285 Kent

After Doomsday Student was Ed Schrader’s Music Beat. I’d heard this band mentioned, but hadn’t seen them play before this.

Ed Schrader's Music Beat at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012 .2

Ed Schrader's Music Beat at 285 Kent

I was really impressed by these guys. They had very minimal instrumentation, just a single floor tom and a bass, but they managed to be totally captivating just by having really great, simple songs and a strong performance. Maybe this is what the Violent Femmes would sound like if they formed in Baltimore in the year 2012? Well, these guys seem way more punk, but I’m trying to get you in the ballpark.

Pardalince Bird at 285 Kent, 04-05-2012

Pardalince Bird at 285 Kent

Dan Deacon’s Pardalince Bird project went on last, despite originally being scheduled to go first. There were some lengthy technical difficulties getting all the 4 channels of sound working too. Then as Dan explained, this would have made a lot more sense if it had happened first since it’s really background stuff, steady synth drones with occasional moany vocals. Lots of digital notes floating up and down scales. So scheduling and circumstances conspired to make this a sort of anticlimactic finish, but I’m not going to complain when this many good acts can be put together on one bill.

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.

 

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      Did you miss me? I can’t guarantee this will be a regular thing again, but I got the itch and busted out another one of these podcasts. Some weird stuff in this one. Featuring soundz from Lightning Bolt, Profligate, Xerobot, Moth Cock, Skeleton Warrior, Pod Blotz, Mincemeat or Tenspeed, Mansion, Doomsday Student, Bromp Treb, Form […]
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