An ongoing account of what the space—and more importantly, the people—meant to Brooklyn.
In the Brooklyn of 2014 it’s easy to fall into one of two camps: those who lament the Good Old Days, and those who are capitalizing on its corpse. But for the last seven years, Death By Audio has remained a constant for those of us in the middle. A working man’s cathedral led by its fearless Pope, Edan Wilber, DBA has been a sanctuary for the true independent spirit. Without breaking a $10 bill, you could watch aspiring acts like Parquet Courts and Ty Segall open for bands like Thee Oh Sees and Future Islands. It’s where Double Dagger called it quits, and hundreds of others got their start. It would be unfair to compare it to the countless venues that have come before it, and those that will come after, but it’s safe to say Death By Audio will long be remembered, because it created so many memories for so many people.
In the spirit of reminiscing, we’ve asked as many of those people we could to give a few personal words about what DBA meant to them and their music-watching experiences. And while we received upwards of 50 submissions, there is one theme that rings true throughout all of these testimonials: inclusion. Death By Audio was a place where weirdos, outsiders, and artists felt at home. There’s no better realization for those who have been searching for acceptance than to simply feel welcomed. And that is what Edan, Matt Conboy, and everyone who ever worked, lived, performed, or put on shows at DBA did on a nightly basis.
Death by Audio also holds a special place in Impose’s heart, as its trajectory almost mirrors our own. Some of our very first show photos were taken inside the then-bare walls, and you can rest assured we will be there until the very end. An end no one here wanted to see, but one we knew we had to commemorate in a way that would stand out above our normal featured content.
The following essays are displayed in alphabetical order (with Edan’s at the end), and the photos in chronological order, allowing you a glimpse inside Death By Audio’s walls “through the years.” We will also continue adding testimonials as they come in, up until DBA’s final show on Saturday, November 22. If you would like to contribute, please e-mail the editors. (Everything past Edan’s are the newly-added testimonials.)
There are very few words to describe the loss of an institution, a building that has held a community together. This is not a death, it is not a catastrophic occasion, it is simply something we will all dearly miss. Goodbye Death By Audio.
—Derek Evers, founder of Impose
I know DBA is more than just Edan, but as the front man, point man, and all-around man, he was simply admirable. No one does it all like that and maintains a joyful spirit. And by “all” I mean books bands, does sound, pays people, everything. And for seven years! Thank you Edan and the DBA crew for making all us weirdos feel wanted.
—Andrya Ambro / Gold Dime, Talk Normal
Death By Audio has been such a great place that had kept me in touch with New York since I don’t really get the chance to most of the time. I am a poor artist who makes around $20,000 a year and has to work around 15 hours a day, seven days a week to make this money. So living in NY is sort of hell for me. But that is OK, I like hell and I like a challenge. So living at Death By Audio has been such an amazing time and made it a place where I get forced by my piers to experience culture.
In 2005 the first shows we had here were so we could pay for building materials to build rooms where we could live. I think it was Knife Skills and Vaz if I remember correctly and they played on our empty warehouse floor. After we built the second floor we were in pretty full swing of having bands play up until CMJ of that year when the place was picked by some assholes as the place to be at CMJ for an aptbs show. The landlords got wind of it and locked the back doors which went on to the roof so the 400+ people that showed up had to cram into a 200 person space of stink and filth. I remember some guy tapping me on the shoulder and saying, “Look, if you don’t want to wait for the bathroom you can just pee in the hall.” Later the space in the front was available and taken by good friends to make the whole floor a community, and eventually, part of it a venue.
It has been such a saving grace in my life to see such insane and inspiring shows while taking breaks from working.
—Oliver Ackermann / A Place To Bury Strangers
I remember some guy tapping me on the shoulder and saying, ‘Look, if you don’t want to wait for the bathroom you can just pee in the hall.’
DBA is a killer example of why DIY done right is just better than corporate culture operations: DBA got more ‘professional’ amenities and booked more high-profile acts every year, but over thousands of shows Edan (and his collaborators) have never let a single shitty band on stage as far as I can tell, and have never lost sight of the character of their project.
Beyond being a DIY space it was just straight up the best place to see live music in New York; awesome curation, great sound, wide-open sightlines, perfect layout (the semi-separate bar area in the back is ideal for both performers and audience), chill door situation. . . Everything about the DBA experience is done with a lot of pride and attention to all the right details in a way that might not seem inherently “DIY” except for the fact that a corporate-run, profit-oriented venue would never be able to nail the right vibe so fucking hard and relentlessly for seven years.
On a more personal note, I don’t know if it was the community-fostering vibes of DBA’s DIY ethic or just the general good times of the mid-to-late aughts in Brooklyn, but DBA was kinda like Cheers to me for awhile, a place I could go by myself to see a show and know that I’d see Edan at the mixing board, Gavin at the bar, and various friends in the crowd and/or on stage. Especially after I moved to Los Angeles more or less full-time in 2011, going to shows at DBA felt like coming home, probably more than anywhere else in the city. There are still tons of great music venues in New York and there probably always will be, but I don’t know if I’ll ever have a connection to a spot like that again, and I’m gonna fucking miss it like hell.
Like Cheers and reality, DBA has been the scene of lots of great times, a few bad times, and a “fuckton” of really “normal” times in my life, but in the spirit of seriously mourning the loss of a beautiful thing in the world I wanted to post a vid of Seaven Teares covering “The World Spins” from Twin Peaks at DBA at our record release show in January, which I’m pretty sure is the only time I found myself straight up crying at a show there.
This shit wrecked me emotionally at the time and it’s really resonating again today thinking about DBA on some legit “best years of our lives” shit. For awhile, me and all my dumb friends roamed around an industrial waterfront in the shadow of one of the richest cities in the world, free and heavy as the music itself. It seems crazy now, but for awhile it really felt like we belonged there, like we owned the place—and we did, for longer than we probably ever could have expected.
—John Atkinson / Aa
For awhile, me and all my dumb friends roamed around an industrial waterfront in the shadow of one of the richest cities in the world, free and heavy as the music itself.
Between 2008-2011 I shot many, many shows at Death By Audio for Impose. I never actually met Edan, but I like to think that if he saw me standing around with a camera somewhere he’d recognize my face. I would perch in the front left corner, right next to the sound equipment because you were kind of protected since no one was going to crash into the board and ruin the show, but could still get amazing audience reaction shots. And audiences at Death By Audio shows were always up for a fucking great night out, which always made for great pictures. The best show I ever saw there was a Double Dagger show. It was a crazy show—lots of dancing and elbows being thrown. Nolen Strals started lecturing about punk rock at some point, and he said “If your band sounds like another band, break up your band.” Kind of an impossible directive, but Christ, he’s so right. We should all be trying as hard as we can to make something new, to find something new—in our music, our writing, the way we live our lives. And I think that this attitude really embodies what Death By Audio means. It was something so new, started in a desert of warehouses, it gave shitty teenagers from New Jersey like myself someplace to go where they felt like they were always welcome. And I’m sad that it’s closing down, but it also feels appropriate. It doesn’t belong next to those fancy condos and bars. Death By Audio was so needed, the mainstay in the scene, and will always represent my platonic ideal of a DIY venue. Death By Audio never sounded like any other band.
—Madalyn Baldanzi / Impose Photo Editor 2008-2011
Death By Audio, we will miss you. When first stepping into the then-white walled space on S. 2nd Street in November of 2007 to see The Death Set, Marnie Stern and Ex-Models, I had no idea it would become such an integral and, well, really fucking fun part of the next seven years of my life. From that first night when I nearly went through the wrong door on stage, to raucous shows from everyone from Team Robespierre, Ninjasonik, the reunited feedtime to Priests, Diarrhea Planet and Screaming Females, DBA has always given an outlet to touring bands and people of all walks of life. Also, who can forget the sloppy ice cream cake incident from Shell of Shellshag’s birthday and the camaraderie of everyone during the DIY basketball tournaments? Thanks for all the great years, guys. We can’t wait to see what’s coming next.
—Rafe Baron / Photographer
DBA was our favorite place to play in Brooklyn. Whenever we asked for a show, Edan would be into it. Edan is THE MAN. An awesome memory was the Comedy and Music show we put together with Chris Gethard, Adam Newman, Shellshag and Swearin’. Also those drink stones were really cool. Thanks for being amazing. We’ll miss playing there a lot.
I’m sad that it’s closing down, but it also feels appropriate. It doesn’t belong next to those fancy condos and bars.
The thing I’m going to miss most about Death By Audio is those little jewel/stone things they gave out for drink tickets and that they let us smoke there.
No, seriously, like many others, Death By Audio has been very important to me over the years. Nearly every band I’ve played in (Roomrunner, Future Islands, Double Dagger, Yukon) has played at Death By Audio. One of my first bands, Yukon, played there when it was extremely difficult for us to get shows, especially in New York. It was 2007 and not many people really cared about, uh, math-rock bands at that time, but Edan welcomed us there even though Sam (who would later play in Roomrunner with me) had to have been like 17 at the time. Sam always recalls this show as visualizing DBA as this huge cavernous place. The walls were completely white at the time (pre-Edan mural). Even though we were a pretty small band, Edan would hold his loyalty to us over the years, in a way; last year when another band named Yukon was playing DBA, Edan had told me that he told this new band that they needed to change their name.
Double Dagger also played DBA many, many times. Edan often had us on board for his “anti-CMJ” shows, which was awesome for us, since a show like that fell directly in line with Double Dagger’s anti-industry ethics. We often played shows with bands that didn’t sound exactly like us. I loved that sort of approach. When shows get so homogenized, everything gets a little stale and boring. You can’t put more peanut butter on a peanut butter sandwich without it becoming cumbersome to eat and probably choking you. Edan and DBA seemed to understand that. The shows we played got better and better over the years. So much so that when we were planning our final tour in 2011, we knew we had to make it special and playing DBA as part of our last tour was no question. The show, with AIDS Wolf and Zomes, was one of my favorite shows I’ve ever played at DBA and also in my lifetime. Not only was it with two bands I loved, but the show was just fucking mental by the time we played. So much goddamn stage diving! Edan then jumped in the van with us to come down to Baltimore where we played our last show. This meant a whole lot to me; it felt good that someone like him had our backs until the very end.
After the death of Double Dagger, I formed Roomrunner. It was a no-brainer to hit up Edan for a place to play in New York after we started playing shows, and he helped us out, no questions asked. It felt comfortable, even as a new band, to play DBA often, and he would pair us up with bands that we became friends with. When we got asked to play shows at bigger venues for some goofy reason for a short period of time, it just seemed weird. We were a band that was supposed to be playing DBA and not the Bowery Ballroom. But Edan always had us back at DBA whenever we wanted to come through town, and I always appreciated his no-bullshit approach to things.
I never really got a chance to just go to shows at DBA since I live in Baltimore, but on one certain occasion I went to see Black Pus and that was really cool, but the highlight for me came after the show. I didn’t have a place to stay so Edan invited me stay over, eat burgers and watch TV. That was really rad of him, and I was going through a rough patch at the time.
I’m going to miss DBA immensely. I’ve never had a “bad” show at DBA, but plenty of “bad” shows in New York. I hope another place can really step up to the bar DBA has set. Nothing against other small spaces in Brooklyn, but Death By Audio was really a special place that felt like everyone there always supported whatever you brought their way. Everyone who worked there was always so nice and welcoming. It felt like a bit of the spirit of the DIY and warehouse spaces in Baltimore that we cherished so hard was embodied in a place like DBA, which will definitely go down as a legendary spot, as it deserves to.
—Dennis Bowen / Roomrunner, Double Dagger
We were a band that was supposed to be playing DBA and not the Bowery Ballroom.
Initially, I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this virtual tombstone for what is one of my all-time favorite showspaces over several decades of seeing underground music. Do I write about how fun it has been to watch Death By Audio evolve and expand, yet never lose its scrappy charm? Do I detail the staff, who are all cool folks doing their thing and giving it their all? Do I praise Edan as the easiest person I’ve ever had to deal with in over a decade of booking and running shows?
Even though I had seen Edan hustling behind the scenes at Todd P shows, it wasn’t until a random moment of ego gratification that Edan as a person crystallized in my mind. One frigid night when I was walking down Wythe Ave between N. 5th and 6th , a menacing hooded youth spoke out of the side of his mouth and said “Golden Error rules.” I didn’t even register the words until he had passed, but I’d be lying if it didn’t make me grin. Seven years later and I can’t believe how many shows Edan has seen. I thought my lifetime total was high—got nothin’ on that dude. Cuz Edan is a lifer, and lifers are what scenes need. There has to be that one person pumping their heart and soul into making a scene go. And if you think you are above the concept of a “scene,” cool, stay at home and stare at the glowing screen.
Over the years, I’ve booked dozens of shows at DBA, played at least twice that and attended even more. It will always be near the top of my list when I’m playing the “What have I done with my life/Music is killing me” mind games with myself. Standout moments include Golden Error detonating on the old small stage to a roomful of kids primed for Jay Reatard; flying A Frames out for one of their last shows, which also doubled as the final bow for GE; debuting Family Curse on a stacked bill which served as the farewell for local bruisers Pygmy Shrews; and utilizing the main room over the past year as a public laboratory for Cyanide Tooth. I booked a US tour for Australia’s Cuntz last year, and part of their new live album is from the show at DBA.
These are just a few snapshots from my life. Now multiply that times one thousand. That’s how many people, moments, bands, shows, epiphanies, freakouts, heartbreaks and hangovers have begun and ended at Death By Audio. DBA is the last holdout of the “old” Williamsburg. There is a through line running from spaces like Mighty Robot to Death By Audio. It’s crazy and depressing how “fake DIY” has become a thing. Scratch that, it’s infuriating. DBA is not fake DIY. Death By Audio is an avatar. You may be living in some far-flung locale saying ‘What’s the big deal? We’ve got a place like that here.’ Exactly. It’s not a big deal, it’s daily life. There’s a Death By Audio in every town. But here’s the shitty thing about right here, right now: Brooklyn is losing its Death By Audio. Sucks the fat one, but we’ll be alright.
—Erick Bradshaw H / Cyanide Tooth, Family Curse, Golden Error
You may be living in some far-flung locale saying ‘What’s the big deal? We’ve got a place like that here.’ Exactly. It’s not a big deal, it’s daily life. There’s a Death By Audio in every town. But here’s the shitty thing about right here, right now: Brooklyn is losing its Death By Audio.
Death by Audio has always felt like my second home in New York. For the last eight years, attending shows there has been one of my favorite pastimes. My formative years in Brooklyn were spent within their four walls as I quickly started organizing events there with Edan and Matt, who quickly became dear friends too. The vibrantly-graffitied stage has always been a consistent haven for interesting and amazing bands. It’s always been a place that booked any artist that they loved. They enthusiastically took risks each night with their shows, which created an environment for new unknown bands to be discovered. They became tastemakers for our generation. Panache artists like Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Wand, Meatbodies, Black Pus, Jacco Gardner and Quintron and Miss Pussycat are just some of the Death by Audio alumni on our roster. Many of theses artists played their first NY shows at DBA. On any given night, I knew I could stop by DBA and check out a band that 9 out of 10 times I would like. It comforted me to know that I would always see an old friend in the crowd or working the show. The staff are the family members that you know will always be there whenever you need them. Everyone from the bookers to the bar staff to the door people and the sound engineers have all become those familiar faces that make a venue feel like a community. Death by Audio is my community and one for so many others. It’s been amazing watching them evolve over the years but also stay true to the bands they book and the audiences that have helped sustain that scene. As so many other DIY venues changed or disappeared and as Brooklyn has evolved, Death by Audio has always been that constant rock you know you can anchor yourself to. I hope that DBA finds itself a new home here, as Brooklyn needs that rock.
—Michelle Cable / Panache Booking
Death By Audio is a place to be celebrated, and it was celebrated seven days a week for the last seven years, every night. I met Edan when we were working on a free all-ages festival together as part of the crew at Ms Beas in Austin TX during SXSW, he was running sound. I thought he was an exuberant fellow, which proved true as I was charged with the every day task of keeping hamburgers on hand for him to eat and to keep him from leaving the mixing board to go fly around stage diving in the crowd. There are several photos over several different days of that festival where at some point Edan has lodged himself butt first into the kick drum on stage and the crowd is pulling him out. I met Matt soon after with his two piece band Sisters, when my two piece band Coasting went with them on our first tour.
Death By Audio was my Local, I would find myself walking there blindly a lot, I lived close by and would just pop in to talk to Dorie and Gavin who worked there too and see what was going on. I always called DBA my church, it really was, I learnt and shared so much there, and everyone who ever played or attended a show got to have a special experience unlike any other place. It seems rare now to find a venue where even if you didn’t know the band you’d just go because of the place, but DBA was one of those gems where you got exposed to so much new music, new people, new resources, new laughs. I work now running two small record labels and still play in touring bands, I’ve learnt everything I know about music from seeing it live, and DBA’s constant and ever-growing support of that meant so much to so many people. To me personally, it was the support for my own band, but also that they hosted all of these incredible people and bands that have influenced my life since. Everyone involved with DBA has such a genuine love and appreciation for live music, and it shows in their faces every time you see them, they are all such inspirational people. They have done the community proud, and I can’t wait to see not just what they do in the future but also all the people whose bands and lives were influenced and inspired by them. DBA 4EVA!!!
—Fiona Campbell / M’Lady’s Records, Coasting
I always called DBA my church.
Over a long enough period of time we take everything for granted. DBA is a really beautiful space and such an institution it’s hard to imagine living in New York without it. I know we’ll get more shows in New York from bands like Yonatan Gat and Hector’s Pets but seeing them at DBA was like watching a team play at their home field. There’s an intangible spirit in the air that makes it that much better.
I know I speak on behalf of the rest of Shea when I say that DBA has and will continue to be a huge influence to us. One of the most admirable things about the place was the consistency—you knew when you went there you were about to see a show that rocked, sounded good, and hell yeah, it was gonna run on time. It was completely no nonsense, no frills, no bullshit, and there was no special treatment. Everything was in service to the music and the music was great.
Running a venue is no easy task, especially for as long and as ethically-driven as they did for the better part of the past decade. Thanks to Edan at the board, Dorie at the door, Gavin at the bar, and the small cast of characters in between them for all the years of hard work.
P.S. Does this mean we get more Fuckton shows?
—Luke Chiaruttini / Shea Stadium
Death by Audio was one of the first places we used to play in Brooklyn. Our friend Todd P got us in there in the beginning until Edan eventually took over. Edan is the best. He always got us on the best shows and really got the place buzzing. It’s so sad that DBA is closing it’s doors as it’s a total loss to the music community and it will be missed greatly. RIP baby.
I believe in the people who created Death By Audio—they are truly the space. It was a space run by idealists; that was apparent by the art on the walls, the way they ran the shows and the respect they gave to the musicians who played there. That’s the reason it’s being celebrated. It’s a real community space and thank God they existed!
—John Colpitts / Kid Millions / Oneida
It was a space run by idealists; that was apparent by the art on the walls, the way they ran the shows and the respect they gave to the musicians who played there.
The first show I ever booked in New York was at Death By Audio. I was still in college and I don’t think I’d ever been there before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Walking in felt really comfortable, which is not something to take for granted as a college kid who didn’t live in the city. Part of that feeling was because it reminded be of the venue I “grew up in” in western Mass, but part of it was just the vibe—it wasn’t a pretentious or judgmental space. It felt more like a house show at a friend of a friend’s place where the host was hanging out in the corner by the soundboard (which, 99% of the time, was where you could find Edan at DBA).
While a certain element of transience is inherent in DIY, Death by Audio has always had an impressive air of permanence to it. It feels like an institution in a way that few things in this homegrown music scene are ever able to achieve. As Death By closes its doors, new venues are opening elsewhere and hopefully the team from DBA will continue to be part of the constant evolution that is the DIY scene, booking shows, opening spaces, and taking on new projects that keep the unassuming and yet amazing spirit of the venue alive. Though it seems unlikely that Edan and Matt will go quietly into the night, somehow that doesn’t change that the loss of places like Death By Audio, which have over my time in New York become touchpoints in my life, drives home the lack of permanence in a way that leaves me feeling adrift and uneasy.
—Amanda Contrada / Golden Ratio Presents
Death by Audio looks different now. At least, it’s different from when I first saw it. There’s a wall knocked down and a pipe sticking through the ceiling. There’s scaffolding out front with lights strung along the metal, illuminating parts of 2nd street that I’ve never seen lit up up night. I first saw all of these new additions last weekend when I was there to see my friends band. A band I had seen play at DBA maybe 10 times over the past three years? A band that, as I watched them, I knew would be coming to an end soon. In that moment, watching these people I love play in this place I love, with the knowledge that neither of these things would last, I felt overwhelmed by the moment and, for the first time in a long time, started to cry in public. Not an embarrassing hysterical bawl, but a slow, one-tear-at-a-time-down-the-cheek cry.
I wasn’t around since the beginning, only showing up to the party for the first time in 2011. It would be the first show I ever played in New York and the first time my friends and family would ever see me play an instrument. It was the first time I met Edan and I hold that whole night like one long magical memory that I have thought about every time I’ve stepped into DBA since then. To say I’ll miss this place is an understatement; I’m still looking for the words.
—Marisa Dabeast / Mannequin Pussy
Its going to be weird going through Instragram without the daily three-to-five photos of performers on the DBA stage taken from the exact same spot: the sound booth. What makes those photos so dear to me are knowing that they were taken by Edan as he works the board, mixing for all of these hundreds and hundreds of bands, and most likely doing a million other things. I look forward seeing what Edan and the rest of the house and staff go on to do. Thanks for creating an insane place for insane things to happen for so long.
While a certain element of transience is inherent in DIY, Death by Audio has always had an impressive air of permanence to it.
Warehouses scroll by. Whether they contain empty facades or emptily stylish new bars and restaurants depends entirely on the year, early 2007 or late 2014. Electric lights blink “Save Domino” overhead but it’s already too late, or soon to be. You push through an unexpected burst of foliage choking the sidewalk, and emerge into the shudders of a repeated bass loop eking out through the walls beyond. The door is unmarked but for graffiti, but the sound is unmistakeable. You pause in the chill air for a moment before slipping through into a bright gust of steam.
The sound is louder here. Squeals of treble over racing snares, muffled from outside, now drown out the guy who amiably stamps your hand and takes your $7. Past a blue-painted window (sounds of crowd excitement and someone crying out “we are the ones” bleed between the panes) you turn a corner in anticipation and make your way along exposed pipes and infrastructure to the entryway. Just as you pass through the portal, the searing guitar line crescendos explosively and cuts out, leaving you seemingly alone in a dim space subdivided endlessly by blue walls. Playfully menacing sculpted figures leer out of corners as you thread the narrow passages, low drones and static hisses ooze up over cryptic patterns stenciled on either side, you stumble over something and it rolls clattering into the shadows ahead, a half-empty can of PBR or even possibly Schmidt. It rattles to a stop at the foot of a seated women bowing a kind of hollow cello through a modified reel-to-reel, mechanically spinning obscure melodies into the labyrinth beyond. You pause, transfixed in the twilight as she cranks back the reel with her other hand, perfectly stuttering the chords just as they emerge from the strings. A voice somewhere intones: “Noise is the easiest to play badly, but to play well…”
A pack of kids in parkas surge out of a previously-unseen gap and you follow them away. It must have become colder outside, a arctic bite penetrates the air, along with deep-buzzing riffs and prickly keyboard counterpoint. Past a room full of eyeballs, you rejoin the crowd as an antithetically precise hardcore sludge pours out from a three-piece on an elevated stage area. If Brooklyn audiences were once not known to dance this one… never mind, the audiences here have always danced. Syncopation cuts through, through the grime with a propulsive force, sweeping you sideways through an opposing all-girl punk quartet, bristlingly melodic, and into an adjoining cavern where two apparent brothers lean over creekily homemade electronic devices in a pulse of black light. Swaying to arcane rhythms, blinking projected triangles out of your eyes, you step out into a wider space where zombie-painted humanoids stagger about contentedly. One wall is given entirely over to a mural, a camera flashes, a bespectacled couple are caught beneath twinned tigers poised in argument, then hurry away to collect their instruments.
You duck through small groups clustered around their drinks in the between-set limbo, past a girl with short-spiked hair frozen mid-laugh, around a pair of bodies merged into a single twirling embrace, and into a pervasive industrial chugging. At first it seems mechanical, suddenly disintegrates into a semi-rhythmic clatter of percussion exploring far too many beats for the song it collapses through, then, as you pass through a cave-like vestibule, resolves into the heavy rumble of a solo drummer, masked like a slasher villain, cranking slabs of bass out of a powerful pedal system. Someone glides overhead on a hundred extended fingertips, convulsed with ecstasy under suddenly sweltering heat, but is sudden lost to a wall of fog that engulfs the performance in mid-measure, dampening the sight of the room as a barrage of feedback blocks out of all other surrounding sound. Temporarily senseless, you cast about for bearings, nearly collide with a fresco of semi-demonic disney-escapee mice and a dancing figure draped in white trashbags, and are fortunately guided by a bushily-bearded form who rises up from behind a sound board before his own wall-painted portrait to point the way forward.
You pass through another series of blue-walled tunnels under the auspices of a great ceramic ear, eventually struggling out of fog and feedback before a line of three stoic saxophonists who silently await an overcoated man stooped over a clamp-light. Two others revolve with shuffled steps, gnawing cabbage, as the man begins to speak, describing some bleary end of the world as the last wisps of fog play across his lamp. His last words merge with the ringing of another crowd, grasping bells and gourds, who intersect this group and sweep you up in their ebullient purpose. Somehow, though, you fall behind, push through the wrong door, emerge into the living area behind the main show space, now eerily empty.
Attempting to retrace your steps, you hear a screech of tortured woodwind, a fragment of a prophesy, a dying gasp of an expiring drum set. Desiccated beer cans, and a single forlorn foam number-one hand, swirl underfoot like leaves at the edge of winter. It’s not only the end of the night, but the end of time. The space has been wiped clean, its sound muffled, doors shuttered for the last time. You trace along the walls, circling hollowly. Fingers feeling for the vestige of a painted-over splendor. How has it already become so very, very late? Ears straining to catch that declining resonance, that final shimmer, of that one last perfect note.
How has it already become so very, very late? Ears straining to catch that declining resonance, that final shimmer, of that one last perfect note.
Death by Audio is dead, long live Death by Audio! Seven, eight years and a whirlwind of fond memories. Played my last show officially with Le Rug there. First ever time So So Glos made $100 for a gig. (We thought we were just being put in charge of divvying it up between the rest of the bands.) Occasionally I worked the door, mopped the floors. Got shin splints after being crammed against the stage with Karen Soskin during Mika Miko’s set. Pissed Jeans followed by Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Cigarettes and claustrophobia-triggered panic attacks in the back room. Ringing in the new year as NoFX.
The Market Hotel and Shea were started simply to bolster what was already ripe and rife at DBA and the Silent Barn. It’s impossible to accept the ephemeral nature of these punkhouse spaces we put so much into and have gotten so much out of. Endless love to Edan, Dave, Matt, Dorie, Gavin, and the rest of them. RIP DBA. Your absence will be devastating but your legacy will live on.
—Matt Elkin / So So Glos
Death By Audio is the only address in Brooklyn I can still remember. Its the first place my brain wants to go as soon as I get into town. It’s only natural; DBA provided me with many firsts, or rather introductions to possibilities that ultimately changed my direction, purpose, perspective, and values. Edan always has faith in my musical endeavors (even, and especially, when I didn’t) and DBA gave Coasting, Dream Diary, Toxie, Cybelle Blood, and Nots the opportunity to play on their stage before most others. Matt and Aaron let Coasting go on our first tour with their band Sisters. Then there’s the bartending, taking door, clean up after the show—the basics of running a show. But mostly importantly, Death By Audio and the community around it first made me realize that it is possible to have your “work” be something you love, that you don’t have to follow an industry standard, and that you never have do something just for the money. My experiences from DBA have definitely influenced the way I work and run things in Memphis now. I strive to maintain an inclusive, safe community for musicians and show goers, where there is mutual respect and a hint of organization. It may seem a little more gritty down here in the South, but it is truly all out of love.
Edan has been coming to Gonerfest for the past couple of years now. It makes me so happy to be able put on an event for him, after all the shows he did for us. It’s nice to have no responsibility and just go wild every now and then. But then I remember he’s been going wild every night for the past seven years. And no building or landlord is going to ever change that.
—Madison Farmer / Goner Records, Nots, Coasting, Dream Diary, Toxie
For me, this is like the last scene in Return of the Jedi, where the ghosts of Yoda and Obi Wan are joined by ghost of Darth Vader. In this situation, I see ghost Wetlands and ghost Zebulon being joined by ghost Death By Audio. My three lifetime favorite places to enjoy music are now old venues appearing as apparitions in robes, smiling down upon me and my people, whispering something along the lines of “use the force” but more appropriate to this situation.
RIP WETLANDS (2001), ZEBULON (2012), AND DEATH BY AUDIO (2014)
Thanks Edan. What should I do with my leftover mancala beads? Maybe I’ll actually play mancala.
—Greg Fox / Guardian Alien, Liturgy, GDFX
Death By Audio is the only address in Brooklyn I can still remember.
DIY Valhalla is a weird place. It smells funny and the air conditioning is sub par, but you get to do shots with Fort Thunder and the South Philadelphia Athenaeum, so we should be happy when our honored venues ascend. Death By Audio may end up reopening somewhere, but for now it’s headed to DIY Valhalla to eat a well-earned bowl of ramen, and take it’s well-deserved place on that hallowed couch.
I realized last year that I’d seen more shows at Death By Audio than at any other single venue. I’m 38 and have been going to shows since 1992, which means that DBA has beaten out some solid contenders. I would love to tell an 18-year-old me that he will one day live within walking distance of a cheap, loud, friendly, all-ages show space with a giant sound system AND DIY ARCADE GAMES. 18-year-old me would be eager to know if Universal Order of Armageddon will be playing there, and I would smile and tell him yes.
Praising a Brooklyn DIY space on a post-285-Kent internet can be an imprecise, feelzy business, so here is my list of nuts and bolts reasons DBA was simply a better venue than most.
1. Consistency: Edan would book your show, help find opening bands, and run sound every fucking time (I mean, probably not every time, but I seem to remember dude being sick/injured/half dead and still showing up to take care of business). That meant the person doing sound knew what he was doing, knew what the bands sounded like, and always knew which stage monitor swallowed a beer at last night’s show. Very few places can boast that, and Death By Audio did it most nights for many years.
2. The Sound System: See No. 1, but also on a technical level, it was my favorite PA to play through in Brooklyn. Ridiculously large and loud for a room that size.
3. All ages, all the time: Laugh it up, Brooklyn Vegan comments section, but I think DBA was successful as a place where multiple generations of music obsessives crossed paths.
4. Cheap: Rarely more than $8 for a show, and with low-enough overhead that bands still got paid.
5. Pretty: Bands just look better in front of a Maya Hayuk mural than, say, a Knitting Factory logo.
In addition to nailing the day-to-day stuff, I love them for having released the Live at DBA Flexi Book, hosted free women’s self-defense courses, and spent a month as a maze. The opening night of The Maze is one of my favorite memories of DBA. There is spraypaint on the shorts I am currently wearing from helping Sam Hillmer assemble and decorate walls. It was Gowns final NYC show, and their set included EMA’s “California” before EMA was a thing. I would be hard-pressed to pick a No. 1 favorite show at DBA, but my Best Of would include Gowns, Double Dagger, Talk Normal, and Thee Oh Sees.
Obviously, the void left when DBA heads to Valhalla will be quickly filled by new venues, but DBA will hopefully have inspired a lot of people who don’t have similar spaces in their towns. Hundreds of touring bands came through DBA. I imagine it being similar to the effect that Fort Thunder had on me and my friends in the late ’90s, and that makes it less depressing to say goodbye. Thank you DBA. You were awesome.
Laugh it up Brooklyn Vegan comments section, but I think DBA was successful as a place where multiple generations of music obsessives crossed paths.
“You can take any kind of music and make it punk, but funk is something you really need to know how to play.” —Jack Sherman
The last PC Worship show at Death By Audio seems almost incendiary at this point.
Who can remember?
Ok, the Whatever Brains, Shop Talk and Shells.
PC played last and an origination story comes full circle.
Dog shit, bad breath, blue suede, toast and a million shrines later.
Keep coupling the same riff.
“Sweet Loaf by Sabbath?”
“SWEAT LOAF BY THE BUTTHOLES MAN.”
all the time
we got drunk
we made friends
and beat our friends in the basketball championship.
LE WALLET FOREVER
Except when it comes to comfort inducing DIY tactics and being a flawless institution built on trust and devotion.
Death By Audio is our hole.
We dig it, we fuck it, we throw things in it, and when the time comes we use it for shelter and it is our comfort zone. Eventually the hole filled up and now there’s a beautiful tree grown from the thick, one which we can feast on for years to come.
Death By Audio bore the fruit and for those lucky enough to taste; they will constantly judge all future fruit on the deliciousness of this vine.
I remember the good feeling of getting high on the stage, turning out into a desert of lush drone, bathed in a sea of comfort, playing guitar like a pelican skirting down the face of a glassy wave.
—Justin Frye / PC Worship
Death By Audio was the most important venue for me when I first moved from Baltimore to New York City because it kept me connected to my home. I moved to NYC to go to school; it was often really hard for me. I’m still sort of surprised that I finished school and stayed in the city. Right when I was finishing high school, I discovered that Baltimore had this amazing and unique arts and music community. I was going to see bands like Yukon, Future Islands, Ecstatic Sunshine, Ponytail, Double Dagger, Videohippos, WZT Hearts, Thank You—all musicians that made me want to start a band. These groups exuded this sense of freedom that still inspires me to this day. I was proud of where I was from. I think experiencing this creative boom in Baltimore at the age when I did was one of the most influential things to ever happen to me. I think Edan and co. at Death by Audio recognized the vanguarde-ish qualities of the Baltimore music scene, and they were bringing these bands to New York. And when I was at Death by Audio, watching these bands, I felt like I was home. I remember seeing Edan at Whartscape festivals, volunteering and doing sound (this was before I knew Edan personally, but I recognized the beard) and thinking, “This person’s so dedicated…” Now that I’ve gotten to know Edan and know more about what goes into running a space like Death by Audio, I can say that my initial impressions were correct.
—Joe Galarraga / Big Ups
Death by Audio was such a rad place, where good bands and weird bands and good weird bands all got together to have fun. It was no frills, unpretentious, and in general just a really good time. It really reminded me of what it felt like when I was a kid and first started going to shows in church basements and VFW halls, but with more spray paint on the walls and homemade video games.
Death By Audio bore the fruit and for those lucky enough to taste; they will constantly judge all future fruit on the deliciousness of this vine.
I’ve been trying to figure out what the first show I saw at Death By Audio was and simply can’t remember. It’s not to say it didn’t make an impression, it’s more a testament to the fact that to this day I’ve never had an experience at DBA that wasn’t great. Shows have blurred together, bills have become interchangeable in my mind, but the fact that every single one of those shows was great rings louder than anything else.
I moved to Brooklyn in 2011 from Boston, unsure about the city and my decision, but within a few months of seeing shows at Death By Audio (and later Big Snow) I knew I had made the right choice. It’s hard to say exactly what it was that drew me in, but the always incredibly-curated bills are definitely at the forefront. Today, while looking back through the archives and trying to figure out the first show I saw there, it was just bill after bill after bill of amazing shows. Shows from bands of all sizes at all different places in their “careers.” Death By Audio became a “home” for many out-of-town bands, a friendly place within Brooklyn’s DIY scene where you could always bet on a great show.
I booked my first show at Death By Audio in January of 2012 (Pile, Porches., Speedy Ortiz, Your Skull My Closet, and The Due Dilligence) and I remember Edan being so cool about everything. He never asked about what a band’s draw was or how many times they’ve played the city or anything along those lines. It was always a matter of “are these bands good? Is the date available? Ok, cool. This should be fun,” and there wasn’t a second thought.
Edan Wilber booked just about every DBA show in the few years I’ve lived here and did sound for damn near all of them as well. His passion about music and bands doesn’t seem as though it’s ever faded and half the fun for me these days is chatting with him about music and what he’s playing between sets. He has directly, or indirectly, introduced me to Clockcleaner, Pterodactyl, and most recently Wand, for no other reason than the fact that he enjoys them and is happy to spread the word to anyone interested. He’s a dude that truly deserves all the credit and thanks in the world, but is happy to just keep doing what he’s doing. I remember very distinctly throwing a show last winter with Bad History Month, The Sediment Club, Bennio Qwerty, and Bueno that I was extremely excited about. The bill felt very DBA to me. There was no other venue I’d have rather hosted this show, and when the day came around it snowed for the first time all winter and attendance was underwhelming to say the least. I remember being pretty upset about it and apologizing to Edan afterward. He told me, “I don’t care, I had a great time. That was an amazing show,” and I was instantly cheered up. It was a great show and while I had never doubted that, hearing it from him pretty much cemented the way I felt about Death By Audio—a venue where music comes first and everything else can be worried about later. No bullshit, just great times, great music and great people.
I’ve been to DBA alone countless times, I’ve been with big groups of friends. I’ve been to sold out shows, and I’ve been to shows that were damn near empty. None of this has seemingly ever phased the DBA staff or effected the vibe of the show. I could talk about the hundreds of great bands I’ve seen at the venue or the fact that seeing Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall there with The Numerators was one of the craziest shows of my life. I could talk about how Edan was cool enough to have Disco Doom on the Death By Audio radio show. I could talk about the mural in the back by Preston Spurlock that started my undying love for his artwork. I could go on and on about how much the venue means to me and the Brooklyn music scene, touring bands, and the idea of DIY culture. I could talk about the giant void it’s leaving. More importantly though, I’d just like to say thanks. Thanks for everything. Thanks to Edan, Gavin, Burgers, Dorie, Josh, and everyone else involved. I’m going to miss this place very much and look forward to catching all the shows I can before the doors close. Looking forward to what comes next.
—Dan Goldin / Exploding In Sound
Shows have blurred together, bills have become interchangeable in my mind, but the fact that every single one of those shows was great rings louder than anything else.
I was so sad to hear that Death by Audio is coming to an end. I spent so many nights there between 2007-2010, it was like a second home. I just checked my records, and Vivian Girls played over 10 shows at DBA, making it the place we played the most in the whole world. Edan and Matt created a wonderfully safe space for new bands to grow and have fun, and I feel like we were super lucky to have been a part of it.
One terrific memory I have is when Vivian Girls opened for Jay Reatard there in October 2007. I don’t think I had ever seen a show with as much energy or passion, and that was during the era when his band was a bunch of dudes who looked exactly like him. It was amazing. I listened to nothing except Blood Visions for a year after that show.
The most-recent DBA memory I have is when Vivian Girls played one of our three last shows ever there in March. We played with our old friends Juan Waters and Waxahatchee, and it was a great show. I drove home that night overwhelmed by all of the memories I had of Death by Audio and Vivian Girls, and those same emotions are still with me today. I wish Edan and Matt all the luck in the world with whatever they do next, and I thank them for creating the perfect environment for Vivian Girls to have grown up in.
—Katy Goodman / La Sera, Vivian Girls
Priests played at least two catastrophic shows at Death By Audio so we feel a personal bond with this venue, a few standardly “good” shows, too. By “catastrophic” I mean they were among the more, um, interesting Priests sets. This was a special place because there was room for experimentation, the potential failure of untested material AND people still came out to Death By Audio shows. It was connected to a community. Our first out-of-town show was at Death By Audio, it lasted no more than ten minutes, and I’m sure my extreme discomfort translated on stage. Lots of people have seen Priests fuck up at Death By Audio and every single time Edan was enthusiastic, supportive, and asked when we were coming back. Who is going to open a new space for creators to fuck up in front of audiences? Who is going to protect space for experimentation? Anyway, one can only hope this draws attention to the bloated disease monster that is corporatized art and media and Vice Media’s suckdom in particular.
—Katie Alice Greer / Priests
Who is going to open a new space for creators to fuck up in front of audiences? Who is going to protect space for experimentation?
It was wonderful dumb luck that this stupid dude I was hanging with introduced me to Oliver Ackermann on Ludlow St. for a street show A Place to Bury Strangers did back in the summer of 2007. I already knew I was moving to Brooklyn, but still getting my act together to do it. My first Brooklyn roommate, Matteo Crupi ended up being also good friends with Oli and there began my show going to Death By Audio and getting to hang with the crew known as The Dude Ranch. Through Edan, Todd P, and Showpaper I started working door after my boring 9-to-5. It was always exciting. It was the beginning of so many friendships. A few extra dollars was great but it was always more of the experience. Getting to see too many bands to list. It was this unspoken rule that if I felt like hanging, I knew I could find a friend or two at DBA without making plans in advance. I had the awesome experience of running a few shows with Silvia Chavez. We called our booking, RSA: Roadside Assistance. It was a blast and harder than I ever expected. Edan has always been super supportive of letting me try and figure out the magic of what he does.
If I had to pick just a few stories/memories to share:
One night Edan texts me, “You have to come to DBA tonight. You have to see this band.” I actually had a killer headache, but I knew if Edan was telling me to come, it had to happen. I downed the advil and made my way over. It was Teengirl Fantasy’s first DBA show and they were amazing. There was about maybe 50 people max and everyone kept looking at each other nodding at what we all knew would be a new favorite.
I sincerely do not believe there is a more generous person alive. He might be a communist. I have seen Oliver open doors to everything he has. He is supportive with a “Fuck Yea! That’s Wicked!” to anything you bring him with excitement.
It has been so great getting to work with Matt over the years and if he ever wanted to, he’d be the best CEO of any company. He is supportive with a kind voice yet can let you know something is not kosher without yelling. There was an extra electrical bill and they weren’t sure where the money was coming from to pay it. Matt agreed to let Silvia and I do a 13 band Fuck Valentines Day Show! We raised just shy of $500 and had a blast.
It is horribly sad to envision life without this space. We knew it would happen one day, but nothing prepares you.
—Stephanie Gross / DBA resident
NYC isn’t really NYC without DBA. Not for me at least. What was once a cool DIY venue where a lot of the bands I worked for played, slowly became something far more than that as the years progressed. It become more personal. It became a home away from home. I think it was the first venue I ever went to in NYC. It was home to the first stage I ever dived from. It was home to first show I ever booked. Work might have taken me elsewhere over time, and I know there are hundreds of show-goers who logged more hours in it’s hallowed rooms than myself, but each and every trip was something special. It was welcoming, it was comforting, and it just kind of felt right. It’s rather silly, but I was actually hoping that some day, one very, very distant day, it would be the first stage that my band would play on. I don’t have a band or any particular aspirations to be in one anymore, but that just goes to show you that I couldn’t really imagine a future without DBA.
—Dave Halstead / Publicist (Thrill Jockey, Speedy Ortiz, Big Ups, etc)
NYC isn’t really NYC without DBA.
I’ve been a member of Flickr since 2004 and I currently have 790 images tagged “Death by Audio” on my account. I’ll be the first to admit that I tend to take way too many photos, but it’s a very good representation of how often I’ve been to 49 S. 2nd Street to attend concerts there.
I was at Death by Audio after Hurricane Sandy hit on both Halloween and the following night to see Roomrunner, Sleepies, EULA and Big Ups because they were open, hosting really good shows, and it got me out of my apartment. I was there for their fifth anniversary show and bought a commemorative t-shirt. The first concert I ever shot for Impose was at Death by Audio (The So So Glos and The Coathangers in November 2010, in case you were wondering). Before joining Impose, I was there as a music fan, who happened to have a camera and liked documenting live music. One of the first shows I saw at DBA was by The Death Set (I managed to fall into their drumkit that night and friends of mine that witnessed it are more than happy to remind me that this happened). I attended other Death Set performances with Edan at other venues but didn’t know his name until I kept coming back to see shows at the venue he ran. Now I know his name along with others who work pretty hard there each night.
It’s extremely difficult for me to imagine not seeing a show at Death by Audio post-November 2014 since it’s been a part of my life these past seven years. While other venues can feel like a scene to people like me who was never one of the cool kids, DBA doesn’t. People are there to specifically see great live music and support the musicians that are performing. I can’t fathom not showing up shortly after doors open and claiming my spot in front of Edan since it’s one of the best spots to stand if you don’t like falling into a drum kit that’s on the floor or being in a mosh pit (people seem to respect not slamming into the guy responsible for the sound). I’m trying to accept that soon there will be a day where I will not obsessively check their website, hoping that their upcoming shows for the next month have finally been posted.
If a band performs multiple times in New York City on a tour and if one of those dates is at Death by Audio, I will choose DBA every time since I know that will be the better one; the one that’s more fun as a fan to attend. Last October, I observed the drummer of a UK band called Hookworms give Edan a copy of their LP when Edan tried to pay for it. He said that he told everyone they absolutely had to play Death by Audio when they came to New York for CMJ in 2013 and refused to accept his money for the record because Edan was running this space that was a vital stop of his band’s tour. From a photographer’s standpoint, Death by Audio is one of the most interesting and well-lit DIY spaces to shoot. I’ve definitely honed my live music photography skills there over the years and will forever be grateful for them allowing me to do just that and being so supportive. One of the two posters that I have managed to actually frame is a poster for a show at DBA (Double Dagger’s last NYC show in 2011). The venue’s upcoming closure is a giant loss for the DIY, all ages, independent music scene in New York and I truly hope they’re able to relocate and are back booking awesome shows again soon. And when they do, I’ll be at their first one shortly after doors open, to claim my spot near Edan.
–Edwina Hay / Impose Photo Editor
By nature, DIY spaces are born with an expiration date. At best, they represent a snapshot in time—something specific that one can hold on to. However, what makes Death by Audio so extraordinary and significant to me is that it serves not as a single snapshot, but as an entire album of experiences that symbolize the last (almost) decade of my life. I discovered the venue right after moving to Brooklyn and what immediately struck me was its accessibility. There was no backstage. There was barely a stage at all, for that matter. DBA was a place that I could actually immerse myself in the culture that I had dreamed of throughout my entire life up until that point. I not only felt welcomed, but saw Death by Audio as a place where I was free to be the person I had always dreamed to be.
Eventually my band would have the opportunity to share the stage with bands that had “hit it big” as well as ones that had practically formed that afternoon. In the end, we were all peers. Over the years, my appreciation and involvement with the venue only increased until I eventually started working at the door. Having spent the past seven-and-a-half years graduating from spectator to performer to employee, I can’t help but shake the notion that Death by Audio has ushered me into my impending adulthood. Like the neighborhood that DBA has lived in (which has now successfully chewed it up and spit it out) nothing is immune from change. We will all move on from 49 S. 2nd Street, new venues will open up, and new memories will be formed. However, what is painfully apparent to me, is that as the venue grew and evolved, I have grown with it. In it’s last few weeks, rather than lament it’s tragic demise, I choose to celebrate Death by Audio for what it has meant to many and to so many others and to take these experiences with me.
—Josh Intrator / Sleepies, Death by Audio employee
I’m trying to accept that soon there will be a day where I will not obsessively check their website, hoping that their upcoming shows for the next month have finally been posted.
I first visited Death by Audio in July of 2007 when my band at the time was supposed to play a show there, a benefit for Showpaper, with Dirty Projectors. We had to back out but my bandmate Emily and I attended anyway, just to check the space out. I’ve never been so sad that we couldn’t play a show in my entire life. The Projectors played a set consisting of Dave on a quietly amped electric guitar, and Amber and Angel flanking him. They played on the side of the room, standing on crates, all songs from their new album at the time, Rise Above. It was gorgeous, special, and stiflingly hot. I had been to DIY shows in New York before, but this felt different—more intimate, freer, and even less elitist than the lowest-key shows I’d attended or played up to that point.
When Emily moved in with the people behind throwing the shows and running the space a couple months later, I started hanging out there, more or less, all the time (especially once I lost my job). Our band started practicing in the room that was built out in the back as a studio/practice space. We recorded albums there. I started building pedals there with the Death by Audio effects company. The people there became my best friends and the people I wanted to bounce ideas off of more than any others. We threw parties and went on tours together. We put out records and tapes together. I always knew they were coming from a place of integrity, where money was among the last concerns. If there was a big show at DBA, it wasn’t for petty credibility, so that anyone there could say, “Look who we got to play our place!” It was because they genuinely wanted to see that show, so why not put it on yourself?
At an early-ish age, I had read Michael Azerrad’s landmark document Our Band Could Be Your Life, and, for years, had looked for people that I could live that book’s world out with (as much as that could be done, 20 years into the gentrification of the indie world’s structural microcosm). I had finally found it at Death by Audio. If we imagined something, we would work towards making it. If we wanted something to be a certain way, we would work to ensure that it was that way. This was community, this was freedom, this was punk.
I say this as though I were at the absolute center of this, which I wasn’t. I was pretty fucking close, but the center was Oliver Ackermann, Edan Wilber, and Matt Conboy. The first started his own line of effects pedals from scratch. The latter two created, curated, maintained, and loved a venue into existence for over seven years at ground zero of a vastly morphing economic and social landscape. Gavin Schneider and Dorie Van Dercreek worked door or bar at nearly ever show, fleshing out the sense of community, even family (Burgers Rana and Josh Intrator as well).
This labor of love was never the flashiest or most famous of the venues in the area, but I think that if you stretch out the timeline that these venues exist(ed) over, you’ll plainly see that Death by Audio was the most loved for the longest amount of time. I don’t write this to say anything along the lines of “Ours was best!,” but rather, I think it shows that what’s often most endearing and enduring in our world are things that last longer with slightly lower burn. DBA never had a backstage, gave guarantees, or treated anyone as more or less than (unless they were being a complete asshole, ruining it for everyone else. Then, get the hell out!). There were people scheduled to play who were doing a secret show after playing the Late Show, and there were people scheduled to play who couldn’t rub two fans together if they tried. Generally, the glue that held this together was Edan liked the music, never the hype.
I could never overstate how freeing this was, to have a spot like this, a group of friends like this, a community like this. I can’t imagine it’ll ever really be the same again.
—Travis Johnson / Grooms, DBA Effects Company
This labor of love was never the flashiest or most famous of the venues in the area, but I think that if you stretch out the timeline that these venues exist(ed) over, you’ll plainly see that Death by Audio was the most loved for the longest amount of time.
The thing was too real to be cool. 285 was cool. Spaces that last two weeks are cool. Death by Audio was not cool.
DBA weird hall of fame I: Dutch(?) tourist throttling the table James Ferraro is performing on, shouting at him “NO ONE WANTS TO HEARER YOU PLAY DIS.” What happens next is blurry. I believe Edan judo-chops the tourist into two tourists and we nod catatonically in approval.
Not fair. At one point it’s cool. David Longstreth and Angel Deradoorian and Amber Coffman stand on a table and sing their “Rise Above” acoustically to a room enthralled with acoustically; Vivian Girls play like every week and Death Set or Dan Deacon fit in because the culture around music is about booking tours and not any particular aesthetic swagger. And to be fair, this isn’t just DBA, this is a rare Brooklyn DIY climax. But seven years is a long time for a crowd surf (r.i.p. crowd surfing?), especially if the metaphorical surf keeps getting rougher. (This is a metaphor about condos.)
DBA weird hall of fame II: Jim Jones rolls in because Ariel Panero made it so, and did a set with Snakes Say Hisss backing. Cool; super weird. God rest Ariel’s soul, forever tied to that time.
What I’m saying is absurdly melodramatic; tons of people tour and go to rock shows and weird shows and continue flinging the torch of meaningfully non-commercial music onward into the rosy dawn, but what I mean is that all of this lament that we have in one way or another experienced, this loss of memories at the hands of Progress and Change in American (and global) cities, has been bearable because of the line in the sand that said: “Right here is where things are real, this is where I have the privilege of sharing; thank you for these people who keep manning a row boat with a tsunami at their backs. How much more gray and white and monotonic this city is without the deep comfort of these people fully repping what we care about.”
DBA weird hall of fame III: The lack of facial expressions on Edan’s faces watching me perform the first few noise shows of my life in his space, on his stage, fucking up his sound.
So it really sucks. What ceased to be a trend, the thing that baked itself into many of our lives, is leaving; and there’s just a shitty whirlpool of media in its place. We could catatonically shake our heads about the number of condos it takes for “irony” to be the time that Vice built an office on top of the last thing that mattered in Williamsburg. But let’s skip it.
Not the time for catatonic head shaking. Shitty champagne toasts, maybe. These ladies and gentleman who doored and manned and sounded the Death by Audio for all these years are real New York heroes; I really love them. I think if you got this far, you do too.
—Jeremy Krinsley / Impose Editor 2008-2011
The thing was too real to be cool. 285 was cool. Spaces that last two weeks are cool. Death by Audio was not cool.
The first show we ever played in New York was at Death By Audio.
We weren’t even a real band yet. We were more like two amateur sculptors that made instruments out of whatever junk we had lying around (miscellaneous mystery bones, a mis-placed shoe, books that looked too pretentious, plastic dinosaurs lifted from an abandoned nursery. . .) and strapped bells to them. Occasionally we played synth and autoharps or perhaps a ukelele but mostly we were just interested in passing out our handmade jingle-jangles to the audience and seeing what would happen.
I had this dream that all of my teeth started falling out and turned into mountains when I placed them into soil, so I googled the phrase “teeth mountain” to see what symbolism might come up. Instead of finding some Jungian analysis, I somehow landed on a random Myspace page for a noise band in Baltimore called Teeth Mountain. After listening to about four seconds of their music I instantly sent them a private message asking if they wanted to tour together. They agreed. These were the days when you could just do shit like that. Luckily they were more of a real band than we were and knew some people in New York that could set us up a show. And that was that— hot damn— we drove down from Boston in near blizzard conditions and rolled down S. 2nd St in our busted heat-less van looking for some place called “Death By Audio”. We must have passed by it and drove around the block seven times. Then all of a sudden, bam! Inside this nondescript gray building on a block that looked seemingly abandoned was a mecca of rainbow paint peeling, a mosaic of ceiling tiles tilted at various angles, and and the grit and grime of thousands of pilgrims who had come and left traces of their devotion—a handprint smeared on the wall; a flyer marking the passage of time; a half-finished mural of wild tigers on the wall; a floor that wore prints of the feet that danced on it as tenderly as if they were lip stains from a first kiss.
I am not trying to write this to glamorize the place, the true beauty of Death By Audio lay in that which can’t be described; when it filled up there was an energy that permeated every atom of the space that was bone-crushingly conductive—like a room full of gas that was just waiting silently for someone to light a match and set the whole place on fire. Playing music there felt like tapping into something very atomic and dangerous. It was breathtakingly exciting to experience it as our first introduction to the New York music scene. It was unlike any show we had ever played before, and had we not played there I wonder how our path would be different now. Death By Audio was like the butterfly that had you traveled in back in time and stepped on it by accident, it may have resulted in a drastically different alternate future where we might have never moved to Brooklyn, never decided to continue Prince Rama seriously, and never come in contact with some of the kindest most creative people we have ever met.
We feel incredibly grateful that Death By Audio started the Brooklyn chapter of our lives, and as its physical chapter draws to a close we celebrate the spirit of it and hope to continue living in that pure potential it so generously showed us. As I said earlier, the true beauty of the place lay not in the brightly colored walls or drifting ceiling tiles but in this intangible force, this sonic receptacle of sublime grime, this nucleus of electric kinetic energy that lies within anyone brave enough to hold a match to it, and that energy can never be created or destroyed.
—Taraka Larson / Prince Rama
The true beauty of Death By Audio lay in that which can’t be described; when it filled up there was an energy that permeated every atom of the space that was bone-crushingly conductive—like a room full of gas that was just waiting silently for someone to light a match and set the whole place on fire.
They get everything after a while, that’s undeniable. Brownies, Tramps, Monster Island, the original Silent Barn, the old three-story Knitting Factory, Tonic, to say nothing of CB’s, Mars Bar, hell even Roseland, possessor of a far-richer history than I would’ve imagined based on the shows I’ve seen there. Matamoros Tacos on Bedford, Driggs Pizza, the old original International Bar when it was a real divey dive. I don’t think anyone mourns Uncle Paulie’s. I fear that I sound like a cranky old man trying to incite one of those tedious “been here longer than you” pissing contests and that’s entirely not what I’m after here. And there are plenty of these magical and storied spaces that I’ve forgotten to mention or omitted, they’re too many to name and I’ve betrayed my age enough. Cliché to quote The Boss? Sure, but I grew up between Philadelphia and the Jersey Shore and that whole, “everything dies baby, that’s a fact…” bit is totally right on, but so’s the other part I think.
I’ve played many, many shows at Death By Audio, and the fine people in charge of the place were kind enough to let me paint some walls a few years ago. The latter is, I’m sure, more the reason why I’ve been asked to contribute to this story. The last time I was there, half of that mural had already been blasted out to open up more space for the capacity crowds expected to attend these final weeks of shows. Standing there in the hole where half of the largest painting I’ve ever made used to be, I rounded a corner on the feelings of sadness and defeat that have filled me up every time the closing of Death By and now Glasslands has come up in conversation. Firstly, I wondered why they hadn’t knocked that wall down sooner. Secondly, as I realized I was connected directly to the very first pieces of that place to be ripped down and tossed out, I felt a great sense of pride and relief. Let Vice or whoever build offices there, tear it down and put up a fro-yo stand/doggie day-care, whatever. At least we’ll never have to endure Death By Audio the shoe store or Death By Audio the fancy burger restaurant. Axl Rose will not stage a “secret” half-assed Guns N Roses “reunion” show sponsored by New York Fashion Week and Macy’s in the husk of Death By Audio. I highly doubt there are plans to open to a replica venue in Vegas.
See, to my eyes, the most unique and powerful thing about these spaces is their inherently temporary nature. As seen with the original Silent Barn back in 2011, any show at any one of these places could be the last, and I think that urgency eventually starts to get on everything and everyone who steps inside of them. At Death By alone, I’ve attended plenty of sold out, sweaty, joyously chaotic shows and plenty that had an attendance numbering in the single digits, but I can’t recall ever attending an apathetic one, on the part of staff, the performers or the crowd. More than any other reason, that’s why it was my favorite place to hear or play music. That stays with you.
There’s already been a lot of commentary and debate on the benefit or need to “go legit” as a venue in our post-Bloomberg, Taylor Swift times here in New York. I won’t comment to that as I have absolutely no experience running or working at a live music space. As a participant in that culture however, I’m confident saying that the DIY ones are always transitive and slippery, seemingly delicate, surprisingly flexible and very difficult to stamp out fully. You might think one of them has been extinguished and completely flattened, but most of it squishes out underneath and takes root elsewhere. I think that old adage about The Velvet Underground not selling a lot of records but inspiring a lot of people to start a lot of bands could certainly be said analogously of these DIY venues. Something about being inside of one of them on a really great night tends to make you want to, well, do it yourself.
So I’m excited to attend as many of these final shows at Death By Audio as I can. But I’m also excited to continue checking out and patronizing all the new spaces, DIY and otherwise, that have begun to spring up in the wake of slow shuttering of that remarkable chunk of the Wiliamsburg waterfront. They’re paving over the parking lot at this point, sure, cool, but I’ll still bet someone figures out how to throw a show there.
I’m not sure how to start, New York was such a scary place before we found DBA. Maybe with just a big thank you; thank you for giving us a shot from the beginning when no one else would give us the time of day. I remember the room, one room with a checkered floor, no stage, no lights, finally a crowd in new york that felt like home. Driving up in our minivan at least once a month, opening four shows in a row, crashing in the ranch, staying up all night talking and eating sandwiches, the roof, the net, the cats, friends. It just got better and better and BOOM now its gone. What a magic place full of magic people, thanks for letting us be a part of it for so many years. I cant wait to see what you all do next.
—Jamin Orrall / JEFF The Brotherhood
I’ve attended plenty of sold out, sweaty, joyously chaotic shows and plenty that had an attendance numbering in the single digits, but I can’t recall ever attending an apathetic one.
I lived at Death By Audio for three years it was by far the best place I’ve ever lived. There were countless parties, shows, hangs, beers and friends. I moved out in June 2014, but in the few months since I’ve moved the thing I miss most is living in the middle of, and with, a group of the most creative and supportive people I have ever met. They were always in the middle of doing some crazy shit, or down to help you do some crazy shit. It would be easy to point out all kinds memorable shows, or all-night ragers in the ranch as some of my most memorable times. Those were all great, and super important to me, but for me the times when shit was at it’s best was when we were all together. Family dinners, or power outages, or hung over post party egg sandwiches at La Violeta, with everyone including the dude that no one really knows, but has been living in the hammock for 3 or 4 days—that was the best. Some houses end up with a couch guy we had a net guy.
Once La Violeta closed and became another nameless new boogie café, made to look old with imported distressed wood and craft beers in mason jars, I knew it was only a matter of time until DBA was forced out by a changing neighborhood and rents we could already just barley afford. And if a super tasty Mexican bakery, with sexy cakes that have turned brown cause they have been in the window so long, that also just happens to have the best salsa vedre that I’ve tasted since working in my family’s Mexican restaurant in Los Angeles couldn’t last, what chance did we have to stop the beast?
Now I gotta figure out what to do this new years. Not New Years Eve, but New Years Day, about 1:30 in the afternoon, when I roll out of bead in Astoria and realize there is no damage to assess, no mountain of empties to round up, no drunk dude passed out in the net, and no shitty super tasty Mexican bakery to roll to as a family to try and cure our collective hangover. It’ll be weird. I found a pretty decently shitty Mexican spot up here that is pretty tasty that will probably cure my hang over, but nothing will replace magic that the collection of dudes and ladies that made up Death By Audio made me feel when we were all together. I will never forget all the love they showed me over the years.
—Brandon Perry / WFMU DJ, former DBA resident
It’s hard to talk about Death by Audio without feeling like I’m overselling it to those who never got to go and be a part of its community.
I’m going to miss the fuck out of Death by Audio. If it weren’t for Death by Audio, you wouldn’t be reading these words right now because I would have no association with Impose. I moved to NY in 2008 to be closer to an amazing woman I easily fell in love with. Her photography inspired me to try my hand at it and our shared love of indie and DIY music and culture lead us all over New York.
It led us back to DBA more-so than anywhere else. Edan Wilber’s careful programming of local and touring talent meant that I could walk in knowing only one act, but loving three more. Death by Audio has seen acts that have gone on to be “real famous” not just “internet famous” (though I’ve seen plenty of internet famous acts there too). We’ve seen returning veterans, and we’ve seen so many secret shows by acts you’ve come to just count on a DBA show to be an unannounced part of the tour itinerary.
The booking has been diverse enough that I’ve seen a woman sing opera style over electronic music with a television turned to a dead channel on stage, to New York pop punk mainstays like Bomb The Music Industry!, to weird and unclassifiable experimental projects. Death by Audio was able to bring together crowds made up of curious journalists and underage punks looking to slam into one another.
It was at Death by Audio that I really learned how to be a photographer. A large chunk of my wardrobe is band shirts purchased from DBA acts. The first cassette tape I bought in the new millennium was from an act that didn’t have shirts at DBA (some opening act named Parquet Courts who performed for me and three other people).
I’m old as hell. I’ve seen venues close due to shady owners (shout out to Raygun in Richmond, VA), I’ve seen venues close due to development projects (shout out to Trax and Nation in Washington, DC), I’ve seen cops raid nightclubs to force shut downs (The Edge in DC) I’ve seen house collectives break up, I’ve seen people feel the need to get real jobs.
It always sucks to lose a place that’s special to you, but the gears of time grind everything to dust. The good thing about underground and DIY is that it’s very difficult to kill and there are new venues that will rise up to fill a void. My only hope is that they’re able to do so with half the strength and integrity shown by my favorite place in New York City.
—Eric Phipps / Impose Photo Editor
If it weren’t for Death by Audio, you wouldn’t be reading these words right now.
So good old Death By Audio is closing. But what will we miss? Some nondescript concrete box in Brooklyn?
My memory is notoriously spotty and well known for its sieve-like qualities, but I think my first time at Death By Audio was a Tyvek show some years back. New York City gave me the willies—both the general fear and the chill of being around the ridiculously hip variety. When I walked up to what I assumed was the location (for the young folks, this was before smartphones) I was dreading that Death By Audio would be a temple to the vacuously “with-it”, you know, some dark bolthole without signage that contained in its dark confines fashion vampires, minor celebrities, drug-nosed Richie Riches, and the kind of people that, if I was on fire, would rather roll their eyes and offer up a Vice-approved blog about the empty spectacle of my immolation than piss on me. So you know I was already prepared to dislike Death By Audio when I saw that it has no sign out front. I was at the wrong address, sure (again, I know you young folks have short attention spans, this was back when phones weren’t brains in your pocket), but when I did find the correct location it didn’t have any signage either. Uh-oh. Would my fears be realized?
Well, no. Of course not. Death By Audio somehow avoided the trappings of being one of those hip pits and truly was “all about the music.” Sure, it still was a pit. But many of its failings ended up keeping away the fakers, poseurs, and people who didn’t want to give full attention to the cavalcade of bands. To reiterate, it was just a box. There was no place to sit and look cool not listening to the music. The drink situation was woefully minimal. It had a certain tangy smell that occurs when you pack in scads of music fans (a group notorious for their unfamiliarity with personal hygiene). The bathrooms were utilitarian, so much so that I’m sure it kept the clandestine drug-taking to shorter intervals, whereas a lavish water closet almost begs for leisurely snorting, popping, and blowing. Sadly, the flimsy doors and rudimentary plumbing also kept me going down to Williamsburger to purchase something cheap so I could use their facilities for the more rigorous forms of evacuation.
All those faults would give you a two-star Yelp review at best. They’d also help make Death By Audio our favorite place to play in NYC. Look, I don’t know how the arithmetic works. I really shouldn’t. But if you’re a DBA audience, you’re there for the music—not the scene, not the decor, not the possibility of peaceful craps. For a band, an audience that’s engaged (and perhaps constipated) is the best. In a (place insult here) city like New York, it’s a goddamned miracle. Oh, and the sound was excellent. How was that possible?
So Death By Audio is closing. You can be sad, but I won’t be. Because that’s life. Because nobody died. Because it was just a stank-ass empty room. The people made Death By Audio great. Yeah, I’m that cheesy, but in this case it is true. Edan and the rest. The door people and the audiences. The good attitude that permeated the place like record-collector body odor came from them all. It wasn’t hipper-than-thou. It was the real deal and if that city is worth a damn, that greatness and goodness will continue on in some form or another. That’s something to celebrate.
It wasn’t hipper-than-thou. It was the real deal and if that city is worth a damn, that greatness and goodness will continue on in some form or another.
Death By Audio was my first New York show, around 2007. It was me and The Ram Ones, a side project of Dan Deacon and Connor Keizer. This was before I had a drum, I just got on the mic and went for it and people showed love. I sang “Beautiful Transvestite in The Rain”, “Gas Station Attendant”, and did a rap of some kind. I was really surprised they invited me back but Edan and the gang always wanted more! I have played so many shows at DBA. It just doesn’t make sense that it’s gone. It’s like never having rainbow sherbet again—you always figure you can get it but no, you can’t and you look for something else to replace it but nothing quite can. It was a big part of our life, but let’s carry the spirit onwards into the new frontier!
—Ed Schrader / Ed Schrader’s Music Beat
Death By Audio was a truly radical space. This wasn’t immediately clear the first time I walked in almost seven years ago, and isn’t something that would become clear from any one visit. Death By Audio was an incredibly well-run DIY space that really put artists (whether visual, or audio) first and provided a space for some of the best shows I went to in New York, and this in and of itself is significant, but in my opinion not what was so truly special about the space. In a way that few other spaces in NY have been able to achieve, Death By Audio managed to bring some kind of unity to New York’s incredibly diverse array of DIY music scenes. It was just as likely to see a local hardcore band at Death By Audio as it was an indie folk act, punk rock band, noise artist, art rock duo, or anything else rooted in DIY. In this sense, the space really transcended the various national and local music scenes and provided a place for artists of all types who favor true DIY and independent values over any type of sound. Was this revolutionary? Not exactly. There are any number of spaces around the country and in New York equally successful at this type of unification, but nonetheless it is important. Spaces like Death By Audio are important. Spaces like Silent Barn and Shea Stadium are important. With Death By Audio we are losing one of these important spaces, and that is a huge loss to New York and to the independent artists that come through New York every year. It seems like New York is losing more and more of its important spaces each year, with eulogies steeped in nostalgia and the good times had inside, but losing these spaces hurts far more than the sum of the memories had within their walls. When these spaces close we lose everything they stand for, and maybe that is worth fighting for?
—Joe Steinhardt / Don Giovanni Records
I threw up about five times during a show that I was playing at DBA once. It was magical and unreal. Totally unphased, I kept going until the set was over (this was actually when I was playing in the band Useless Eaters). Edan then talked about it on his radio show the next day for all to hear. This is one of about 10 to 20 crazy memories I have from spending time at Death By Audio. The thing is, it hasn’t just been Edan who has helped me there. Every single person I’ve ever met at DBA has gone way out of their way to make sure I felt comfortable, and was having a good time. The shows are always a blast and Edan is always up there blowing his ears out next to the PA making bands sound great and being supportive of ALL kinds of music and people. DBA is kind of just the best.
—Casey Weissbuch / Diarrhea Planet
I just have to get something off my chest first and it’s this: I’m really pissed off that I have to write this piece.
I just have to get something off my chest first and it’s this: I’m really pissed off that I have to write this piece. I knew DBA couldn’t last forever, but I figured it would be lost to a some jackass developer who wanted to knock down the building for another poorly-constructed, overpriced luxury monstrosity. Instead, it’s being cannibalized by a media group that owes places like Death by Audio its very existence. The word “irony” isn’t nearly strong enough to describe the situation we have here.
Anyway, back to the eulogy or whatever. In 2011, I was part of a short-lived feminist collective called Permanent Wave (again with the irony), and we decided we wanted to put on shows that created safe spaces, benefited non-profits focused on helping women, and featured bands made up mostly of female-identified persons. We also wanted to bring baked goods to sell. I’m still not really sure which venue I would approach right now if I had to do this all over again. Edan didn’t know anything about us or who we were, but he was on board right from the start and let us take over his venue as often as once a month to have our shows. Those of us who know Edan know that he is incredibly protective of DBA’s reputation and books with extreme care, so the fact that he trusted us with what basically amounts to his child was kind of incredible. I’m only truly realizing this now, in hindsight. Sometimes our shows only did moderately well. Sometimes we had a Beastie Boy on stage spinning Bikini Kill while Permanent Wave members danced around him wearing neon balaclavas in solidarity with Pussy Riot. Sometimes we got to write checks for $500 to Planned Parenthood. The point is, we did what we wanted there and felt like a community. I miss how those shows felt, and after November 22, we won’t be able to go back again, ever.
I also booked some shows for The Chris Gethard Show presents at DBA, featuring bands that had appeared on the public access show and creating a fun new space for our fans to interact. There truly couldn’t have been a better backdrop for a bunch of TCGS-friendly bands and their fans. A man in a parrot costume leaned against one of Marissa Paternoster’s murals. Chris threw Peanut Chews into the crowd. Fans geeked out over the custom-built video games in the back room. Teenagers were stoked about a show they could actually attend. Shellshag threw flowers. Aside from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and other comedy venues, nowhere was more welcoming to the TCGS community.
I’ve also played at DBA, both with my ex-band Leda and with Mal Blum. Leda played to a small crowd, on the bill with Cutters and Bad Behavior. The place wasn’t full by any stretch, but the mood was overwhelmingly supportive. It was one of my last shows with the band, and one of the few where I genuinely didn’t care how many people were there to see us. Just having a few people smiling and dancing to us on that tiled floor was enough.
Thee Oh Sees played DBA on June 15, 2014, one of the last shows I got to see there in ignorant bliss. Dorie tipped me off that the show was actually happening, and even though I’d seen them at Irving Plaza not too long ago, I knew this would be better. I danced in the back, sweating, until I couldn’t handle the body mass. Then I stood in the front where the kids worked the door, with my back against the dividing wall that shielded the stage from the street. I felt the vibrations of “Toe Cutter/Thumb Buster” through the wall and tried to stay in that exact moment for as long as possible.
DBA is just a place I love, a place that feels comfortable and important and meaningful and significant. It also didn’t play the game. There’s scaffolding on the outside of the building now, though the offices replacing it aren’t slated to open until January 2015. Shitting where you eat is the new black. Enjoy the condos and bottle service.
—Heidi Vanderlee / Booker for “The Chris Gethard Show”, Early Riser
Imagine yourself in the Big Apple, surrounded by skyscrapers, sky-high heels, and all of the things New York symbolizes to traveling musicians. You pull up to Death By Audio, and you’re home! Hopefully its impending absence opens a door for a new DIY spot to grow? Also, big thank you to Edan Wilber for making it all happen.
—Miss Alex White / White Mystery
I won’t say goodbye because goodbye is too final. Merely just, “see you real soon.”
Most people remember their first tape, cassette, or record as a child. Their first show; seeing and playing.
For me those aren’t as special as the times I met Edan, Matt, Oliver, Jay, Mark, Stephanie, Heather, Josh, Burgers, Anuj, Chris, Brandon, and the kitties of DBA. Unfortunately, I’d need about ten pages to fill in those memories. Whether romantic or platonic, when you meet the ‘right’ people you just know. Death by Audio always appealed to me even in the early days of summer ’07 when Todd P started having shows at the fairly-newish space. The first show I remember working there was Dan Deacon. The place was like a wet washcloth in a bucket after the show. It had just so happened to be Matt’s 25th birthday when Todd, the interns, Matt, and I went out for a post-show drink. Matt and I talked about the space and upcoming shows and I think even back then as a 23-year-old from Long Island who never really went to shows with the exception of hardcore bands in church basements and community centers or Lynyrd Skynnrd cover bands at the local coffee shop or crusty Irish pub, I felt like this was my home away from home.
It’s a wonderful feeling to walk into a room or hall and feel this positive energy waiting for someone to grab the reigns like DBA was for me. Some of my favorite or indifferent memories of DBA included the “I remember Halloween” group art show I curated with my late and wonderful friend, Amelia Geocos on Halloween ’07. It was a little chaotic, but it only gave me more knowledge and influence to do it better next time. When Showpaper was first created, Todd used to have benefits for it and Edan and I ended up improvising for about twenty minutes and seeing a herd of 16-year-old boys trying to ask me about it only made it funnier. That whole first year was a blur, but I do remember the night Matt asked if I wanted to work regularly at DBA and I got super excited about being a part of the family.
By May, 2008, I knew I needed a little break, so I left Brooklyn for a few months when an open ended “come back whenever,” which I did eventually. That small gap in DBA time really showed immense growth and excitement in the show department. I went back to doing door after I had dabbled in bartending and door duties in the beginning. From there on out our family continued to grow. The amount of people who have helped as door staff, played shows, or simply attended them as lovers and supporters of music and art are truly what makes DBA what it is. I can’t “was” because we’re not dead. Like nature; establishments, creatures, and places are not supposed to last forever. Ephemera is a concept that I consider sacred. Not everyone can experience the same moments, memories, or ideas, but if you can catch a little bit of it while it exists at one point, that is when you’ve truly felt.
I’ve been saying this since we announced our closing but, I cannot say goodbye. Who knows where we’ll be in a day a month or a year. Death by Audio isn’t dying. It is merely a seashell our snail of a body is using until a bigger and even more exciting one comes along. My heart hurts a little more each day, but it’s more about every person I’ve shared moments with there. Death by audio is one of the many of the loves in my life. I can’t say anything negative about that. And I won’t say goodbye because goodbye is too final. Merely just, “see you real soon.”
—Dorie Van Dercreek / DBA employee
Death by Audio was really my everything.
Death by Audio was really my everything, but if you know me, you know that. It was the single biggest undertaking of my life and I don’t regret a second of it. I have spent 1/4 of my life in this building and it dawns on me every morning how much closer to the end we are. The value of what I have gotten from my experiences here are immeasurable, and leaps and bounds more valuable than any material wealth I could’ve gained doing something else. I have met people from all around the world just because they heard about this little room that some friend of their’s said they just had to play in. It’s a shame to lose something like that because it can’t be manufactured. We have always run on the best of intentions and it propelled us so far for so long, none of us could’ve imagined it would’ve lasted as long as it did and stayed true to its beliefs from day one. I’m happy to go out on such a high note, the past few weeks have been mind-blowingly incredible and I have gotten to see many old friends make their pilgrimage here one last time and I look forward to a few more rad weeks before we are forced out of the only place in NYC thats ever felt like home to me. Thanks for being a part of it all, because without you it would’ve been a lot harder to do. For real though, seeing a room full of smiling people enjoying the same things I enjoy is the greatest feeling in the world, and I’ll be pretty sad when I don’t get to see that every night.
I always felt like I was at the beginning of something at DBA. I never felt like I was at the end. I still don’t.
The first time I stepped foot in death by audio was in 2007 to see Mika Miko. It was my wildest 18-year-old dreams come true—in the shape of a venue. It was, in and of itself, a testament to how cool NYC was at the time, and I couldn’t believe something so cool actually existed. Mika Miko played the front room and then some other band played in the back while Dune was being projected on the wall. It was paradise. From there, I went on to see and play some of the best shows of my life. I also turned 21, watched Obama take office, and saw my best friend for the last time all in that tiny little dank, sweaty, sour, and smoky room. But beyond my own experience, DBA offered an all ages show space for bands all around the world, no matter what size, to be able to play New York, and that is something sacred. Although it’s been sometime since I’ve even seen a show there, It gave me comfort just knowing it was there, doors always open, a band almost every night with Edan smiling from behind the board. It’s been upsetting watching the great DIY venues of NYC drop off one by one, but watching DBA go is devastating, and it hurts just a little more than all the others. Of it’s crop, it was the first to come, and the last to go. A true legend of a venue. May it rest in power.
—Kevin Morby / Woods, The Babies
I remember sitting on the toilet once and staring at the nonsense graffitied on the wall and seeing a glimmer of hope: “Riot grrrl is in you,” someone wrote. Unlike a lot of spaces in New York that claim to be inclusive, DBA felt wide open and limitless from start to finish. I always felt like I was at the beginning of something at DBA. I never felt like I was at the end. I still don’t.
—Jenn Pelly / Pitchfork writer
Thanks for being so great to me over the past couple times I’ve seen you guys (Doomsday Student and Eric), what you guys have done to make me feel not-so-shitty about being the disabled guy at your shows still amazes me. Thank you to everyone at Death by Audio on 11/8 because I will forever remember how welcomed and accepted that venue made me feel, and to all the bands I’ve been lucky enough to see there.
—Joe Satkowski / Doomsday Student fan
I played my last Death By Audio show the other night and I got such a weird sinking feeling that didn’t really hit me until we were setting up on stage. I was like, “Holy shit… this is the last time I’m going to be able to set up and play DBA.” What a bummer right? But I also felt really lucky to have been able to play and see so many shows there. I was looking back and we wound up playing there over 20 times. At one point we even played a few times in one week. DBA always felt like home because everyone who lived there or helped run the space made you feel that way. Its pretty crazy how many awesome people came together to make DBA such a special place. I’m going to miss walking though that gray door and seeing Burgers, Dorie, and Josh. Getting those little pebbles and talking nonsense with Gavin and Tara. Talking to Oliver after a show and most of all seeing Edan and catching up on what we had both been up to. He was asking us to play shows when we first started when nobody else would. Without him we would have never met and toured with so many awesome bands, and made new friends from all over. I’m really going to miss DBA.
—Derek Watson / Hunters
Setting up a shared artist loft feels like an obvious thing to do upon moving to an expensive big city, so it’s hardly a surprise that the Death by Audio folks took this initial step. They created up a home for themselves that was comfortable and welcoming and fun enough to last nine years, which is itself an accomplishment (I was lucky enough to record some drummers there once, so I’ll note as an aside that the room sounded great too). Down the hall, a shop built magical effect pedals to help musicians, both acclaimed and obscure, achieve their sonic dreams, with pedals spreading in a remarkably wide radius. These accomplishments alone are impressive, but it’s easy to overlook them, given the special music venue down the hall, that we’ve all so come to cherish.
I rarely perform music live these days, and while I don’t miss carrying gear, I feel incredibly sad at times like this, that I’m really missing out. When the Lounge Ax, Covered Dish, and Tonic closed, I knew first-hand how well they treated performers, and how much everyone would miss that feeling of being valued and cherished. With the closing of Death by Audio, I’ll have to experience this part vicariously. Bands loved playing there, and the reasons were obvious even without first-hand experience. Everyone who played there, and even the audience, got treated like royalty (without any of the annoying outward trappings). Edan coaxed perfect sounds out of the modest-looking PA to have bands sounding perfect, no matter the style, night after night. Concerts ran smoothly and without stress, and bands got paid fairly. All of these qualities seem so obvious, which makes it amazing how often venues get them wrong. At Death by Audio, it just felt like nothing was ever wrong, and everything was always right, without any outward sign of the hard work needed to achieve this consistency. Things just seemed natural, and like they’d always been that way. In retrospect, seven years of being that way might as well be always, given how fast the neighborhood changes these days.
A few months ago, I explained to a musician, passing through town on tour, my idea of magic in New York. I suggested that I found it by escaping all outward signs of fanciness or glamor, in places where simplicity and warmth created comfort and a sense of home. It’s hard to think of anywhere that created nearly so much magic, over so many years, as Death by Audio. We’ll all miss it, a lot.
—Steve Silverstein / Writer, technologist
The first or second time I went to Death by Audio, some band screamed their songs standing on a table in the front room. It was Dirty Projectors. It was 2007. I was 19. I didn’t love them but I knew I was witnessing something special.
Watching that little corner develop, seeing so many bands play there, going home late smelling of other people’s BO and smoke, talking to my friends on that step-stoop outside, running to Crown Vic to avoid using those awful bathrooms. I’ll miss it very much.
My favorite part about living at DBA? Polly, in all her glory.
-Sara Rabin / DBA roommate, 2013-14
DBA gave back and gave back and gave back. Music and art there inspired even more music and even more art.
New York often seems like a city of exclusivity. It’s easy to feel like you don’t belong, you don’t have enough money, you’re not worthy, you can’t connect. Death By Audio has been the antidote to that. It’s one of the very few places I can recall where you almost instantly feel included, even if you’re there for the first time. That’s a huge testament to the people who have made that space and the community around it possible.
It really feels like home. It’s a comfortable, safe space. It’s encouraged anyone there to do their best work, and not just that, but also to experiment and get weird. Being there is inspiring, and being around the people there is inspiring. Death By Audio has been an island of creativity and positivity in an ocean of blandness, cynicism, and complacency.
How many places can you think of where you could just show up any day of the week and run into at least a couple people you know? If you came to shows frequently enough, you got to know everyone working the door, running the bar, and certainly you’d know Edan. You’d get to know the other freaks who would show up just as much if not more than you. If you stuck around long enough, all these people became your friends, and if you showed enough enthusiasm and devotion about your own art, these people often became some of your biggest supporters. I can’t thank these people enough.
It was a dream to be able to play the same place where I’d seen some of my favorite bands. Death By Audio has been one of only a few places – quickly diminishing in number – where a brand new band getting its sea legs could easily set up a show, and where, more likely than not, that new band might just be supporting a much bigger band on the bill. It was also one of the rare venues where, even if only twenty people showed up, the performers were still treated well and were always paid.
In other words, DBA gave back and gave back and gave back. Music and art there inspired even more music and even more art.
Death By Audio is arguably the model for inclusiveness, creativity, and optimism. You get what you put into it, which is the way it should always be. Let’s hope that, in the same way a naive 22-year-old was compelled years ago to make his own strange music after seeing a lot of it at his favorite venue, Death By Audio inspires even more amazing people and places in its absence to do great, meaningful things.
—Noah Kardos-Fein / YVETTE
While I’ve been working in the often-deplorable clusterfuck that is the music industry for almost a decade I’ve never played in a band, never felt like I’ve been a part of a scene, but I think that only made Death by Audio even more meaningful to me.
I was first brought there by a colleague who couldn’t believe that I’d never seen Parts and Labor. Have you ever felt like you’ve fallen in love so quickly and thoroughly with a sound that you could die happily on the spot? That show exists among maybe five others in that category for me.
I’ve rarely had the fortune of friends that share my taste in music, but I’m also not one to shy away from being alone, I started to go to DBA by myself whenever I found myself in Williamsburg with nothing to do. Whether it’s at a bar, a movie theater, or most venues, being a woman on her own seems to be a universal invitation for unwanted attention. At DBA though, I felt comfortable. And then there were the shows I saw. There was the time I got turned away from a sold out show at 285 only to realize it was a blessing in disguise as No Age was just around the corner. Or when I thankfully stayed after an early Pop. 1280 set and caught METZ long before they took Sub Pop and the world by storm.
I’ve been saying for years that DBA was one of the two best places to see music in NYC, even though I knew next to nothing about what went on behind the scenes. Then I met my now-partner who works the door. Through him and meeting Edan and the whole crew, my already-immense respect for the place increased ten-fold.
Even though many would think the arts would foster more respect and fair dealings amongst those who work in it, it’s sadly not the case far too frequently. Death By Audio is truly a glowing exception of unshaking idealism and respect in an industry that I had been giving up on. While I wish people and places like them were the rule and not the exception, getting to see how that space has been brought to life with the passion of everyone involved is enough to give me hope for what is possible, whether it be future projects from the DBA crew or those who were inspired by them. And that, in the end, is the transcendent possibilities of music exemplified.
—Zan Emerson / Le Poisson Rouge, Wordless Music
I didn’t realize the first time I went to DBA that it was in fact DBA until someone included the show on a Facebook eulogy. I thought I traveled down from college and saw Growing / Mick Barr / Thrones in an abandoned office building squat or something. That was a cool show… I still remember Mick Barr climbing up on a chair in the middle of the room and unceremoniously melting faces.
I can say without a doubt that I left more sweat in that room to the likes of Ty Segall, Jeff the Bros, and Double Dagger than when I was a teenager at CBGBs. I’m a sweaty guy, true, but the hyperbole I’m trying to summon is that I had lots of fun. I’ve walked home dripping sweat from the fringe of my shorts, feel me? I can still tap into the rush of excitement in seeing a guy dressed all in white climb on stage and start pounding on his chest before launching into what I would come to know as Future Islands. I remember the day that the same energy swept through Letterman and feeling like DBA was a part of that. The stuff I experienced in that room birthed a feeling that was inseparable from the acts that performed in it forever. The room, the band, and the audience has always been something special in there for me. We have a framed picture of my friends and I partying at DBA hanging in my apartment; I think my old roommate tracked down an Impose photographer actually, and promised not to use it for profit.
I don’t know the crew well, hell I’d probably not be acquaintances with Edan if he hadn’t rescued me when I couldn’t figure out the soundboard during an in-store at my short-lived record co-op, but I’m so grateful for the past seven years of good times and am stoked on where they go next. I wouldn’t write this if I thought I could express my gratitude in person. Much love.
—Tommy Cotter / Temporary Residence Ltd.
When I first read the news that DBA was closing, it was both a shock and a relief. I might never get off the train at Bedford again, and to be honest, I’m cool with that.
I remember when I first started going to shows around the age of 16, I was going to the bigger places like Bowery Ballroom and Webster Hall. Experiencing live music for the first time was totally thrilling, but at these venues, the separation between the bands and the fans was all too clear.
Then came my 20s and Brooklyn and places like Death by Audio. There, the lines between the people on and off the stage became blurred to me for the very first time. Suddenly, the dude in the band wasn’t this untouchable figure. He was the guy standing next to me on line for beer and complimenting my Ovlov t-shirt. He was my friend. At Death by Audio, we were all the same, and we all knew it. This was something we had built for ourselves, something special, something worth holding onto.
Over the past couple of years, as I’ve slowly built a career writing about music, I’ve been through a lot of fucked-up shit. I’ve been rejected and fired from my job and had my heart broken. I’ve been too poor to afford dinner, choosing to attend a show instead. I’ve also made some truly incredible memories, made friends with some truly incredible people, and experienced love and support from a community I always dreamed I’d be a part of.
One of my favorite scribbles inside the DBA toilet says, “Everything is hard before it gets easy.” I’ve never felt that to be more true than this past year, but like I said before, I’m cool with it. DBA will be gone soon but we aren’t going anywhere. They can’t ever take it away from us. It’s still ours.
—Loren DiBlasi / Contributing writer to Impose
Thank you for showing us a better way and let us hope more venues will follow in your footsteps.
I first heard about Death by Audio as an effects pedal company. It was a major part of my de-programming / DIY education. I used to go to Main Drag Music at the old location and the dudes there were always really, really nice. They told me some local dudes were making these pedals… I was fairly blown away. I thought electronics were made by, I dunno, machines? Some monolithic corporation? Not by individuals. It was the first time I’d heard of folks making their own electronics. I realize this is not totally uncommon, but it was new to me, and felt so right, a logical extension of the DIY spirit I’d always loved. The DBA name stuck in my head.
Fast forward a few years. I was doing DIY tours, living out of my car, playing anywhere and everywhere I could. After a wayward weekend spent upstate ingesting unholy amounts of Psilocybin and playing guitar in a racquetball court, my friend Willis and I headed back into the city to play at the only place that would book our bizarre act—a projection of myself being projected onto myself, and both versions singing slightly out of key and warbled. Nobody at Death by Audio batted an eye. They did tell me not to hang out on the street, so as not to alert folks about the place’s location. How soon things change.
I always felt a kinship with DBA, right from the start. I had a couple of DIY venues / communal experiments in Austin and felt like, hey, these are *my people.* And the fact that they did this in NYC, man, that floored me. DBA inspired me and let me know, yes, I’m not alone in this quixotic earthly mission to make things that aren’t lame, stupid, overexposed, dumbly hyped. Playing at DBA felt like home.
We started a band because we wanted to be a part of what we saw happening at Death By Audio. I saw legendary bands, awkwardly gushed about their records to them in the back room, and waited in line with them to pee. There are few things as equalizing as the bathroom lines at DIY venues. I also saw bands grow up. Big Ups and Flagland each playing Death By Audio for the first time was a big deal for all of our friends. There was no hierarchy of cool at DBA. They said “here is an open community” without actually having to say it out loud. I’m grateful we got to play there, but I’m even more grateful for the times I was inspired by a band or performer and was able to just shoot the shit with them afterward. We’re lucky to have had that kind of outlet for as long as we did.
—Mike Quigley / Washer
I decided to write this after lunch with Edan at a German spot that Marty McSorley first introduced me to. It has liters of quality German brews and killer schnitzel, I had a liter and a half along with an intense burger and some special cigs so I’m ready to spill my guts.
I first met Edan in 2009 when my friend’s band Paper Mice (Chicago) was playing a show with Pterodactyl; it was sick. I was in town for a week and had already caught an insane show a couple days before hand, fuckin’ White Mice / Cacaw (Chicago) / Liturgy / White Suns, and was complementing him on how rad both shows were and how sick and positive of a venue he had never knowing that there was an amazing haven of positivity living in the back.
A good friend of mine, Brandon Perry, later moved into the ranch and I ended up visiting again some time around 2010, crashing on a couch for a couple days. It was unreal, I got extremely into home brewing in Chicago a few years before hand and the first thing I saw walking into the ranch was Mark’s carboy fermenting. The level of constant and most importantly diverse creativity brewing (get it??) in that place is unreal. Even my crazy boss, Tyler Love, started the online news publication that I currently work for from a bedroom connected to our makeshift movie room.
I ended up finally moving to New York in 2013 and immediately ran straight to death by audio knowing that it was the only place I wanted to live, or at the very least, the community I wanted to be apart of. It was a pretty awkward first couple of months, squatting in a place filled with people you admire trying to act cool while still having records and large packages from my parents sent to a home that wasn’t mine because I never spent any time at my sublets. Within the first couple weeks these people had already become dear friends of mine, I think mostly due to an insane night where Natty Child played Skinny Dennis. It was by far the easiest move into a city I’d ever had.
Everyone knows the people of Death by Audio because of the amazing things they produce (shows, pedals, blue tooth boom boxes, killer DJ nights, record store barber shops, vintage clothing stores, chill vibes, lasers and fog), but what I am always going to be thankful for is being able to have spent stay-home movie nights, daytime hangs, Sunday dinners, and blackout party nights with these people. It kinda sucks that I only got to spend a short amount of time in this little piece of paradise as I am sure I could have learned a lot more, but I am grateful to be able to say I got to experience the amount I did and meet all of the amazing people I now call my friends.
—Anuj / DBA resident, run-on sentence king
Unlike others, I AM willing to compare Death by Audio to other past music venues. And Death By Audio may be the best music venue that New York City has ever had. Ever. You might think my claim is crazy. NYC has had a ridiculous number of legendary venues stretching back over a long history. But before naming any other contenders, consider my criteria:
* 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?
* Would you feel safe and welcome there?
* Did shows start and end (mostly) on time?
* 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?
Regarding Death by Audio, the answer to all of these is YES. My own history playing and seeing music in NYC goes back (only) 15 years. Long enough to have played the old Knitting Factory location and CBGB’s. I’m pretty sure I was also at the very first show at Death by Audio. CBGB’s may be able to claim a longer list of legendary bands, but great bands are just part of what makes a venue ITSELF great. CBGB’s was also sort of a shithole. The bathrooms didn’t have doors. The sound guy probably loathed you. You’d have to play a “try-out” night with other random bands before getting a “real” show. Death by Audio was far better.
Tireless booker and sound-guy Edan was always a pleasure 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?) Just the layout, size, and construction of the entire place was perfect. Death by Audio was the best venue. It was all the things that are great about a DIY space or punk house combined with all the things that can be great about a rock club. It was things you wouldn’t have even thought you could ask for in a music venue: Reliable. Friendly. Inspiring.
There are some other great places still doing great things (Silent Barn and Shea Stadium immediately come to mind), but as a pure music-hosting place, Death by Audio will be hard to beat. Thank you for showing us a better way and let us hope more venues will follow in your footsteps.
—MP Lockwood / Radio Shock, proprietor of No-Core website