Big Condos and Broken Teeth: Celebrating 5 Years of DIY Institution Death By Audio

03/29/2012 11:31 AM |

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When Death by Audio opened in March 2007 on an otherwise deserted block of South 2nd Street, the Williamsburg music scene was a different beast. (So was the neighborhood.) Condos have risen, Williamsburg now rivals the Lower East Side as a music destination, and Death by Audio is neighbor to high end sushi, Italian and tapas restaurants (and a movie theater), but the space — an outgrowth of the guitar effects pedal company run by A Place to Bury Strangers Oliver Ackermann — remains a vital all-ages venue for indie, punk and metal. With Death by Audio’s 5th Anniversary Party this Saturday (featuring Grooms, Neckbeard Telecaster, Tim Harrington and more), we talked to DBA duo Matt Conboy and Edan Wilber about the changes in the neighborhood over the last five years, some of the venue’s highlights, and the impossibility of keeping the bathrooms clean.

Please explain what you do at Death by Audio

Matt Conboy: Um, I help make things work at Death By Audio.

Edan Wilber: I’m more of the day-to-day… I do most all the booking and run all the shows to a certain extent. The tedium.

When I heard it was the fifth anniversary, I thought it had been longer. There were shows there before it was called Death by Audio, right?

MC: Part of our warehouse is a recording studio and the effects pedals workshop. When that was getting built out there were random parties to help finance their construction. That was 2006, 2005?

EW: That’s when there was still roof access right?

I seem to remember going there during CMJ 2005, some show that was supposed to be a roof party. Dirty on Purpose and Vaz?

MC: I think Vietnam also played? I wasn’t at that show. I knew some of the guys but I didnít actually go over there till 2006.

At what point were you involved?

MC: In 2007 with three other people, I leased half the warehouse space and that’s when we started doing shows, to help pay for building materials.

Do you remember who played that first show?

MC: Totally. It was March 31. There were seven bands. Growing and Thrones.

EW: Child Abuse, Vaz. And Mick Barr, maybe one other? We did front room, back room, before anything was really set up. Raw space.

MC: We didnít know what we were doing, but I already knew Todd P. It kind of happened accidentally. The show was originally supposed to be at The Woodser but they didn’t want to do it for some reason…

EW: A good reason. It was a huge fucking show. I worked the door, actually. It was soon after I’d become friends with Todd and they needed somebody. So, I was there, I just not in any administrative capacity.

MC: Nobody was. Though as we started, through the first year and a half or so, I had another partner, this guy Jason Amos, who now lives in LA I think. He was instrumental in helping running everything, getting it off the ground.

4 Comment

  • great interview! more great memories: Thurston Moore / Wolf Eyes, when Thurston planted his guitar in the ceiling tiles (I think that was my first show there…), seeing Talk Normal in the back room at one of the two stage shows, Dan Friel also played in the back room that night, and Anamanaguchi? Also last year Ariel Panero memorial shows, when Pat from These Are Powers announced that would be their last show, handed everyone the band business card and went to each person with a match to set those on fire and say goodbye, it was a perfect melancholy ending.

  • Edan, Matt, you guys are such an incredibly huge inspiration to me. I am so, so thankful that DBA has existed for as long as it has and am incredibly proud to have spent as much time there as I have. Thank you for existing!!!! – Jesse H

  • Matt-whenever my friends and I get to NY, we always save time for a trip or two to DBA. The room, the bands, the whole cutting edge music scene that exists in that neighborhood is a real credit to your love of music and belief in supporting different genres, and supporting up and comers.

    Dan F. Oakland, Ca.

  • Is this in the print archives because I think what these chaps have just said is significant in the context of musical and local history. The area has been resurrected by the art and music scene that they admit to being a catalyst in. But after the authorities have gone over the neighbourhood with a bar of soap what will the next stage of gentrification be? Imagine Williamsburg in another decade after wave after wave of lawyers, bankers and paper pushers move into its trendy newly built/refurbished warehouse apartments.

    Death By Audio stands tall but they won’t stick around if the rents rise up and the water starts to get deep around the ankles. Fortunately places like it will always exist somewhere, somehow because of people like Matt and Edan. They are doing something for a love of music and good times rather than greed, providing a theatre for entertainment while sticking two fingers up to the establishment and commercial advertisers in the process.

    I went down to DBA last year but I never got to check out the venue. I know a lot of bands who have been though there and they’re proving that independent values and no-profit – no-bullshit works on a small-scale. Whereas mainstream music venues are churning out more and more gigs as corporate events sponsored by Red Bull and Jack Daniels (or some piss weak lager) and where the majority of attendees are a consumer class – middle-aged professionals with money to burn on the bar. This is enabling some bands and venues to survive the climate but it’s distancing more people from the music and diluting our culture little by little. Look at CBGBs – now nothing more than a brand for selling $90 t-shirts, its real heritage has almost disappeared. When I see a kid wearing one of those shirts its worse than seeing them setting fire to a car in a primordial act of subverted aggression – at least there’s some inspiration behind that.

    Alex Hancock, London