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Sharon Van Etten, a local star whose ascent arguably started with her Zebulon residencies, is less optimistic. “I am so sad Zebulon is closing,” she told us. “They were the first venue in Brooklyn to nurture me and support me and encourage me—and many other artists. It was a welcoming space with people that really cared about music and the people that made it. It is an end of an era. It is a sign where Williamsburg is going. Someone once said to me, ‘Civilizations rise and fall’... there will never be another Zebulon.”
At the club’s last Sunday night, the crowd seemed interested in the music being played: in the back, girls stood on chairs, trying to see who was playing; behind them, photographers took pictures of girls standing on chairs. But the music was secondary to a friendly if melancholy compulsion to pay one’s respects. Beyond 10 feet, the sound from the PA was overwhelmed by a murmured echo of “holy shit, I haven’t seen you since…” My peripheral vision was dominated by hugs. The feeling was somewhere between a wake and the last day of camp.
Upfront, where you could hear it, the music on stage was appropriately varied and low-key—not quite the press-listed, big-name blowout the spot could’ve commanded. Jazz drummer Ryan Sawyer led the crowd through a beatnik version of “Love Shack” to giggles and applause. TV on the Radio’s Kyp Malone, who’d end the evening jamming on stage, slipped in a few hours earlier to hang out, squeezing through a gauntlet of backslaps blunted by his winter coat. Dirty Projectors’ Dave Longstreth and Amber Coffman stayed in the crowd, on the sidewalk. There were many more musicians significantly less famous there, too. Zebulon made room for them to its last.