Death by Audio Pt. 2

IMG_1692From this much bigger article at Impose:

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.


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