Indie Beat: Ric Leichtung, of Brooklyn Venue 285 Kent, On 'Leaving With Dignity, Not in Handcuffs'

Williamsburg's 285 Kent ran for three years without legal permits in a former warehouse near the East River. Photo Credit: Erez Avissar/Pitchfork.  

285 Kent, the underground music venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which over three years stood as one of the neighborhood’s last bastions of DIY gumption, will host a series of farewell shows beginning this Saturday, Jan 11 and ending Sunday, Jan. 19. The shows, co-presented with Pitchfork, are a corrective to an unceremonious “last show” at 285 Kent in late December, giving local music fans an opportunity to say goodbye to a building and an era, and the venue’s organizers a chance to go out on their own terms.   

In an interview, Ric Leichtung, 285’s primary booker since October 2011 and a co-founder of the indie music blog, said he and backer Todd Patrick— who is well known for a string of influential and ephemeral DIY outposts stretching back over a decade— wanted to leave 285 Kent “with dignity and not in handcuffs.”

“This was my home,” said Leichtung, 27. “If anything, I hope it served as a refuge for people who care about interesting and progressive music.” 

The prohibitive cost of legalizing the venue— not a lapsed lease or rising rent prices— prompted Leichtung and Patrick’s decision to close up shop. Originally a storage facility for the historic Domino sugar factory located across the street on the south side of the Williamsburg waterfront, 285 Kent was never zoned as a music venue or granted a liquor license. The building, where patrons nevertheless enjoyed cheap liquor out of Dixie cups and guilt-free cigarettes smoked indoors, closed briefly last September after being raided by police.

“There was the very real possibility that I could walk around the corner and find an eviction notice or an order to vacate,” Leichtung said. “We knew we were running out of time.”

The 350-capacity warehouse space in the shadow of rising condos and posh restaurants played host to hardcore shows, underground rappers and raves alike, pivoting enthusiastically from one scene to the next like a live music zoetrope.

Citing one memorable Sunday night at the venue, Leichtung recalls the experimental electropop artists Grimes, Pictureplane and Arca being joined at the last minute by the producer AraabMuzik, A$AP Rocky and the A$AP Mob.

“That was crazy— just nuts,” Leichtung says. “It’s not even real to me when I look at the pictures.”

In a time and place where underground artists have fewer safe spaces to cohere and self-actualize away from the roving spotlight of mass culture, 285 Kent gave developing acts a critical platform and developed ones an intimate stage.

“This was probably the best place to go if you’d never been to a DIY venue,” Leichtung says. “There really hasn’t been anything of this size and scale that stayed open so long and was consistent. 

“We did shows four nights a week with artists who played much larger venues and mixed them with progressive artists from the community,” he added. “I think it was really unique in that way.”

See the full line-up of the 285 Kent farewell shows below.  


02:00 Maxmillion Dunbar
01:00 Laurel Halo
12:00 Special Guest
11:00 Autre Ne Veut
10:00 Ital
09:00 Bookworms 


02:00 DUST
01:00 Special Guest
12:00 Dan Deacon
11:00 DJ Dog Dick
10:00 Ava Luna
09:15 Tonstartssbandht
08:30 Uumans


01:00 Special Guest
12:00 Wolf Eyes
11:15 Noveller
10:30 Alberich
09:45 MV Carbon
09:00 Lussuria
08:15 Sugarm


12:00 Fucked Up
11:00 DIIV
10:00 White Lung
09:15 Guardian Alien
08:30 Lodro