Last year was a bad one for so-called "DIY" venues, performance spaces that are barely legal, if at all. In New York City alone, 10 shuttered: of those, Williamsburg's Death by Audio (DBA), Glasslands, and 285 Kent are perhaps the most recognizable. After all, those three were reportedly forced to close due to Vice Media taking over the warehouse building that housed them. But just because all good things must pass -- especially if you host loud music that tends to draw noise complaints without a liquor license or a certificate of occupancy -- doesn't mean they'll be forgotten, even as other venues pop up to take their place in the Ridgewood neighborhood between Brooklyn and Queens.
On March 5, photographer Nicki Ishmael, who used to be a part of now-defunct house performance space Dead Herring (now Cloud City), will unveil a selection of curated photographs from these vacated venues. Entitled "RIP DIY A Group Photography Show," the gallery will be held at Cloud City and go through Mar. 15. The photographs were originally displayed on an art wall at DBA, whose founders Ishmael knew, during its last few weeks in an exhibit called "Death by Art." To accompany "RIP DIY," Ishmael plans to print a 'zine with the represented artists' images, and possibly follow up the installation with a larger display or a blog.
"There are always going to be more DIY spaces," Ishmael tells Billboard. "It's as sort of impactful in this last year because it was 'boom bom boom,' all closing at the same time. People are always going to keep making these show spaces. Creativity needs spaces like this, and people are going to open them up and make them happen. Even if it's not somebody's basement or an all-ages venue, there are bars that become alternatives to those venues that are closing. DIY finds a way to keep going."
Indeed, many venues that started out on the margins of legality, including Silent Barn and Secret Project Robot, are working towards or have already accomplished legal status. Legendary promoter Todd P, a formative part of the development of Brooklyn's DIY scene in the early 2000s, has opened Ridgewood's Trans-Pecos as a legitimate space witih all the necessary licenses, and plans are in the works to re-open shuttered venue Market Hotel with all the proper licenses, certificates, and construction.
Until then, though, there's always the memories. "Future Islands played one of the very last shows of Death By Audio back in November 2014," says photographer Ebru Yildiz of the above shot. "The whole set was incredibly emotional for all the Death By Audio staff since they are all good friends with Sam T. Herring and from what i understand they have all been there and witnessed every step of Future Islands' success. Sam T. Herring said humbly on the stage that Death By Audio was one of the first venues that ever let them play in New York and how important it was for them. I am pretty sure almost every person that worked/lived at Death By Audio crowd surfed that night. It was incredible and definitely one of the best sets from the last days."
Below, find a few more photos of days gone by at Brooklyn's forever-changing underground.
Photo courtesy of Nicki Ishmael
"Hunters ended their set at Dead Herring on October of 2010 with a fury by rolling around on the beer soaked floor," says Ishmael of the Williamsburg house space. "This photo was used as the cover for their first record High on Fire because they liked it so much."
Photo courtesy of Ester Segretto
"There were only 3 weeks left at Death By Audio and I was standing front and center, the DBA 'bruise zone,'" says photographer Ester Segretto, who shot A Place to Bury Strangers (who also said some words about the venue last month, ironically for Vice) on Nov. 23. "The rush and push of the crowd could have been mistaken for aggression, but all you had to do was turn around and see the total happiness on everyone's face."
Photo courtesy of Eric Phipps