The Death By Audio documentary Goodnight Brooklyn got a lot of attention when it premiered in 2016—partly because the film’s stars and creator had some choice words for Vice, the media giant that infamously took over the DIY space’s home on Kent Avenue. But it wasn’t actually the first documentary about DBA. Back in November of 2007, John and Takako Tymkiw chronicled a year in the life of the two-and-a-half-year-old loft space and effects-pedal workshop as it started hosting shows. The result, You Were Here, will be screened at Lot 45 on Aug. 29 at 10pm, in what’s said to be the doc’s first public showing.
Back when the film was shot, Takako was making videos for bands like A Place to Bury Strangers, whose frontman, Oliver Ackermann, founded the Death By Audio effects pedal brand. Ackermann and his housemates/colleagues—including Matt Conboy, who went on to make Goodnight Brooklyn— were “super chill” about being filmed, John told us. “So we set out to make a movie that felt like Death by Audio: noisy, dirty, messy, and beautiful in its own way,” he said.
The film, inspired by Sympathy for the Devil and Last Days, isn’t as chock full of live performances as Goodnight Brooklyn, which documented the venue’s final shows in 2014. But there’s plenty of rehearsal and show footage from some of the earlier bands that played the space (in many cases, their members also lived there): The Death Set, Sisters, Neckbeard Telecaster, Jeff the Brotherhood, Muggabears, and A Place to Bury Strangers. When one of these shows gets shut down by the cops, Conboy’s bandmate and fellow venue operator Jason Amos refuses to out anyone and insists it was just a house party. He gets cuffed, but not arrested. “I think they didn’t want me puking in the paddy wagon,” he explains.
More valuable than the concert stuff is the fly-on-the-wall footage of Conboy, Ackermann, and their cohorts planning shows, building an effects pedal for Trent Reznor, silk-screening pedals, and just shooting the shit. A seemingly endless number of residents show off their living spaces, offering punk-house versions of MTV Cribs. George Wilson’s cubby-hole loft, for starters, is a tangle of wires, exposed pipes, notebook paper, guitars, and takeout containers. You get a feel for why his band is called Dirty On Purpose. At one point, Grendel, the house flying squirrel, makes a cameo.
John admits that, like Death By Audio itself, his film is “messy, meandering and even boring at times,” and one early viewer apparently complained that it felt like a home movie. To that, John says: “Yes, exactly. Another person lamented how dirty everything looked. Yes, exactly. And claustrophobic. And noisy.”
Ultimately, John said, he wants people to leave the (free!) Aug. 29 screening with the smell of smoke in their nostrils, ears ringing, a little drunk and disoriented, and wanting more.”
If you’re looking for something chiller, here’s a look at the rooftop of Death By Audio’s old building now that it’s serving as Vice HQ.