It’s only been about a year and a half since the closure of Glasslands Gallery, the other DIY venue on the Williamsburg waterfront– the one that was the button-down oxford (second-hand, but you couldn’t tell) to Death By Audio’s torn-up band tee. It wasn’t so surprising– after 8 years of hosting indie rock, R&B, techno, you-name-it shows in their cavernous, blackened industrial confines, their neighborhood along Kent Avenue no longer felt like the “forgotten backwater” it did when they opened in 2006. Today the Glasslands team announced that it’s returning with a new venue in East Williamsburg, Elsewhere, set to open this fall– and it’s not just any old ramshackle DIY establishment, but a 24,000-square-foot affair in a former warehouse. It’ll be #blessed with $3 million worth of pure sparkle, including a sprawling roof, food and drink service, and an adjacent art space.
Before the Acheron opened on a quiet block in heavily-industrial East Williamsburg back in 2010, the building was little more than a “black box” housing a barebones ska venue, as owner Bill Dozer remembers it. Within two weeks of signing the lease and taking over the place, it was transformed into a punk and metal show space, a speakeasy-style DIY operation with cheap cans of beer, the occasional “plastic handle of liquor,” and a remarkable sound system with a bar next door. “We were able to get off the ground with basically nothing— just a bunch of sweat and, like, four people working there,” Dozer recalled.
Over the years, the Acheron has grown into the de facto homebase of Brooklyn punk, which has made something of a comeback itself as the venue expanded and went legit, welcoming in local acts and touring bands from across the country to play everything from straightedge punk to psych metal. But as of July 9, the East Williamsburg venue is putting all that to rest when they close their doors for good.
It was bitterly cold last Thursday night, but a sandwich board outside of Sunnyvale promised: “Free shot if you prove you went to Pumps!” Aside from the strip club, some lonely looking art studios, and hot corn smells emitting from the tortilla factory, there’s not much nightlife at this industrial edge of East Williamsburg. But walking inside the multi-purpose venue that opened its doors earlier this month, I didn’t find a throng of strip club patrons clutching lap dance receipts (which they probably thought were only good for “business lunch” write-offs until now) and clamoring for oversized pours of Jose Cuervo. Thankfully.
Market Hotel did a remarkable job of capturing our attention with that Sleater-Kinney show. It’s almost as if the place is run by someone who knows a thing or two about putting on a great show. Huh. But since the Liquor Man and his cohort of party poopers (er, the State Liquor Authority) had only granted a temporary license for the soft opening, we were starting to get a real bad case of nervous dry mouth at the thought that perhaps we’d be waiting a long time for the Bushwick DIY venue to officially throw open its doors at Broadway-Myrtle. After all, we’d waited about half a decade already…
A brand new “DIY done-right” venue, as booker Nelson Antonio Espinal calls it, has been operating (at half-capacity anyway) in the J train’s shadow these past few weeks, while most of us probably had no idea. The secretive new operation, aptly called The Gateway, is located just off the Gates Avenue stop on the Bed-Stuy side of Broadway. Late nights, it’s pretty quiet around here, save for a Crown Chicken knockoff, a newish vegan diner called Toad Style, and the twice-a-weekend shows at Bohemian Grove, just north on the Bushwick side of the border.
The Silent Barn wasn’t about to wait for CMJ to do its thing before reopening. On October 14, while the music exec’s wet dream (and everyone else’s headache-inducing cluster fuck) raged on, the DIY venue welcomed show-comers back into its space, closed since a fire ripped through one of the upstairs residencies, and left behind an expensive mess a large chunk of the building. It had been less than three weeks since the fire, and after a slew of benefit shows, volunteer efforts, small gestures of support, and around $25,000 in donations, the show-space reconstruction efforts were complete.
Still, the reopening was “bittersweet,” according to Stephanie Griffin, Silent Barn’s spokesperson. “It’s kind of hard to get people to understand that even though we’re open downstairs, everything upstairs is still a mess. It isn’t a public space, so people don’t really see it and don’t really understand the extent of our need to keep fundraising.”
In many ways, Williamsburg’s newest venue couldn’t be more different from the (mostly) defunct DIY show spaces (bar/art-galleries and dingy old warehouses) that once lined the waterfront area. (Cameo, at least, is still here — for another month and a half, anyway). That’s because National Sawdust is a refined concert hall, a serious non-profit institution with powerful and moneyed supporters plus a leadership of established talent tapped directly from the music and art worlds.
Last Friday was a typical one at the Silent Barn— Bushwick’s beloved multi-faceted DIY music venue, art gallery, studio space, and artist residency is teeming with activity almost every day and night of the week– Freak Out Fest raged downstairs while a band practiced upstairs. And one resident was in their room when a fire broke out, one that the artist collective believes was caused by an “electrical malfunction.” Thankfully, spokesperson and longtime Silent Barn member Stephanie Griffin told us that no one was hurt. Of the 60 or so people at the show, “everyone got out within two minutes,” she said. But the damage is significant and threatens to upend Silent Barn’s delicate financial situation.
For the city’s DIY scene, the year 2014 was anything but static– openings, closings, you know the drill. And while one little venue might seem like it’s simply joining the list of short-lived venues and tragic casualties, in all probability, Nola Darling is just getting started.