Concerts That Make You Think

 There are certain moments in life when you just know you're in the right place, doing the right thing, at the right time.  Everything feels aligned and you feel settled in that moment; perfectly content.

This past week was the CMJ Music Festival in Brooklyn and Downtown Manhattan.  Don't worry– I hadn't heard of it either.  The festival consisted of a RIDICULOUS amount of bands playing for free or very cheap at a variety of small venues in the area.  Many of these venues are established legends that are closing due to being bought out by VICE magazine, or they're new up-and-coming bars ready to make a name for themselves as the old venues fade away.  I was lucky enough to see both sides of the spectrum this weekend...and see some amazing music.

Thursday night I threw my laundry on my bed, grabbed the clothes I would need for the night, and urged the trains to run faster to get to Williamsburg.  E wanted to go see some bands– The Meatbodies and White Reaper– at this venue called Death By Audio.  He didn't tell me too much about the place other than it was a tiny bar with cool art that was falling apart– and that this was one of the last time we would be able to see a show there before it closed down.

I expected a crumbling building that was host to the loud screaming bands he usually likes.  But when I finally was allowed in (they had been at capacity all night) I saw that this venue was really an incredible gem to the Williamsburg area.

I've truly grown to love this part of New York– it's fully of small ice cream shops, boutiques, amazing food, and (I've newly discovered) some great bars.  Williamsburg was the point of origin for the hipster movement that warms my heart, and venues like Death By Audio exemplify that.  It's the stereotypical Brooklyn warehouse venue where the stage is only inches about the floor and where musicians mingle with their fans minutes before and after their set, as well as waiting out in line in front.  The art on the walls is intricate and lovingly created to give the hall the DIY feel for which it is known.  I didn't know the words to any of the songs, but the energy, the shared care between the musicians and their audience about the music, and the ambience came together to give me the feeling that this was the most satisfied I may ever be.

It wasn't a concert; it was a shared experience, a shared devotion to the music and the sort of feeling such a place could foster.

It breaks my heart to know that this concert was the only time I'll ever experience music at Death By Audio.

It's not just this venue that is closing, but other Williamsburg music institutions like Glasslands and previously 285 Kent.  VICE magazine has decided that these music institutions are the perfect locations for their new real estate ventures.  In a neighborhood rapidly gentrifying, it seems that real estate agents don't think that these venues fit in anymore.  With the likes of Williamsburg Music Hall just down the street, why do such dirty, dingy, and decrepit venues need to exist?  There's a Starbucks going up next to Dunkin' Donuts right by the Bedford stop, and a mall and whole foods coming into the neighborhood within the next year or two.  Why not sell these spaces to more financially thriving businesses?

I guess I had some faith that history matters in a place like Brooklyn– a place where generations upon generations of people have made their homes and lives.  The hipsters gentrified this area, making it a haven for the arts and the artists, so I suppose it's naive of me to assume that the next logical step would be anything other than the commercial wonderland that's descending upon Northern Brooklyn.

The only thing consoling me of these changes are the reactions of those who live in this neighborhood.  Walking past the soon-to-be Starbucks every morning, I've heard multiple admonishments of its existence.  No one seems happy about the J. Crew around the corner from E's apartment, and between sets at Death By Audio, countless people remarked sadly on it's eminent closing.

It's not the residents of this neighborhood who are urging on the changes.  It's not even those who own these venues.  It's those who own the buildings who are looking more at the money than the culture and happiness of the residents.  The leases on these various venues expired and the tenants, it seems, were not given the option of renewal– something bigger and better was to come along.  But, we should ask, better for whom?

It makes sense in the context of this capitalistic society.  But it's making me less and less attached to New York as a whole.  I've heard people speak about not liking the "new New York," but I never really understood it until I went to Death By Audio and saw what cultural institutions this city was giving up in favor of becoming the economic hot spot that corporations want it to be.

Sure, there are new venues springing up and trying to take the place of the old DIY standards.  Another concert I went to within the CMJ lineup was at a bar called Baby's Alright.  While still an interesting venue that is definitely worth going to, the cozy feeling that Death By Audio gave me was lacking.  There was a clear separation between bar and music, different levels and banisters separating segments of what should have just been an open floor, and it was the bar in the middle of the entire venue that held the focus rather than the music.  People were separated from one another, and drinking was the main attraction there rather than the music.  It's just another venue that strives to separate the audience from the musician, edging more towards pure entertainment than the magic that a good music venue can produce.


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Meet The Author

I'm Madysen, born and raised in Nebraska but now living out my dreams in New York City. I moved here to go to Columbia, but living in New York has become so much more to me. This blog is a space where I can share my experiences of reconciling my midwestern upbringing with the life I live in the city. But even bigger than that, this blog serves as a space where I can try to understand where I fit into the larger social world, where I want to go in life, and how I want to go about pursuing all of these endeavors.

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