I’m usually at Death By Audio a couple of times a month, at a push it might just be my favourite music venue in New York, and if it isn’t then it’s more akin to a moth heading for a flame, just a natural thing.
Located at 49 South 2nd Street in Williamsburg between Wythe and Kent, a short walk from the Bedford L or the Marcy Ave stop on the JMZ (you could also walk across the Williamsburg Bridge from the city should you desire), and for those who rarely venture outside of Manhattan, you really have nothing to worry about. If you don’t know where you’re going you will easily walk past the nondescript grey warehouse door, which opens at 8; shows are all ages and a mere $7 with usually 4 bands on the bill (music often kicking off at 9pm).
DBA’s website outlines its aim very concisely: we try to book the bands you haven’t seen but should, as well as the bands you know and love.
This rings pretty true, the first time I went to the venue was to see Mac DeMarco in August last year, an artist who is now selling out other NYC venues like Music Hall of Williamsburg and Brooklyn Bowl. It was a sweltering evening and one could easily imagine the “DBA Diet” for weight loss; see busy shows here in the summer and drop a few pounds in sweat. It was a bit of a rude awakening for going to DIY venues, as well as the oppressive heat, the power cut out and the house drum kit kept falling to bits, but you know what, I will never forget that concert! That paints an unfair picture, however, as most shows go off without a hitch. You’ll also be able to see bands who have no reason to play a room that small such as Thee Oh Sees, Holy Fuck, Jeff the Brotherhood and Ty Segall to name a few.
In the backroom you’ll find a two-player arcade game (free to play) which is not for the faint of heart as two knights fight it out in a continual regurgitation of violent 8-bit death and respawn. Seating is minimal, including old seats from the back of a car.
Let’s talk about the toilets… ok let’s first look at the toilets.
Now those images are burned into your retina. Graffiti like that takes time to build up and is a fine achievement. While I expect things to look terrible I do expect facilities to work, thankfully the toilets themselves are functional but a handy tip, I don’t think the tap for the toilet on the left has ever worked when I’ve gone there, but the one on the right does. While patrons may do a double-take at what looks like the tub of stale vaseline on top of the unit, it’s actually an odour eater. If you locked a lutropublicaphobe in here I think it would cause a mini nuclear explosion.
As for beer, you’ve got a $3 can of PBR, $4 Brooklyn Lager and $5 Lagunitas bottles. I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to beer (I think if you’re drinking stuff like Bud, Coors, Miller, PBR, etc then you’re essentially endorsing homeopathy, and you also have no taste buds…), but Brooklyn Lager is at least dependable, while Lagunitas tends to be my weapon of choice. You can keep the crappy PBR but I don’t need an excuse to to post Untamed Youth’s song…
The sound at a DBA gig is actually pretty damn good, it can’t be an easy task especially when I’ve seen bands with 5 or 6 members on stage all cramped together, but trust me, this venue punches way above its weight in ways it has no right and puts most to shame. I’d hazard a guess that the main concert room can squeeze in a couple of hundred.
My favourite DBA set? Pop Zeus on the 28th of May (here’s a rough video I took).
If you need a pre-gig bite to eat, my most frequented establishment is Caracas on Grand St a few blocks away; grab a delicious arepa and share some guac and chips (possibly the best guacamole I’ve had) with your gig buddy without breaking the bank. Closer to the venue you’ve got The Rabbit Hole if you have a little more cash, or directly opposite DBA is Crown Victoria which has a good beer selection.
I like my music venues to be a bit grimy and you get the heartening impression that absolutely everyone coming to a show is here for the music, not because they heard it was a hip joint to be seen at and definitely not so that they can tell their friends where they were and who they saw last night. If you don’t want your venues dingy, arty, cheap and actually giving a shit about who is performing then that’s fine, but you’ll be welcome all the same if you do come along.
DBA – doing it right. Check out our listings here for upcoming events.
Where It’s At is a new series aiming to review New York concert venues.