285 Kent Avenue is located, unsurprisingly, on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, just around the corner from Death By Audio. Travel options are of course to take the L to Bedford or the JMZ to Marcy.
The DIY philosophy is on show from the minute you find the venue… that’s if you find the venue since there is no sign, no number or other such way of knowing you’ve got the right door, unless you already know. It’s actually quite fun watching confused people walk up and down the block trying to figure out if they’ve found the place (it’s to the left of Glasslands, which is not so hard to find thanks to the big sign).
285 is essentially an open plan warehouse space with a curtained partition to sort-of separate the performance space from where you first enter the venue, shows are all ages and tickets range from around $8-$15.
The walls in the main general admission space have some interesting art going on, whilst the area the stage occupies just seems to have some random spray-painted squiggles in a “that’ll do” way (that’s my technical critique). The aesthetic is improved immeasurably when a band brings their own backdrop.
A huge technological breakthrough has occurred recently… the toilets now have lights! Previous attempts to use the facilities (for want of a better word) at 285 plunged one into complete darkness, unless you leave the door open. I guess that was the situation for which smartphone torch (I hate to say flashlight…) apps were designed. However, no longer must you navigate your stream like Marvel superhero, Daredevil. Just don’t sit down, as the sign notes!
I don’t know the capacity of the venue, but the room seems much larger than neighbours Glasslands or DBA, to the point where you probably think that if a band starts playing here then the aforementioned can (sadly) no longer accommodate them. I wouldn’t be surprised if you could squeeze 500 or so into the main space, though.
The air conditioning works pretty well for sparsely attended shows, but as with most venues, it is unable to compete against the radiated body heat of a sold out event. When I recently saw Hunx and his Punx, even the walls were sweating. As I put my hand on a pillar for balance I emerged with a gooey residue like I’d been attacked by Slimer from Ghostbusters. You’ll discover sweat pores you didn’t know existed but on the plus side some people pay a lot of money for that kind of thing…
In terms of sight-lines, the stage is raised about 4 feet and there are no obstructions, so you should get a decent view wherever you stand (unless you end up stuck behind someone 7′ tall and wide with an afro). The stage itself looks like it should probably collapse any second, but I have seen it stand firm while taking a real pounding, particularly from Ken Mode who were stomping around like they were at an Incredible Hulk audition.
I’m not a huge fan of the sound, which always seems a bit boomy to me, I presume this is partly down to the size and shape of the room, but maybe the equipment also needs an upgrade, particularly the stage monitors which bands seem to struggle with. Despite the lack of clarity (or perhaps because of…), the bands I have seen onstage here tend to put some real fire into their performances.
285 is the place to be to catch bands who are peeking their heads just above the underground, maybe not popular enough to start hitting the Bowery or Music Hall but starting to say goodbye to the smaller and loveable indie venues (where you all saw them first anyway, right?).