Hey folks, the dudes and dudettes over at The L Magazine did a great feature article on Do-It-Yourself Music making, and I’m gonna post it below for the posterity. It’s by Jeff Klingman, and it’s great advice on places to play, people to see and everything inbetween for newbies to the Brooklyn scene.
The Brooklyn DIY Music Scene: A User’s Guide
Like the term “indie” before it, DIY has gradually blurred from the straight acronym “Do It Yourself” to a genre descriptor of sorts, mostly encompassing messy rock, electronic, and experimental music produced by less than strictly professional means. Five years after Spin declared Williamsburg “The Rockest City in America” (despite being neither city nor borough), Brooklyn is thickly packed with starry-eyed transplants seeking to make a name for themselves in the music world, most of them with limited means (trust fund stereotypes aside). As it happens, almost all are, to a certain degree, doing it themselves. Or doing it together, at the very least.
So, be you a Midwestern ex-pat dreamer looking to crash the party, or just a curious voyeur in need of a road map to a scene that changes fast, here are some of the key names and places that make up Brooklyn DIY.
Where to Size Up the Competition
Above the Auto Parts Store
One of the newest additions to Bushwick’s teeming wilderness, Above the Auto Parts Store has the space to make a bigger splash than your average converted loft. DIY heroes like No Age, Oneida, and Lightning Bolt have played there already, and bigger acts are starting to pile up. Also, the name is confusing and thematically appropriate enough that chuckling at baffled squares will be a perpetually amusing conversational by-product.
De Facto House Band: Oneida
Monster Island Basement
Like many of the new wave of rough and tumble venues, the Monster Island complex, down by the river, combines a small, sweaty venue with affordable practice spaces. The Basement is its public space, and the convenient location sucks in more noteworthy bands than almost any similarly sized room in Brooklyn.
De Facto House Band: Real Estate
Before Brooklyn exploded with venues, the Lower East Side’s Cake Shop felt like the purest DIY spot in New York: Not every fully-licensed establishment would strive to make you feel like you’re actually in somebody’s subterranean rec room. Owner Andy Bodor brings the same feeling to Williamsburg’s Bruar Falls, which maintains the prescient booking, predilection for fuzzy rock, and less-than-ideal sightlines in for this inevitable Cake Shop satellite (better airflow, though). It’s also a swell place to get drunk for cheap on a weeknight while feeding a stacked jukebox after you’ve just created an entirely new genre at your practice space, say.
De Facto House Band: The Beets
More established than Williamsburg’s newest ramshackle concert locales, Glasslands has already hosted its share of memorable shows by nationally known acts. But it’s still easy to set up your own show in an art-forward space that’s more surreally appealing than many of the younger barebones, converted-use venues.
De Facto House Band: Twin Sister
Death by Audio
Death by Audio serves double-duty in the local scene, as both a medium-sized venue and a pedal shop, which cobbles together handmade chaos boxes with names like “Supersonic Fuzz Gun.” Though the inside of the electronics lab is less open to the public than the concert area, there’s probably quite a ruckus going on in there, as well.
De Facto House Band: GROOMS
Nothing to make you feel hip like walking straight through something totally unrelated to get to the tiny room where your concert is going down. You’ve gotta resist the lure of the Lovin’ Cup Cafe’s rosemary fries to get to this cramped but increasingly well-booked spot. The giant neon Snuffleupagus on the ceiling will reward your persistence.
De Facto House Band: ASA RANSOM
Currently an inert casualty of the licensing and noise complaint problems DIY venues often face, the Market Hotel nonetheless promises to be a phoenix rising from the ashes of several hundred chain-smoking teenagers. A victim of its own success for being one of the first off-brand venues to draw huge crowds to see name bands for cheap, the large Bushwick loft is now organizing to get up to code in order to function as an un-shutterable venue, community space, and “noncommercial spiritual home for independent rock music and indie art.” Its demise has been prematurely declared more than once.
De Facto House Band: The So So Glos
Though Graham and Grand Avenues have steadily filled in since the hipster goldrush of ‘aught two, as far as music venues go, the area still lags far behind the Bedford and Lorimer areas, and is now being lapped in the other direction by seemingly all of Bushwick. The faux sporty sounding Shea Stadium is an oasis nestled behind an unmarked door (of course) several blocks removed from the newly trendy bars and restaurants. A spacious loft space with access to a giant smoking/chatting roof, it doubles as a recording studio, cheaply saving for prosperity the sets of the touring bands that rumble through.
De Facto House Band: Beach Fossils