Future Islands were the “top secret” headliners, Tim Harrington sang “NY I Love You” w/ The Immaculates, and more at Death by Audio’s fifth-to-last night (pics, setlist, video)
photos by Amanda Hatfield; words by Bill Pearis
Future Islands / The Immaculates & Tim Harrington / horn section in the net
"I'm only here because I heard Fugazi were playing," joked Future Islands frontman Samuel T. Herring at the beginning of their last-ever show at Death by Audio where they were the night's "top secret" special guests. Before "Seasons" and their new album Singles catapulted the Baltimore band to wide popularity (they're playing two nights at Terminal 5 in January), Future Islands were regulars at DbA, having played repeatedly at the DIY venue which closes for good on Saturday. "The first time we played DbA was July 2007 with Dan Deacon," Herring told the crowd. "It was so hot and so packed, people had to crowd surf to get in the main room." It wasn't quite that nuts last night, but a lack of cellphones aloft may have had something to do with people not being able to move their arms in the ebbing, swelling crowd. The band played what I think was the longest set I've sever seen at DbA, maybe 75 minutes, and finished with "Vireo's Eye," the release of a few dozen pink balloons and bassist William Cashion floating atop the crowd.
As the first of the five final "top secret" shows at the space, there were a lot of fun surprises. Soul trio The Immaculates (who played Dead Herring's final show) were the main undercard and features a home team of DbA co-runner Matt Conboy, Famous Class Records' Cyrus Lubin, and Jay Heiselmann (Grooms, French Miami, Roya) who came through the crowd with a cape and a handler, a la James Brown. They finished their set with a cover of LCD Soundsystem's "NY I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down," with help from Les Savy Fav's Tim Harrington who had "SUCK IT VICE" scrawled across his biceps and chest. It was his second visit to DbA's stage in four days.
The night opened with Adam Schatz & The Farewell to Death by Audio Suite. Schatz, who plays in Landlady, Man Man and a bunch of other groups (like Blast Off who played DbA's 'The Maze' -- remember 'The Maze'?), composed special music just for the occasion, assembling a dozen or so musicians (on the stage and floor) to perform it. Schatz led a few of the other other horn players throughout DbA's space before returning to the main room for a little interactive finale with the crowd. Right before the show, Schatz released a nice tribute to DbA and you can read that in full below.
Though he spent a portion of his time huddled over a case of electronics with his back to the crowd, DJ Dog Dick put on a nice, beat-heavy set in between Schatz and The Immaculates.
Four nights of Death by Audio left, tonight featuring Junkyard, Guerrilla Toss, and some other mystery guests. More pictures from Future Islands, The Immacualtes, Tim Harrington, DJ Dog Dick and Adam Schatz etc, and FI's setlist and a video from their set, below...
Adam Schatz & The Farewell to Death by Audio Suite
DJ Dog Dick
SETLIST: Future Islands @ Death by Audio 11/18/2014
Back in the Tall Grass
A Dream of You and Me
Walking Through That Door
Before the Bridge
Heart Grows Old
A Song for Our Grandfathers
Seasons (Waiting on You)
We are old fashioned even if we pretend we aren't. Our features are the same rough shapes as our great grandparents' and we breathe air that the dinosaurs shared.
As I write this, T Mobile's "Music Freedom" is in full swing, allowing users to stream as much music as they want without it going towards their maximum data allotment (the least punk-rock word in the dictionary). And Sour Patch Kids opened a home for wayward touring rock bands.
And thirty years from now, when T Mobile's most streamed band is headlining the Livenation Under God festival at the House Of Blues Presents the Fillmore at Guy Fieri's Backstop Slop Shop, there will still be another way.
There will always be a human way.
On November 22nd Death By Audio will close its doors for the last time, and be replaced by a company who thinks of People as users and Music as content and these things are shifting the evolution of Music forward. Those of us who grew up wanting to play in a band will always be cursed with the fact that the generation we dreamed of being a part of will always be one before our own, and it will always feel different.
And while New York feels it often enough (Glasslands closes at the end of year, Zebulon is a memory of a memory) and Chicago is about to get a taste (goodbye Hungry Brain) this is not the time to mourn loss and not the time to complain. This is not the time to type-and-swipe a comment about gentrification or to long for the good-old-days that had their own healthy mix of problems. This is the time to wake up, to look up, and celebrate the majesty that any of this could exist at all.
This is the time to celebrate that Death By Audio, a place that only treated people as People and music as Music, could live and thrive for seven years. That in 2014 there can still be homes for the touring musicians taking risks. These homes are the living breathing proof that space is needed and always thrives for those making new noise and confident melodies under the conflicted glow of hardware-store clamp lights. These needs were met one hundred years ago when artists were taking risks. Everything has changed, but we are the same. We wave goodbye to one of the greatest homes of adventurous energy, and can only be inspired to spread the power DBA generated everywhere we can.
As I write this I think about every single time I played on the stage at Death By Audio. Before that, I played on the floor. The first time was in 2007 and we set up in the corner. We were Blast Off!!, I was 19 and I had a saxophone in my hand. With me was my friend and drummer Sam and we improvised together, aiming to make music that felt good to us and good to those who heard it, with each note surprising the one that came before it and weaving lines of expectation and jumps together. I knew if I stopped playing there would only be drums and Sam knew if he did the same there would be only me. Or only silence. And we took the silence and the feeling of ever playing alone or together and embraced and shook it and allowed ourselves to feel new. My instrument weighed different than when I was in jazz school during the day. My eyes resented the cigarettes being smoked in the room but my heart couldn't believe there were people semi-circling around us and taking in our sound, welcoming our risks, enjoying our leaps.
A venue that can successfully allow old fashioned people to feel new is a miraculous victory.
Blast Off!! played many more times at Death By Audio, sometimes on the stage, sometimes on the floor playing in between the bands on stage, sometimes inside a giant wooden maze built across the two rooms of the venue. Every time after that first time I knew I could feel safe to try things that did not feel safe.
New York is not to blame. We don't throw the blame. We celebrate the community, because this is communal. This is for those who need reasons to leave their bedrooms around the world. This is for those who feel they have no choice but to play in a band. Some of us are old fashioned like that.
As I write this, my gut feels heavy. I think about the milestones, when the PA doubled in size, when the bathrooms got locks and soap, when the dirty white walls became covered with murals. When the shows became non-smoking. When the shows never stopped happening. My home for risk got better and better and after the fuck-it-all-or-nothing final shows, the venue goes away.
As an organism, it has to.
As a living breathing space, the lifespan of a venue should be admired and cheered. I grew up outside Boston on the legend of the bygone punk venue The Rat. I instead went to shows in churches and Knights Of Columbus halls and used a fake ID to see Ted Leo play at the conventional venues in town. CBGB's died of old age. I'd rather see my heroic homes fly off a cliff in a flaming car.
For every home for Music with an uncertain ending that closes, more will open and it doesn't matter where or how. The venue grows around the people who inhabit it, who breathe CO2 into it and pull their gasps from it between blows of a saxophone or the crack of a snare.
As I listen to this, the new Deerhoof record demolishes my senses and restarts my organs. I see their guitarist Jon Dietrich at a show and I ask him about their show a few nights before as the secret guest at Death By Audio. He said it was fun. He said they made a lot of mistakes. Exactly.
No one is giving up. No one possessed by magic is running out of steam.
I will go one more time and I will dance and I will smell. Every band who comes to play the stage at Death By Audio in this final month are the proof that these homes for unsafe trials are a sustaining lifeforce. On a map they are photosynthesizing lights for those of us who only know how to live by going from town to town spreading our art around. There is a special type of Person who builds these homes and a special crowd of People who flood in the doors to see the Music grow. There is profound comfort to be gained in the homes that do not exist to make money, that do not put their overhead before their People, that serve as a rejuvenating respite from brands.
A brand is inseparably connected to money and music is begrudgingly connected to money, but a venue that can successfully make money a secondary priority is a true humanitarian victory.
We play and see Music because we Love it. Love is not old fashioned, it barnacles itself to us as we pass through time and we let it smash into every experience that justifies a memory.
Death By Audio is Love. Death By Audio is the past present and future.
We must not mourn. We must stare down our throats into our inner Person, we must cast off the shell of the User and walk through a door that may or may not insulate heat, and plunge ears first into a room where Music will be made that is designed to surprise. The surprises remind us that we're alive. The surprises remind us we don't have to try very hard to care. The surprises are why I am not worried at all.