Goodbye, 285 Kent Ave
Our thoughts on the NY venue’s final shows
Memory of a place is best left in you. We all wish that going back would satiate our nostalgic mysticisms, but nahh. It pretty much just ruins the rendition of your time at “said” [place]. My grandpop used to work on the docks off Kent Avenue when my moms was a baby. Mom broke her arm, they moved to Floral Park, and now “New Yorkers have changed.” What’ll become of our generation? A plethora of sprawling apartments at $4,000 a month for a studio where we all once frequented hide-out venues (as if these venues matter or even help “queers” in our equality-stricken day-and-age). Some things are better left sizzling on one’s mind. All places change. These experiences will always be of the viewer’s narration and can never happen quite the same again. And they don’t below.
Throughout the course of 285 Kent Ave’s eight-ish years of operation, the venue established itself as special place, an epicenter within the “underground” music community. In 285 Kent’s short run, Ric Leichtung (managing booker, co-founder of Ad Hoc) has booked not just a number of key underground musicians, but also some of the most important acts/performers on the scene today. Shows ranged from the Odd Future crew to hyperspecific, genre-splicing performers like Factory Floor and Pete Swanson, to the blissed-out Mutual Dreaming parties as organized by videographer/producer Aurora Halal.
The final nights of 285 Kent Ave, sponsored by Pitchfork, laid out a smorgasbord of deft and intense music that seemed to span the entirety of music, underground or otherwise, reminding every attending patron (and social media voyeur) of the special legacy of the warehouse space.
January 11: Autre Ne Veut, patten, Laurel Halo
Autre Ne Veut: A fairly frigid crowd stood after a joint-breaking Ital set, and DeForrest, Jeff, and Nina (Miles’ pal), one of Jeff’s pals, Brad Stabler, and I (C Monster) were all circled around, talking about how we were expecting a little more movement for Autre Ne Veut’s performance. And potentially way less chatter. Jeff mentioned the stiffness is attributed to the astonishing amount of tech heads and writers at the show; then he bet me a buck for every time I posed popping a middle finger to Pitchfork photographers. Autre began his normal “singing-by-my-terms” style with two background vocalists (female, both a foot shorter than Autre), a drummer, and guitarist. Occasionally, I questioned aloud whether or not Daniel Lopatin knew how to play guitar, pointing at the dude on stage, while DeForrest had his right hand and face together while looking away; throughout, a genuinely excited and shoulder-shifting crowd tried to sing along, but couldn’t keep up. After screeching through half of Anxiety, Autre submitted the entire venue to squinting by having the lights turned on. I shouted “Fingers!,” and Jeff and I spotted the cameraman climbing on the wall, who’s now getting shots of our gestures and smiles.
The lights turned off and Autre started telling a joke, maybe about a panda, but my lack of focus was still stunned by the immediate blindness. He never finished the joke, and the lights turned back on, which was my cue to ease out the side of the crowd and buy beers for everyone. Maybe there were technical difficulties occurring on stage, but after gripping four beers, the lights were still up and the fear of walking through a shoulder-to-shoulder audience with hands full sank through me. Immediately, I took Autre’s vibing audacity and walked straight through, repeating “Excuse me, sorry. Excuse me, sorry. Excuse…” Autre got the lights turned back down, stood on the tower of speakers during “World War,” went into a crucifix pose for about three minutes, and estranged his backup singers, drummer, and Lopatin (maybe??), and the entire audience. Camera flashes became part of the performance (285 Kent is a VERY dark venue, opposed to what photos make you perceive). He closed on “Ego Free Sex Free.” It was hot, but I took my sweatshirt off, put it into Jeff’s bag, and thought back to the convenient store, as we should’ve BYOB’d. -CM
patten: As the night’s special guest, patten mounted the stage, guitar in tow with a sense of calm. Moving a claw-footed drawer topped with a laptop and small electronic equipment into the center, a spastic projection was cast over him before starting his performance. patten’s set was one of disconnect. As per usual, I gave way to a full-body response, as patten jumbled interlocking grains of musical particulars arising from a single laptop. Heavy, weighted bass lines dropped and snares hit, bouncing off of 808s out of time, and the audience gawked. patten’s supposed obscurity both of his personhood (I had no clue what he looked like) and his method of performance had not come to mind until this point. Despite recently signing to Warp, he was still relatively new to the audience. I found this exciting, as this is exactly what 285 Kent is for: a place of arrival and becoming, and patten’s years of experience and fine-tuned methods showed through in his performance, despite how “new” he was to his audience. Blazing through tracks from his forthcoming record, ESTOILE NAIANT, patten played inaudible guitar lines, banging his head to no audible beat, and then toying with the laptop before crafting a new melodic device in the already-crowded soundscape. -DBJ
Laurel Halo: Following patten’s textural mashing of songs, Laurel arrived with enough gear to fill the stage. She turned a few knobs, glanced around the room with focused, intense eyes, before a subtle melody peeled through the ambient chatter. One particular note about Laurel’s performance that night is that she firmly established herself as a prominent voice in modern music. Dozens of seemingly tangible sonic objects orbited the room, panning its length, Laurel in the center simply bobbed back and forth, turning a knob here, pressing a button there. Ambient, aquatic-seeming sounds filled the room at points before she employed fully mechanized packages of percussive structures. Glazing melodic marimbas swung around the down-pitched, clustered jazz chords of “Ainnome.” The trumpeting chords shifted up, the root notes down, and the marimbas became more erratic as a plethora of melodies were introduced. By this point, Laurel had begun to push into unimaginable territory, employing bell-curved resonant tone and low-frequency hums under which contorted, whipping synth percolations emerged; from that point on, I blacked out into a sublime dance. [Companion’s Note: Had to physically carry DeForrest out of the venue.] -DBJ
January 17: Tonstartssbandht, Ava Luna, DJ Dog Dick, Dan Deacon
DJ Dog Dick
Tonstartssbandht: Papaya been tryna get me to bang my head to duo Tonstartssbandht for awhile now. They’re pretty much ALWAYS playing somewhere in Brooklyn, but it seems like they get crowds nodding from “Hi, we’re Tonstartssbandht” to *applause*. The crowd was much livelier than the January 11 show, and sprouts of hair were bobbing across the headline. Drumming was relentless and crashing down, as riffs were axing out from a 12-string guitar; spliffs firing up, obvz. Whether or not the audience was up in smoke, Tonstartssbandht came at witnesses like a cylinder of purple. Their high was sonared throughout the audience, and their set took me to another dimensional plane of being. But end-all, their act was straight stoner-psyche purity. They continued opening up the night with a bang and really got the crowd swaying. -CM
Ava Luna: I moved closer to the stage and had a chance to speak to Max (DJ Dog Dick) by the stage, who said he had played with Ana Luna before; he and I dangled once; good-old Rockaway fellah. Told him he’s gonna crush it; he gripped a Red Bull, and me, a Britney Spears (Red Bull and Fireball Whiskey). To be genuine, Ava Luna was sort of a trip. Everybody in the crowd was deep in their live licks, dancing around and knowing all the words. One gal on stage was wearing pajamas, and that was ill. But the whole time I attended Kent, people were smoking reefer or cigarettes like crazy. However, for Ava Luna, all I saw were USD-powered lights (red, blue, green) beneath the painted face skewing out of a pile of squiggles mural’d upon the wall. Faces would appear and disappear in mute-colored light across the crowd in a variety of colors with each drag.
Honestly, if there were ever a legal commercial for eSmoking on television, Ava Luna would be the soundtrack. The lead dude-vocalist had pauses in his lyrics just long enough to stop strumming the guitar and push up his horn-rimmed (maybe) prescription glasses. One of the female vocalists was really self-aware of the entire performance, removed from its kitsch, but kept right along on keys. The other female vocalist — in the jammies — was bugging out and unbelievably feeling the music. When I write “unbelievable,” I mean she looked like it was 1978 and on the stage at SNL, tryna be that hip-as-now feel; she was giving a very ego’d out and dated “surprised at the mic” performance. I clapped loudly during their last song, so they knew they did a good job and “did their job.” A fellah introduced himself to me abruptly and said he was from Indianapolis. I told him “I’m from Port W-orsh-ington,” and then he just filtered out behind me telling someone he had Asperger’s. -CM
DJ Dog Dick: Everybody who actually lit up a high toward the end of Ava Luna got their buzz totally blown up by DJ Dog Dick. Wielding a suitcase full of electronics, he hung a cut-out face on a mic stand next to the tabled equipment and started in with blown woofers harnessing hollowed electronic beats. I have seen this fellah kill it before on a bill with The Savage Young Taterbug, Hurricanes of Love, Tracey Trance, and C L E A N E R S. But “killing it” is exactly what happened at Kent. Either you transitioned your previous dance from Ava Luna into something a little more rampaged or your buzz totally just got rocked. DJ Dog Dick stood afoot: villain in the spotlight and tormented by the position of himself on stage and audience in the midst; he brought 285 to rubble. Headband tight, but hair still in his eyes. Fingerless gloves flexin’ muscles past the knuckles. Rockaway goons to right of the stage, their fists punching the air, and an occasional plume of yellowish smoke. Way less camera flashes. Mostly cell phones. Maybe a dozen. Background crowd looks like an ever-repeating Ultra Street Fighter 2 32-bit visual loop. Crumbling walls. Overachiever of the physical prowess in the lustrous of storms. A confetti of noise and beats, chemical vocals, and autocorrected lyrics surged upon the crowd. Pure subway-style live performance. Tornadoes of versus ringing throughout the venue. There’s NEVER anything going on next door, yet always a line. Can we get someone on this? -CM
Dan Deacon: Yeah, so tell me what you think about this: got that straight over-crowded agita (typical/awesome of 285 Kent), ran to the bathroom, and inevitably shut down one of the bowls, told the promoters I got my pal Marshall in as DeForrest (who wasn’t coming), and had always been wearing sweatpants? GET READY FOR THE NEXT BATTLE: Todd P (285 Kent renter) is called out by Deacon in a pit of people (as the dance guru is known to do) and slowly begins to play another bounce track off Bromst. It was cute: Todd P reached out to audience members and got them to dance with him in the circle of joy; wet hair and white t’s abundant in sweat and smiles. There was also some phone app everyone could’ve downloaded and participated in Deacon’s show with, but not many people did, as Dan told Marshall in a deli we went to post-performance. -CM
January 18: MV Carbon, Alberich, Noveller, Wolf Eyes
MV Carbon: Arriving at the beginning of MV Carbon’s set, I was instantly entertained. As former ISSUE Project Room’s “Artist in Residence,” MV Carbon unfortunately did NOT wield a string instrument she had made herself, but was surrounded by knobs and tape reels and a candelabra. Wearing a jester-pope cap, she crooned brokenly into a mic attached to the end of a wand as beats festered out of noise scrapping along the surface of each speaker. At warped speeds, she transitioned between the dance world and wicked slime sounds, while magnificently keeping her vocals on both paths. During one point, it seemed like her electronics were spiraling out of control, so she took one of the lit candles and mixed it into the horizontal reel-to-reel she kept tugging. Electronics crackled and sizzled, and the audience was in awe at the way she polarized a magnetic frequency from wax to reel tape. MV Carbon’s performance came to an end abruptly, shouts and applause struck an echo, and she politely thanked everyone. -CM
Alberich: We (being myself and C Monster) pushing through the door crew telling them, “This playing right now is something we’re supposed to cover,” receiving wristbands and hand stamps and whatevers, and then dove directly into a crowded (and somewhat musty) room. Mike Sugarman’s interviewee Alberich was a bit into his set and barely visible. Sprawling synthscapes blazed across the room, tugging along raucous white noise. C Monster was getting a bit tiffed at the people chatting around us, so he pushed ahead with his adorable snaggled smile and found us a spot to the left of the stage where he then hung his head low, bobbing to the music. Violent fuzz plowed through the mix and the room among other sounds that recalled a gnarled voice. With a final religious heft, the music ascended and the room felt weightless before the music stopped completely. -DBJ
Noveller: Whenever I see/saw Elvis or Pat sweating on stage in the fire of lights, I never understood that sort of frustration until my epiphany during Noveller. Having to wait and perform in front of at least 300 melted-together humans while you stand alone and serene for five minutes of “mic check” [or outlet trouble] has to be like trying to say “Thank you” to a pilot from the wing at 25 miles off the soil. Or as a whisper would be heard in the world while you were sleeping. A stunt woman of entertainment by way of distant need and violent desire. Noveller was appropriate for her piece, determined since base camp, and was prepared to seek past the peak. The sound echoed throughout a typical modern Brooklyn street-scape and continues to swan-song away. -CM
Wolf Eyes: As Wolf Eyes took the stage, Nate Young was wearing black shades atop a leather jacket and black pants, and potentially black shoes. The guy next to me spoke with another member of the crowd about his love of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, having seen them open for Nine Inch Nails. We locked eyes, there was acknowledgement, and then, a scissoring guitar line swept through the crowd. Swaying in a weighted, defeated way, the piercing guitar licks and the ceremonious drums became hypnotizing. C Monster directed my attention in front me with an obnoxious glare. A man was writing on a “friend’s” Facebook status, “Too bad you missed out. Wolf Eyes is up now and crushing it. Deafheaven is special guest. Wish you were here! LOL” He wasn’t laughing. Most of the smoke from C’s Black & Mild made his comment take about five minutes to type, as he swatted away swirls and brought the phone closer to his eyes. C tapped me on the shoulder and we stepped outside to get air. -DBJ
January 19: Guardian Alien, DIIV, White Lung
Guardian Alien (photo: Cheryl Georgette Arent)
Guardian Alien: Guardian Alien was just begging to tractor-beam their way outside 285 Kent when we arrived. As if portal-ing transdimensionally could’ve been any easier. Standing upon the shuttle-dock: Eli Winograd keepin’ it together, Bernard on doing the gutting, Fox taking measurements, and Alex fleshing out the codex. Pure psych freakout by way of playing every note, sound, and beat imaginable. Within the crowd between the stage and me was a couple making out. They were laughing and nosing and minding their glasses; she got her overall strap caught on a shirt button of his; one was chewing gum and then the other; texture was defined between the two as gentle bumps fit together, skin-to-skin. Pours began to swelter out every pocket, and Guardian Alien began to climax at all-time mental release. Hair and spine entangled within the slab of stage, molten trebles of ultimate loss apparitioned as apparent, and all at once easy to let go: saved outside in the air. -CM
DIIV: I don’t even know where to begin… I hate this, I hated this. There’s nothing more irritating than a band that talks to the crowd about… who cares… and… reverb-laden guitar lick after reverb-laden guitadr lick rubbed against the lead singer’s casually echoed vocal delivery. I face-palmed and C Monster did things and DIIV sang and people like it. Maybe. There was a point where DIIV begged people to start dancing, and it was uncomfortable. The air was not only sucked out of the venue via all the lungs in the crowd working at once, but it was stale with smoke and the feeling of “Can we get this over with?” -DBJ
White Lung: Why, yes. We CAN get this over with. My mom once told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all. -DBJ
Time to search the hundreds of other DIY venues in Brooklyn.