Oak Cliff Film Festival welcomes documentary Goodnight Brooklyn. Photo Credit: Bryan Yalta
As part of Oak Cliff’s 2016 Film Festival, Goodnight Brooklyn, a documentary about the end of DYI New York venue Death by Audio in 2014, made its Dallas premiere at the Texas Theater on Saturday, June 28th. Director and co-founder of Death by Audio Matthew Conboy, co-founder Edan Wilber and producer Amanda Schultz were in attendance after the screening for a Q&A with the audience. Oliver Ackermann, frontman of A Place to Bury Strangers who later performed in an aftershow, was also in attendance during the Q&A.
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The film recollects the last days of Death by Audio before multimedia company Vice rents the building Death by Audio is in and forces them to close down the venue. Death by Audio not only served as an underground New York locale, it created an environment where artists and musicians could get together to collaborate on ideas and projects not for money or fame but for love of the work and creativity. The demise of the venue meant the demise of that inspiring nature.
“It’s been hard on me. It’s been hard on all of us,” said Conboy.
“I was saying the other day how I moved away to Florida and just kind of turned my back on everything, because I couldn’t think about it every day,” Wilber added. “Whereas I did that, you (Conboy) sat and look at it every day of your f*****g life.”
“I personally don’t have any ill will towards anybody who works at Vice or with Vice,” said Conboy. “It’s your life. It’s your career. Do whatever you want. But, I do feel like I can’t be an ethical person and have any kind of relationship with that company. Just like in the same way that if Disney f****d my life the way that Vice f****d my life, I would be like, ‘can’t go to Disneyland. Sorry guys.'”
Ultimately, Conboy tried to turn things around and make the best of the end by recording the last events at Death by Audio. The film almost didn’t happen were it not for Schultz encouraging Conboy to do it.
Conboy said, “We found out that we were losing our space, and it was a traumatic, crazy thing, and we didn’t know what it was going to be yet. And Amanda just convinced me[…]she was like ‘you need to film this.'”
“These guys were doing an amazing thing, like throwing all these shows and, like, really going out on their own–on their own terms,” said Schultz.
“I wouldn’t have even begun to think about doing that kind of a thing. I didn’t have someone to support me,” continued Conboy. “We just wanted to have punk shows and have fun. None of us signed up for this.”
Death by Audio has been a home for bands like Future Islands, Ty Segall, and Lightning Bolt, a band which all four guests in attendance admitted to being one of the best shows they ever had, because, it was the last one that Death by Audio would have.
“The craziest moment of my life is when I’m crowd surfing [at the Lightning Bolt show], because it’s the end of everything that we’ve been working for for so long and it was over. And I didn’t have to wake up the next day and worry about getting shut down or getting arrested or something like that,” said Wilber.
That’s not to say Wilber doesn’t miss it. He enjoyed contacting formerly defunct bands and asking them to get back together for a show in the last month that Death by Audio was open.
“Those performances were very special,” Wilber continues, “because it was people who hadn’t performed in years, who were just, like, very thankful that somebody had asked; so thankful that they have the opportunity to do it one more time or maybe just to start doing it again.”
Although this means the end of Death by Audio, they all feel they won the battle against Vice, against bigger corporations. In the end, this film captures how important the venue was to people, fans and bands alike.
“All of you here–this is us winning,” said Conboy, addressing the audience.
After the screening, the audience was let out of the theater’s main room to let opening band True Widow set up for the aftershow. Being the last event of the film festival for Saturday, the Texas Theater got even more crowded as the after show neared its time.
Dallas natives True Widow, a band who describe their sound as “stonegaze,” started the show with ominous lighting and a formidable appearance. As soon as they started, people walked to stand right near the stage, because they know that for these type of bands it seems somewhat impolite to be sitting down while they play. With a sound that could be the soundtrack for a midnight movie, the band’s slow, heavy music reverberated through the theater powerfully. It was, however, just a warm up–or possibly a warning–compared to what A Place to Bury Strangers was about to bring to the stage.
Past midnight, after setting up equipment and projectors galore, the aftershow headliners started their loud set. Once dubbed “the loudest band in New York,” they proved just what that means both visually and audibly. Their band drummer, Robi Gonzalez, wasn’t there to perform, but a female drummer subbed in, making the show even more special.
The amount of strobe lights, fog, and video projections emanating from the stage was like an art installation meant to keep your mind away from the softness and silence of a regular day and intensify the noises in the background. It’s a cluster of sounds that clash to produce a cathartic reaction within the people who create those sounds along with their audience.
After a while, because of the fog machine, all one could see was the silhouettes of the band members and their shadows playing along the theater walls. It’s easy to forget where one is after experiencing a deafening spectacle such as A Place to Bury Strangers show. Ears will be ringing for days, heads will be slightly hurting, but that’s the process of coming back to regular days. It’s the process of returning from a Death by Audio.