“The things that made this place what it was before you came here were the first things you decided to destroy.” —Ben Foster
Let's be clear, I doubt Todd P. or Ric Leichtung are going to let 285 Kent die with a sparsely-attended Thursday night show. But if this does signal the practical end of 285, I won't be sad to see it go.
Was it an important venue? Of course. 285 was a great place to see bands who could play Bowery Ballroom or Terminal 5 in a space that wasn't so sterile. A space that was inviting and inclusive and sold cheap drinks. By all acounts, an openly-curated space that can hold upwards of 500 people is going to have an impact on a community. But what exactly was that impact?
The sun never sets on Bowery Presents' empire (“sun” in this case refers to the piercing blue beam of a bouncer's flashlight). In fact, the venue/hivemind has expanded to become a powerful force throughout the five boroughs, New Jersey, and even as far as Buffalo.
Compare that with the state of DIY venues; closures, raids, even shootings have plagued the least fortunate, and those lucky enough to remain (often by “playing by the rules”)—the Death By Audios, Silent Barns and Shea Stadiums of the world—find themselves competing over the touring scraps of what is left after they trickle down through the many venues that now dot the landscape. Sure, there are plenty of bands to go around, but not every Jenga piece needs to be pulled before the structure crumbles (I played Jenga last night).
In an era when every “independent” outlet cited Drake and Kanye West on their best-of list and our indie heroes have learned how to escape the critical eye by only speaking to writers who forgo their own thoughts to align with those who can help pay the rising costs of rent, it's hard to identify with whatever is left of “DIY” in Brooklyn. And if there's only one DIY (or indie or whatever you want to call it) venue of that size and scope, it's going to skew the numbers, and not in favor of the idealists.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I hold no ill-will towards Millenials. I really hate being the “Get off my lawn” old man who recounts the way things used to be. The orange-beanie army that invaded Brooklyn had mostly pure intentions: to listen to music and take drugs and get laid and be a part of what is one the most exciting places in the world. Passion stirs excitement and excitement begs attention and attention suggests relevancy. To that extent, 2013 North Brooklyn is still relevant, but to whom?
Converse? Top Shop? Red Bull? They weren't here when we started this scene and the moment they can set up their own warehouse venue (or recording studio), they'll be just as happy to jump ship and leave you smoking your e-cigarette outside.
Of course, “do it yourself” is a bit of a misnomer—anyone who has succeeded in anything in life needs the help of a lot of fucking people—but if the end of 285 forces people to start thinking independently, creatively and free of irony, then it will have served the community better than any Jay-Z funded Grimes residency ever could.
It's time we start liking things sincerely again. It's time to tear down all of the circle-jerked native-advertised nonsense and build something new. Or before you know it, you'll be sitting at a computer recounting the days when Brooklyn “used to be cool.”
“Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.” —William Blake