The death of Death By Audio in 2014 marked the end of an era for Brooklyn’s DIY music scene.
But Ebru Yildiz’s photographs of the epic 75-day celebration leading up to the long-standing Williamsburg venue’s final night are a celebration of life in a space that nurtured a generation of local talent and served as a home away from home for fans. They’re collected in a self-published book, We’ve Come So Far, which is available to preorder now and will be released in August.
Soon after Yildiz first started photographing live music in New York City, she happened to catch the band A Place to Bury Strangers perform. She was immediately hooked and resolved to attend the band’s almost weekly performances. Oliver Ackermann, the band’s frontman, became a friend. Shortly after they met, he moved into the Williamsburg warehouse that, with the help of co-founders Edan Wilber and Matt Conboy, would become Death By Audio by 2007. Yildiz became a regular visitor to the space as it added a second floor, a recording studio, and several rooms. Even as she photographed at larger commercial venues over the years, the intimate, informal club remained a special fixture in her local music diet.
“There is nothing that makes you more special than the person standing next to you. You wait in the bathroom line along with the guy who is headlining the show, you know? Everyone is equal. You don’t have barriers between the band and the crowd. The bands are literally at arm’s length. People who go to shows there are there solely for the music. And I really think all these combined makes a huge difference in the way you experience the live music,” Yildiz said via email.
Williamsburg’s DIY scene gradually shrunk as gentrification pushed out other venues in the area. Finally, in 2014, Death By Audio’s day came, and the founders settled a lease dispute with their landlord by agreeing to clear out in less than three months. (Vice Media is now headquartered in the building.) When Yildiz heard they were throwing a farewell extravaganza, she knew she had to be there to document it. For 75 straight days she was at Death By Audio constantly, documenting one jam-packed event after another, including a 24-hour drone concert and a Halloween masquerade, as well as more peaceful moments shared between individuals.
“I definitely didn’t get any sleep. And toward the end I am pretty sure my speech deteriorated along with my physical appearance. But this was and still is a passion project for me. I was not there because I had to be there. I was there because I really, really wanted to be there,” she said.
The last show on Nov. 22, 2014, drew massive crowds for a surprise lineup that included Grooms, Jeff the Brotherhood, A Place to Bury Strangers, and Lightening Bolt. Yildiz remembers it as an emotional but ultimately celebratory night.
“Once the bands started playing, hell broke loose inside. Everyone was moshing, jumping, screaming at the top of their lungs. It was just insane. By the time I was in front of the speaker on the far right, I’d already lost my earplug. … My ears rung for a month straight after the show,” she said.
While Death By Audio’s last night signaled the end of a period in Williamsburg’s bohemian history, Yildiz said it wasn’t the end of DIY music in New York City, making We’ve Come So Far just one chapter in an ongoing story that will include other bands, other venues, and other wild nights.
“Nothing is supposed to last forever. Closure of DIY venues is unavoidable. It is in New York’s nature too. The change is constant and let’s hope there will always be people like Oliver, Matt, and Edan who are relentless as the city itself,” she said.