Tucked away behind a rotating spate of restaurants, Cameo Gallery always felt like a cool little secret; walk past the door guy up front, glide around plates of tater-tots flying through its narrow bar, sprint beyond the stinky bathrooms, and into the blessed din of the suddenly wide-open back room, operating almost like a speak-easy of up-and-coming musical acts. Like Glasslands or Monster Island, Cameo seemed automatically imbued with a unique energy that made Brooklyn’s music scene worth buzzing about from the moment it opened in 2009. Adam Keller’s mesmerizing installation, dangling above the stage, certainly helped with that – a holdover from Cameo’s first year, when the venue also functioned as an arts space, the cascading rainbow of lights illuminated every show and every dance party.
Unfortunately, just like Glasslands and other spaces before it, Cameo said yesterday via a Facebook post that it will shutter at the end of November. Rumors about the impending closure have circulated for months as long-running events like Big Terrific’s free comedy night and indie rock dance party Mondo also bid farewell. Evan Weiner, who worked as promotional director at Cameo, said that sadly, the venue’s demise was a long time coming. “The Williamsburg music scene had certainly been thriving long before I arrived here six years ago,” he said via email. “Back then it seemed like North 6th was going to be the street for music venues, but slowly that all started to change as more retail stores started to open instead. Our building’s ownership changed hands recently and we were not able to work out an amicable agreement for the future.”
He says the restaurant in front will close, too, and that he’s not aware of any immediate plans for either space. But with luxury condos popping up along the waterfront and its surrounding blocks, it’s doubtful that anything similar to Cameo will exist there again. “North Brooklyn continues to lead the city with a lot of live music spots. The boundaries may just be shifting towards Greenpoint and Bushwick,” Weiner says. “I’m optimistic about these changes.” Cameo will continue to host shows until it closes, and they have a packed CMJ schedule to look forward to.
Along with putting together show flyers and handling social media, Weiner booked a lot of Cameo’s electronic music programming and helmed the decks himself as something of a resident DJ on various nights. He’s got many fond memories of various events but a few in particular stick out. “Having the Godfather of House, Frankie Knuckles, grace our decks twice in the same year before his passing away not long after was unforgettable,” he says. Many Brooklynites can trace their own unforgettable nights back to Cameo Gallery; it will be sorely missed.