Truth be known, Death by Audio — the shuttered DIY music venue in Williamsburg serendipitously spawned from musician-entrepreneur Oliver Ackermann’s distortion-pedal boutique of the same name — was kind of a shithole. But it was a beloved, MTV-vetted shithole that Pitchfork darlings like Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Deerhoof, Future Islands, and Dan Deacon all eulogize in Goodnight Brooklyn: The Story of Death By Audio, DBA co-founder Matt Conboy’s doc celebration. “Weird punk warehouses don’t last forever,” the director wistfully waxes, one of too many talking heads offering up the rise-and-fall chronicle from the mid-Aughts through one final show in November 2014.
Structured around the countdown of those waning days, the film addresses the frustrating inevitability of gentrification by vilifying the building’s new tenant: Vice Media. As construction (or destruction) begins upstairs, at one point pouring sewage onto the personal quarters of the rock obsessives who live there, Conboy’s documentation aims to bear witness to Vice’s perceived injustices against art, community, and personal expression.
But the billion-dollar giant isn’t given a voice to flesh out the David-versus-Goliath drama, and the footage relies more on idealistic testimonies than a cinematic experience showcasing DBA’s vitality; why not let those blistering, immersive concert performances play longer than a chorus?
“Every great city has a space like Death by Audio. If yours doesn’t, you should start one,” the final credit reads, but we all know: Who can afford it anymore?
Goodnight Brooklyn: The Story of Death by Audio
Directed by Matt Conboy
Opens December 2, Alamo Drafthouse