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‘Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death by Audio’ (review)

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Produced by Amanda Schultz
Directed by Matthew Conboy
Featuring Oliver Ackermann, Edan Wilber
Matthew Conboy, Stephanie Gross,
Mark Kleback,  Brian Chippendale, Dan Deacon,
Bill Pearis, Michael Azerrad, Greg Saunier

 

Having lived in New York City for over 20 years, I’ve seen my share of beloved places close, only to be replaced with soul-crushing ironic new tenants.

My favorite record store is now a Starbucks, located around the corner from a bigger Starbucks.  My favorite cafe, where Dylan and Biaz used to hang, became a Qudoba, then a vacant lot.

Times Square went from seedy movie houses and to flagship store collections that tourists walk-through as if they’re museums, never stopping to purchase a thing.

“Something is dying,” notes Oliver Ackermann in the opening of the new documentary Goodnight Brooklyn – The Story of Death by Audio.  He’s specifically referencing to the demise of the legendary Williamsburg, Brooklyn DYI concert venue he co-founded, which was ironically replaced by the offices of VICE.  But he could just as well be describing a general dying of physical spaces for young folks to connect, share their love for art and music, and evolve a movement beyond corporate overlords and interests.

Death By Audio was a small business, a collective of artists, a communal living-space, a spin-off band (A Place to Bury Strangers), and a DIY labor of love.  As one of the residents and founders remembers it, a “weird episode of Friends.”    The documentary portrays it more like a hipster version of The Young Ones, mixed with The Real World if produced for, well, Viceland.

The movie opens today in Brooklyn at the Alamo Drafthouse, after touring a festival circuit that included SXSW.  It’s lovingly pieced together from vintage footage of DBA’s humble beginnings as a guitar pedal company to testimonials about the legacy it left on the Indie music scene.

Some of those musical guests include a who’s-who of some of the best Indie musicians of the past decade, including Deerhoof, Dan Deacon, Les Savy Fav, and Future Islands.  Between documenting the rise and fall, the film is ultimately neither substantial enough to be a feature doc, nor is there enough padding of musical guests for it to be a concert film.  I would have loved a hybrid of both.  We only get snippets from live shows on the countdown to DBA’s closure.

If you were a part of the scene, or even just enjoyed one night at the music space, you’re going to love this nostalgic overview.  As someone who slightly missed the hipster scene of Williamsburg, arriving to the Big Apple a bit too early and setting foot in Hell’s Kitchen, I have to admit I vicariously enjoyed this inside look at organic creativity, fast success and too-good-to-be permanence.

Ultimately, the film stands as a cautionary bigger-story that permeates not just Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

 

Goodnight Brooklyn opens today in New York at the Alamo Drafthouse.
For future screening dates and locations, visit GoodnightBrooklyn.com.

 

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