285 Kent, the storied Williamsburg DIY venue, shut its doors for the final time last night. The venue had just played host to an epic, two weekend-long set of farewell shows, many of which promised "special guests." On Saturday, that guest was Deafheaven, who took the stage to headline after Wolf Eyes finished playing. YouTube user unARTigNYC has uploaded footage of their entire performance, and you can watch it all above.
Fresh off a torrential downpour of critics' year-end lists prominently featuring their 2013 album Sunbather, the Bay Area metal / shoegaze / post-rock band (fittingly) played the album front to back, with few alterations. In fact, Deafheaven's set on Saturday also bore striking resemblance to their July 4th performance at the same venue. The only changes-- as far as I can tell-- were the addition of a rhythm guitarist and a more rehearsed vibe (after all, they've been touring like crazy since the album was released). It was no problem though, as Sunbather's intensely emotional songs provided the perfect soundtrack to the death of a beloved venue.
Frontman George Clarke was in rare form, dressed in all black and shrieking in the faces of audience members, who seemed eager to join him in shouting along. With another guitarist onstage, Kerry McCoy was able to spend less time fiddling with his pedalboard this time around, and seemed to be the relaxed Yin to Clarke's ferocious Yang. His guitar playing, which falls somewhere between The Smiths' Johnny Marr and Isis' Aaron Turner, was thrilling, lush and well-composed as ever, making it one of the show's clear highlights.
There were a few aspects of Deafheaven's set that are unique to DIY venues like 285 Kent, the first of which came when an audience member passed a joint to Clarke before the band began playing "Sunbather." This, along with the crowds' many other interactions with Clarke, is a hallmark of venues that strive to break the wall that usually divides performers and the audience. It makes concerts more participatory for all parties involved, and usually adds to the excitement.
On the other hand, the sound mix at DIY venues usually leaves something to be desired, like Clarke's vocals' volume in this case. On Sunbather, they blend perfectly into the rest of the music, and here they hovered above everything else, maybe distracting from other elements of Deafheaven's sound. It's one of the tradeoffs to offering affordable, all ages shows in a converted warehouse that wasn't designed to house concerts. Personally, I don't mind it much when experienced firsthand, but in videos like this it can be a bit grating.
So here's one final goodbye to 285 Kent, a venue that's housed many of the best shows I've seen in NYC. As is the case with underground venues, there will be more that sprout up in its place, but it's always sad to see a venue with which many have formed emotional connections close down forever.
View the start times of songs in the video below, and head over to Deafheaven's official website to check out their upcoming tour dates.
Deafheaven at 285 Kent 1.18.2014 setlist:
0:00 "Dream House"
38:46 "The Pecan Tree"
Source: unARTigNYC YouTube Channel