Last weekend, Williamsburg venue 285 Kent closed. It’s a bummer when a place like 285 closes. It sucked when it happened to Silent Barn, Market Hotel, Monster Island Basement, Less Artists More Condos…the list goes on. The upside is that there is no shortage of intelligent, driven people that are going to find and open another place.
There’s been plenty of pieces about the closing of 285 Kent, and plenty of pieces about the pieces about the closing of 285 Kent, most of which read like bitter takedowns of enthusiastic kids. I hope this doesn’t come off that way. This is not an indictment of any of the pieces that exist, or the people that wrote them, it’s just some loose observations about how we cover what happens in one small corner of the music world.
Just about every music publication covered 285’s final days. I can’t remember this happening at all for Monster Island Basement, and can only remember scattered mentions when Market Hotel shut down. This wasn’t because those places were less important than 285 Kent, it’s just that the way we write about music, and the way we consume it has changed quite a bit in a few short years. Everything must be a big deal, even when it’s not.
Which is not to say that 285 Kent closing is not a big deal. It is. It adds to the narrative of a changing Williamsburg, and a changing New York. It doesn’t mean the city won’t still offer spaces like 285, it just means that things are mutating. The closing of the venue is a story about New York, and should be treated as such.
The music internet is still a young place, so this kind of of breathless memorializing makes sense. Everyone wants their moment to be the best moment, but the reality is that it’s just another in a long line of very similar moments. Your personal moment is as valid as the next, but treat it as yours, not the entire world’s.
The internet is completely open. We can do anything with it. So why do we all write the same “thinkpieces,” post the same mp3s and music videos? Why not push boundaries? We have unlimited space.
I’ve been asking myself that question for a few years now and I’m thinking about it even more as I run across the 27 millionth 285 Kent Eulogy. The only answer I have is that we’ve finally caught up with ourselves. Music writing is no longer just about writing, it’s about discovery. Who wrote about what first, who can lay claim to someone else’s art first. Who can be part of a scene. Who can be the most visible. It doesn’t need to be that way. If you write about music or make music or run a venue or do anything related to music, you have nothing to prove. You don’t need to lay claim to anything, you just need to keep doing what you’re already doing.
The best pieces of music writing I read this year reflected on what already existed and how it related to the world at large. Being the first to write about an artist—not report on an artist, which is different and very worthwhile—doesn’t do anything except fill a quota. How can anyone write intelligently about something that’s barely had the time to figure out what it is? Take the time to let musicians figure out what they want to be. Let moments go, allow things to grow organically. Stop discovering and start writing.
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