Williamsburg is famous for its music scene, but rising rents are forcing an increasing amount of venues to end their shows early.
This weekend, Trash Bar at 256 Grand St. will become the ninth major Williamsburg music space to close in the past two years, following in the steps of popular spots like Glasslands, Death By Audio and Goodbye Blue Monday.
Venue owners, musicians and neighborhood groups say that Williamsburg still offers plenty of places for a live show, but the increasing cost of survival could force them elsewhere, too.
“The gentrification is undeniable; it’s a repeat of what happened in the East Village in the ’90s,” Trash Bar’s owner Aaron Pierce said.
Pierce added the rent at Trash Bar increased fivefold and he didn’t want to pass the burden on to his patrons or the bands that have graced the stage.
Pierce, who is looking to relocate to Bushwick or another part of Brooklyn, said Williamsburg was a special place for artists because its old lofts, warehouses and other vintage spots carried on the tradition of the ’60s and ’70s rock scene that spawned acts like the Ramones and Lou Reed.
Longtime Trash Bar patrons said the venue will forever have a special place in their hearts.
“In terms of a creative outlet, the city’s really gonna miss something,” said Denton Anderson while he was hanging at the bar two weeks ago.
Rami Haykal, who owned Glasslands, on 289 Kent Ave. until it closed in January to make way for Vice’s new headquarters, said Williamsburg was an incubator for talent.
“There used to be just a lot of warehouses and not too many people around, so you could be loud at all hours to actually practice or perform,” he said. “There were less people and whenever that’s possible there’s less oversight and attention.”
However, Williamsburg’s hip factor is what often, ironically, led to the demise of venues there, he added. The music scene attracted attention, leading to development and higher real estate prices.
Steve Rosenthal, the owner of the Magic Shop recording studio in SoHo and co-owner of the The Living Room, which moved from the Lower East Side to Williamsburg earlier this year, said the loss of these great venues damages the city’s artistic DNA.
“Think of the people who moved to the Lower East Side,” as another example of a neighborhood fundamentally changed, he said. “They’re looking for the art and culture but it’s not there. It’s still in Williamsburg, but you really have to search for it.”
Edan Wilber, who used to book shows at the now-closed Death By Audio (its 49 South 2nd St. location will also be taken over by Vice), said development projects haven’t totally killed the city’s music scene.
Having the opportunity to move to Bushwick or Ridgewood is better than nothing for some venues, he said, but fans feel the absence of a centralized music community.
“People are spread a lot more thin,” he said. “As the months go by, [a great venue] in the right location is becoming impossible to find.”
New Yorkers may have to search high and low for their next go-to music spaces, but Tom Zlabinger, an assistant professor of music at York College, said the city’s music scene isn’t going away any time soon.
“Musicians will always make music,” he said. “People need to gather and commune, so they will find a space.”