Tag Archives: Downtown Boys

This Week’s Essential Releases: Punk Rock, Hip-Hop, and New Wave

7 essential

Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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9 Artists to Check Out at the 2016 Afropunk Festival

Sate, Sango, Downtown Boys, and In The Whale
From the left: Sate, Sango, Downtown Boys, and In The Whale.

Conceived as a continuation of the scenes documented in the 2003 cult film, Afropunk, the first Afropunk Festival took place in Brooklyn in 2005. In its early years, the festival provided a politicized music and community-building space where black rock, punk, and heavy metal artists who often found difficulty landing gigs could perform. But as the festival has grown over the years (including a touring festival, showcases in Washington DC, Atlanta, and Chicago, and most recently, one-day festivals in Paris and London) its community-building initiatives have expanded, but the overriding philosophy has begun to weaken.

Until last year, the festival was free to the public, which allowed festival-goers to see headliners that, in other instances, they would have to shell out a pretty penny for. While it’s safe to assume that mainstream headliners like Janelle Monae and D’Angelo guarantee a more culturally-diverse audience, satisfying the numbers that corporate sponsors need to see in order to continue funding, they stray from what the Festival was originally meant to highlight: alternative black musical artists and communities who choose lifestyles that differ from the mainstream black-centric tropes that often hinder individuality and innovation.

Now to be fair, any festival that expands over time will eventually have to re-negotiate its original purpose. The factors that make an event unique will always change to suit the social and economic climate. But despite the complaints about Afropunk morphing into a slightly more tanned Coachella, there have always been hidden gems during the two-day lineup, and this year is no different; most often, the smaller acts end up being some of the most impressive and authentic bands on the bill. Here are some of the artists performing at this year’s Brooklyn Afropunk we think are absolutely crucial.

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Listen to the Death by Audio Live Compilation in Full

Ty Segall. Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Independent show spaces open and close across the country almost every month, but the shuttering of the Brooklyn venue Death by Audio in 2014 was a particularly painful sting. This is largely because the venue didn’t lose its lease to luxury condos or corporate chain stores, but to VICE, a publication that had, on its surface, long attempted to align itself with counterculture and the underground. A film about the venue’s final days, Goodnight Brooklyn, depicts VICE as tyrants and mercenaries, consistently making the venue uninhabitable in order to drive the founders out before the agreed-upon end date. The whole situation felt bitterly ironic: a large corporation that prided itself on a sense of cool actively working to unseat a venue that was, to many, the epitome of punk counterculture.

Two years later, the venue’s legacy still looms large. The triple-LP compilation Start Your Own Fucking Show Space, which we’re premiering today in full, collects notable performances from the venue’s final days, and comes packaged in a gatefold sleeve that unfolds to replicate Death by Audio’s interior, right down to the custom murals by local artists on the stage and walls. (The center panel is a picture of the stage, the left panel is the left wall, and the right panel is the right wall; if you raise the sleeve to your head, it feels like you’re standing in the space.)

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Behind the Scenes With Downtown Boys

Anyone who’s seen Downtown Boys knows that the Providence political punk collective are a ball of white light on stage, bringing the kind of crackling energy that spurs people not just to dance, but to tear down a wall or two. The group derives so much of their on-stage power from their off-stage friendship that, when they’re not performing, that light doesn’t dim—it just gets more diffuse, translating to easy smiles and thoughtful conversation.

Photographer Chona Kasinger spent some time with the band at their recent show in Brooklyn at Market Hotel: loading in, relaxing together, and bringing the full power of their performance to the stage. Our exclusive photo gallery is below:

—Jes Skolnik