History and museums
Glasslands Gallery (or simply Glasslands) was a music venue, dance club and art space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn active from 2006 through 2014 in a repurposed warehouse now occupied by Vice Media's office headquarters. As a concert venue, it was one of the longest-running of several experimental and DIY spaces in the vicinity of the Williamsburg waterfront, which included Death By Audio, Secret Project Robot, Monster Island and 285 Kent.
In 2004, multi-media artists Leviticus and Brooke Baxter, associated with the Freestyle Family, founded Glass House Gallery at 38 South 1st St as an “experimental venue” for visual art, performance and music geared towards their friends in Williamsburg creative community. Naturally Glass House attracted musical acts from within Williamsburg's scene and sometimes beyond, including Grizzly Bear, Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio, Matt and Kim, Deerhunter, Adam Green, Kimya Dawson, and Julianna Barwick. Chairlift's Caroline Polachek recalls, “It was a graffiti-covered warehouse space without a stage, and people watched from a rickety loft balcony that I was sure was going to collapse while Japanther was playing.”
Visual artists that exhibited at Glass House Gallery included Erica Magrey, Brooke Borg and DNA (Aaron Almendral and Mariano Delgado). On Friday nights, the gallery held free “art jam hangouts” where all who attended were encouraged to collaborate. In May 2006, Baxter partnered with musician and artist Rolyn Hu to open The Glasslands Gallery at 289 Kent Ave, a larger partition of the same warehouse complex where Glass House was located. A monthly lecture series, rotating art installations, community fund-raising events, workshops and a free after-school program were all part of space's stated mission. The layout at the time included a “typewriter room”, a “painting room” and the “lounge/conversation room.” Practice rooms for bands were also incorporated.
Glasslands was double in size to Glass House and more hospitable for performances, with better sound and seating. Some of the earliest performances included Vampire Weekend, a secret show by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, as well as emerging acts like Pterodactyl, Bon Iver, MGMT and Dirty Projectors. DJ Jonathan Toubin would hold his New York Night Train parties and Soul Clap Dance-Offs at the venue. The Village Voice dubbed Glasslands the “Best Arts Venue Conjuring Avenue A in The 80s”.
In 2008 Rami Haykal and Jake Rosenthal of the upstart PopGun Presents started organizing shows regularly at Glasslands, which was gradually starting to place more emphasis on music programming. In late 2009, around when Baxter and Hu were opening the Manhattan Inn restaurant and lounge in Greenpoint, PopGun was made the in-house talent buying team at Glasslands.
Glasslands installed an air conditioning system in 2010. Before that point, summer nights were famously sweaty and arid. “It was like Bikram Yoga night every night,” Haykal recalls. 2011 saw more major renovations, including the movement of the stage, from the wall to the right of the entrance, to the far back corner, removing some of the prior rehearsal space to allow for a greater audience capacity. During these early years at Glasslands, the venue had a penchant for booking artists that promulgated an often noisy or psychedelic brand of alternative pop, a sound that would become one of Williamsburg's major cultural exports. These acts included Yeasayer, Toro Y Moi, Blood Orange, Chairlift, Tanlines, Twin Shadow, Das Racist, Bear In Heaven, Titus Andronicus, Phantogram, Caribou, Jay Reatard, Wild Nothing, Lemonade, Suckers, Keepaway, Phosphorescent, Passion Pit and Gang Gang Dance. In 2011, Lana Del Rey played a secret practice gig under the moniker Queen Of Coney Island.
In 2012, ownership of the venue was transferred to PopGun's Rosenthal and Haykal. In the years prior to the transfer, PopGun had increased the volume of shows, eventually reaching a point where Glasslands was booked with events virtually every single night save holidays. Perhaps the most welcome change under new ownership was the renovation of Glasslands' notoriously ramshackle “saloon-door” bathrooms, which were replaced with individual booths. A green room for artists and coat check were installed as well.
Glasslands' continual improvements and augmentations allowed for it to book some national touring acts looking for an intimate space with some underground credibility. FKA Twigs, Disclosure, Wu Lyf, Angel Olsen, Charli XCX, Darkside, Grimes, Alt-J, Franz Ferdinand and Nils Frahm were some of these acts.
Vashti Windish's paper clouds installation, which had hung above the stage since 2008, was declared by the New York Fire Department to be a fire hazard. It was replaced with a large array of controllable LED tube clusters, designed by Noah Norman of Ancillary Magnet and built by the Glasslands management and their friends. The clouds were memorialized in the design for Glasslands' first t-shirts, made available at the venue and online shortly after the installation's removal.
In July of 2013, Glasslands announced that they had upgraded to a Danley Labs Inc. sound system. Under PopGun's leadership, the venue took on more late-night parties with a DJ focus. These included select dates with DJ Jonathan Toubin as well as a monthly residency with the neo-disco and house collective Discovery. The themed Cat Face and Rebel Bingo nights found a home at Glasslands, as did the Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival. The Adventures team also put on a number of notable parties including the season Robyn-themed party, an emo Valentine's dance and a Twin Peaks-themed Halloween party. Major electronic acts and DJs including Jon Hopkins, Baauer, Mister Saturday Night, Omar S., and Sophie (PC Music) all made memorable stops. Bands that made repeated stops during this period include Unknown Mortal Orchestra, How To Dress Well, Crocodiles, Lower Dens, Dum Dum Girls, Le1f, The Range, DIIV, Trust, Shigeto, MØ, Hooray For Earth, Zambri, The Yellow Dogs, King Krule, Light Asylum, THEEsatisfaction, Cloud Nothings, Anamanaguchi, Kelela, Mon Khmer, Air Waves, Majical Cloudz, Peelander-Z, Slow Magic, Mykki Blanco and Chrome Sparks.
In the summer of 2014, rumors started circulating the press that Vice Media had its eye on Glasslands' warehouse complex for its new headquarters. Reportedly, the pulp mag-turned-conglomerate was receiving a large tax incentive from the State of New York to remain in New York City. As foretold by the shuttering of both Death By Audio and next-door neighbor 285 Kent, Glasslands announced on October 21st that New Year's Eve 2014 would be its last night of operation.
While neither Glasslands nor Vice publicly stated the exact reason for the venue's closure, the announcement resulted in an outcry against the media company, with many alleging that it was cannibalizing the alternative culture that allowed it to flourish. Others chalked it up to the inevitable onset of gentrification, pointing out that the landmark Domino Sugar Refinery across the street from Glasslands was being demolished to make way for luxury condo high-rises. Columns and features on the closing were published in The New York Times, Billboard, Paper Magazine, Gawker, Gothamist, The Fader and other outlets.
In its final weeks of operation, Glasslands harkened back to its art gallery roots, bringing in Collective Craft NYC to install works by visual artists Jillian Siegel, Courtney McKenna, Grant Guilliams, Ashley Blanton and more. Glasslands bartenders Luiza Kurzyna and Zachary Clausen also contributed new pieces, as did James Devito of Anamanaguchi and Kengo “Peelander Yellow” Hioki of Peelander-Z.
On December 15 of 2014, Glasslands announced its final event “Lastlands” for New Year's Eve, and when tickets went on sale two days later they sold out instantly. The show's line-up – DIIV, Sky Ferreira, Smith Westerns and Beverly - was not revealed until doors opened for the event. Recapping the night, Jen Carlson wrote, “RIP Glasslands. RIP Williamsburg. RIP Brooklyn. Etc.”