Many of you, who strode across Williamsburg before it became SoHo, knew Zebulon. Perhaps you even knew its owners, the French brothers Jef and Joce Soubiran along with their long-time friend and partner Guillaume Blestel, founder of the New York restaurant Casimir. Zebulon opened its doors in Brooklyn in 2003 and its life spanned over a decade. It brought together musicians and music lovers from all over New York, as well as from all over the world. This was the place to listen to jazz, world music, rock, prog rock, you name it, but also a café, a cool bar, and above all a great hang. They brought to New York the French concept of “café-concert,” a lovely, all-inclusive addition to this already vibrant city that we love so dearly. Throughout the years, Zebulon became much more than they had dared imagine: a community hub, a place for sharing and connecting. With Brooklyn’s rapid economic and social expansion, under the pressure of neighborly relations growing tense, they came to the realization that they would eventually have to tame their venue and aspirations, or shut it down. Not willing to compromise, they chose the latter.
But fear not! Following the exodus of artists, musicians, and creative types, the brothers have now relocated to Los Angeles and are working on an ambitious project on the Eastside, while Guillaume travels back and forth between Brittany and the U.S. to help propel the project forward. With the support of Los Angeles native musician Mia Doi Todd and her husband Jesse Peterson, these great community organizers snapped up a gorgeous industrial space in Frogtown. After a lengthy fight to obtain all the permits required to open the venue they had envisioned, they undertook a gutting of the building. A laborious period of construction began, aiming to bring it to strict California safety standards, while preserving its historical character. They even brought the original bar from Brooklyn. The renovation of this 1930’s bakery located by the LA river has been ongoing for almost a year, but is now fast approaching its public opening planned for early 2017.
Los Angeles, allowing for more time and space with an economic pressure lesser than the one in New York, its diverse and multifaceted landscape, and its vibrant art scene, seems to be the perfect place for the rebirth of Zebulon. Their new programming will expand its reach from live music to dance, performance, cinema, after-school programs, workshops, and much more. Zebulon LA will feature a café with a full menu, bar, patio, and of course a music venue. The café and the music venue will now have separate entrances, allowing people to go for a meal, or enjoy a show – or both.
The music venue is three times the size of their previous Brooklyn grounds with a 200 people capacity. It will feature a large stage with a top-quality custom-designed sound system, a recording booth, a DJ booth, a sound engineer booth, two green rooms, as well as apartments for touring musicians and their crew. No wonder this project has aroused so much enthusiasm in the local community already.
Now that is where you, the reader, come into play: in order to bring Zebulon LA to its full potential and preserve its independence, Jef, Joce, and Guillaume need your support. After investing pretty much everything they had in this new bold endeavor, they are calling on the extended Zebulon family to mobilize around this project and help fund the missing piece to the puzzle, their top-notch sound system. In the spirit of the holiday season, please consider joining in supporting this good-spirited, idealistic, community-based artistic platform. Through times of growing intolerance and division, it is an opportunity to make an impact in our community by participating in the creation of a space, whose tradition of cultural openness will continue to bring people together through music, food, and the arts. The values of Zebulon, what it brought to its community for over ten years at their original location, and what it is about to contribute to our lives in Los Angeles, resonate today more than ever. Plus, your name will be on Zebulon’s walls forever – a nice path to immortality.
One of my favorite memories about Zebulon NY was perhaps to sit on the bench outside the venue on Saturday or Sunday mornings with a croissant and an espresso, sunbathing for a short while – after a hectic night, this always made me feel home. Zebulon was not only a place to hear music, but also a place to foster connections and a place to regroup – a home away from home. And, for those of you who knew Zebulon during its glorious New York era, I am sure you feel the same. It is now time to make room for the new and put Zebulon LA on the map at 2478 Fletcher Drive. Stay tuned and stop by to say hi once the rocket launches.
To contribute to their crowd funding campaign, visit their GoFundMe page. Any amount helps!
And, most importantly, listen to their dublab series every Sunday from 2–4pm to travel through time and revisit recordings of their live shows at their original Brooklyn location, along all time favorites, and recent releases from friends. This weekly broadcast will continue at their new location once it opens.
Still feeling impatient for the new venue to open? Want to meet them in person? Every last Friday of the month, the Zebulon boys are throwing a party at the cozy Hyperion Tavern in Silver Lake with live bands and Zebulon DJs.
Photos and text by Deborah Farnault