Neighborhood Music Guide: Fort Greene and Clinton Hill

BAM in all its glory
BAM in all its glory.

On account of a few variables, namely the mainstream media and your one friend who lives on Bedford Avenue, it’s possible you’ve been duped into believing the only place contributing to Brooklyn’s musical eminence is Williamsburg. Enter an ongoing series of neighborhood spotlights, in which we’ll highlight notable music-related places in each area to prove this is untrue. It’s a hyper-local visiter’s guide for the music enthusiast that doubles as an “I-lived-here-for-10-years-and-didn’t-know-that-was-there” tip sheet. Music, and its many businesses, is everywhere in this borough — which is maybe the best part about living here. Today, a look at all that Fort Greene and Clinton Hill have to offer:

Where to See It

Fort Greene may lack an honest-to-goodness club venue, but it gets to claim the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) its own, so let’s call it a win. In its 150 years, BAM — just awarded the 2013 National Medal of Arts this week by President Obama like a baller — has become a beacon for progressive, dynamic arts across visual and performance disciplines. In addition to dance, theater and film, BAM’s schedule includes classic and world premiere operas, momentous rock concerts (see: Neutral Milk Hotel), the occasional multidisciplinary performance that somehow always seems to involve Sufjan Stevens, and a diverse mix of free live music in the BAMcafé — which is all really the tip of the iceberg. Its like-minded new neighbor, the BRIC House, is in the infant stage of following suit, housing performance spaces, studios and galleries under the helm of not-for-profit art and media connoisseurs BRIC.

And then all by its lonesome, looming large on Clermont Avenue, is the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, a hulking granite edifice, which for reasons non-Freemasons don’t quite understand, houses a high school gymnasium-style concert hall for rare-but-special indie-rock shows. Hey, we’ll take it.

Where to Buy It

Once upon a time there was hip-hop-house-and-techno record heaven Dope Jams, but, alas, after seven years it became a victim of rising rents in 2013. While the area now lacks a proper record store, Brooklyn Flea is a decent compromise every Saturday between April and November — your best bet in the ‘hood to buy used records and the crate too. (The annual Brooklyn Flea Record Fair, meanwhile, amps a typical Flea weekend on steroids with independent labels peddling their stock. It switches up Flea locations, so keep an eye out in 2015.) (EDIT: The Record Fair actually takes place twice a year, once in May and again in September, now permanently at the Williamsburg Smorgasburg location.) Locals along surrounding brownstone-lined streets (Lafayette, Vanderbilt, Washington, etc.) sometimes use the Flea’s prime shopping hours to unload a few of their own belongings, making for exceptional record stoop shopping.

Where to Make It

Start the kiddos off at Music Together with children-oriented classes exploring song, rhythm and instrumental jams, then, after they grow into angsty teens, get them to A.R.T./New York rehearsal space. Housed in a lovely limestone building on leafy Oxford Street with spaces to run the gamut of performance art, it exudes a community feel, allowing theater geeks, church choirs and aspiring rockers to rub elbows.

Where to Get Signed (or to Get a Job)

Ba Da Bing Records — the label that launched Sharon Van Etten and Beirut’s career, among others — is doing just fine in Fort Greene for anyone who thinks record labels are dying, thanks.

Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.


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