Neighborhood Music Guide: Park Slope and Gowanus

Pretty, pretty Prospect Park Bandshell
Pretty, pretty Prospect Park Bandshell

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 Park Slope and Gowanus have to offer:

Where to See It

Union Hall is still going strong. Aside from bocce, which patrons tend to take very seriously, the bar mixes mostly local bands in the basement with talks, readings, comedy, trivia, group sing-alongs, karaoke, bingo and more. (Keep an eye out for Forty-Five Candles: An Evening of Fiction in Which John Hughes Characters Grow the Fuck Up on August 22. That sounds fun and also depressing.) Its quirky programming, juxtaposed against the bar’s faux-stately 1900s parlor decor, magically results in an ideal place to see a low-key show.

In neighboring ‘hood Gowanus, Union Hall vets opened the sophisticated mountain-lodge-warehouse-bar The Bell House in 2008, taking a similar approach to varied programming — talks, readings and comedy run the gamut here — but putting more dedicated focus on music by bringing in national acts. Converted warehouse-turned-art-space Littlefield and split personality sports-bar-concert-venue The Rock Shop round out your best options for indie-oriented shows in the area. Itty-bitty Barbès, meanwhile, has become one of the most revered places in the city to catch jazz, world and experimental music, including a weekly residency by nice-piece Balkan brass band Slavic Soul Party — they seem to take up about half the space’s capacity, which makes for awfully sweaty fun.

If you need some air after the stuffiness of Barbès, you don’t need to go far, thanks to Prospect Park Bandshell. Home to the always excellent Celebrate Brooklyn! summer concert series, the Bandshell allows for both the blanket-under-the-stars option in the lawn or the stand-and-sweat-like-a-true-fan space closer to the stage, allowing you to scope out the perfect spot catered towards your laziness level.

Where to Buy It

Because Brooklyn real estate is a mean game, legendary hole-in-the-wall record haven Fifth Avenue Record & Tape Center is closing its doors at the end of August after more than 42 years of business. Owner and hopelessly devoted record collector Tony Mignone told the Daily News that his crammed stock of cassettes, CDs, vinyl, 8-tracks and VHS tapes has gotta go. So now you have plans for Saturday afternoon.

In related news, if you’re a multimillionaire with impeccable taste in music who likes taking chances, Park Slope could really use a new record store. The vinyl section at the Gowanus Whole Foods, though admirable, isn’t exactly cutting it.

Where to Make It

Music vets and newbie bands alike have had a decade-long love affair going on with Seaside Lounge studios, drawing in The National, Andrew Bird, The New Pornographers, Sharon Jones and more for its big-time studio equipment without the big-time studio price tag.

Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.


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