Apr 29, 2016
Best Kept Secret: 9 Brooklyn Music Venues You May Not Know About
With this year’s Northside Festival fast approaching (June 6-12), we figured it was a good time to check in on the local music scene, to get more in tune with the community we’ll be celebrating come June. We’ll be rolling out lots of great music-related content this week, including our picks for the 9 NYC bands you need to hear, an exhaustive look at Brooklyn’s music venues, and much, much more. Check out the Northside music lineup, and consider picking up a badge or some single-show tickets.
We did a big rundown of all the best places to see live music in Brooklyn earlier this week, and while it’s important to be completist, it’s also helpful to examine things on a smaller scale, too. So in that spirit, here is a closer look at some venues in our neighborhoods that are still coming into their own. These are the spots that you will probably be frequenting more and more as 2016 rolls on toward 2017–and who knows what other new spots will have cropped up by then. In the meantime, here’s what to keep your eye on as we head into summer music season.
976 Grand St, Studio D
This DIY and gallery space opened in May of 2015, and aside from live shows, also hosts a whole range of art installations that include 2D, sculpture, performance art, conceptual art, sound art, and an experimental film series. All of this programming is curated fully by Montana Simone, who is also the director for the space. The sound art installations series, IDIO:Soundlab, is co-curated by sound artist and DJ Maria Chavez. One of the venue’s biggest upcoming projects is a festival called the Royal Oakie Fest that seeks to unite unsigned indie bands from both coasts. The festival will run next weekend, May seventh and eighth, and will also feature visual art from Yasamine June on display, booths by local jewelry makers and independent music stores and food vendors from nearby restaurants. But that’s just one example of Idio’s focused, diverse programming. All of the equipment at the venue is provided by supportive friends and community members–a feat unto itself. This is clearly an artistic hub that you will be hearing more and more about as they enter into their second year of existence.
The best part: Simone coined the term “psychofolkgarage” for the type of music she tends to book, a wide variety of rock, psych, garage, punk and folk.
Photo by Nick Karp
330 Melrose Street
Suburbia is first and foremost a house venue, which means you’re always going to feel a little bit more comfortable here then you will at a traditionally stiff commercial space. The venue was started back in 2011 by a group of ten self-described entrepreneurial punks in their thirties, some of which who have been friends since childhood, but the bulk of the book responsibilities falls on Emmanuel Cruz, Jason Silva, Eric Fairchild, and Kevin Dobbins. (Although, funny enough the space was once a porn studio! How’s that for vibes?) It’s like the difference between eating out at a restaurant and eating a home-cooked meal in someone’s house–they’re both delicious, but one always feels a little cozier, a little more intimate. Helmed by a group of Long Island natives, the Bushwick basement space the venue hosts comedy shows, record release parties, and concerts, all while maintaining a welcoming and hospitable environment. Initially, their primary focus was one emo and indie/punk bands, but they’ve since expanded to include pretty much anything everyone in the house can agree on. They hold all ages shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and generally there’s a $5 cash cover at the door.
The best part: These are basement shows run by people who grew up–and were formed by–basement shows. The chance to watch that legacy being passed on is inspiring.
As is often the case when it comes to DIY venues in Brooklyn, Palisades was actually born out of the ashes of another venue. Leeor Waisbord, Ariel Bitran and Ariana Wist previously ran a spot called The Lab on Wyckoff before it was plagued by issues with the law circa 2012. Undeterred, Waisbord soldiered on, finding the space that eventually became Palisades and working with Rose Fathers to develop a legal plan that would get the business up and running. When the venue officially opened in spring of 2014, Bitran returned to the project to serve as a partner and primary booker for the space, which has since developed into one of the most reliable and eclectic places to catch a show in the entire borough. In this week’s feature spotlighting local bands, several of the acts cited the place as their favorite spot to play, and a facsimile of the venue recently graced the cover of The New Yorker. It’s hard to think of another Brooklyn DIY venue that’s earned that kind of hat tip from Manhattan in a while, especially within its first two years of existence. Spacious and comfortable but still grungy in the best way, Palisades allows both the audience and the artist to feel at home, supported, and expressive while they’re within its walls.
The best part: You can actually afford to live near enough this venue to walk there.
Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
496 Morgan Avenue
We included this venue on our other more comprehensive list too, because it’s one of the best new venues around, but it seemed fitting to also include it here because the space is still so new. Aviv is also a completely DIY space run primarily by the trio Zack Wheeler, Stuart Solomon, and Olivia Russin, who have built out everything you see in the venue–from the stage, to posters and murals etc–themselves or with help from members of the community. While the venue is rooted in indie rock, they are seeking to expand outward to include many different types of music, and have recently honed in on queer, feminist, and anarchist performances. (You know, just the easy and casual stuff.) Tyler Kane of Ipsum has stepped in to handle most of the booking for the venue, which has been going strong since early 2015.
The best part: Walking the several blocks from the closest bus or subway will give you the toned legs you’ve always secretly craved.
1031 Grand Street
Sunnyvale is one of the most promising places to spend plenty of your summer nights. The venue opened in what was a very illegal and very fun space that only lasted a couple months several years ago called Delinquency. The name was very appropriate given the situation, but what those mourning the venue’s shuttering missed most was the cozy, cabin feel of the space and the charming homey atmosphere. Enter Sunnyvale, a totally revamped take on the former venue that now includes a hand-built stage and bar. Tim Pioppo is one of the venue’s six owners, (he formerly seved as the sound guy for Delinquency) and works as the general manager for the space now. With a slick new design and all their ducks in a row, this place is sure to get their fair share of the spotlight in the upcoming months.
The best part: This time, you can fall in love with the venue without worrying the affair will only last a summer.
44 Wilson Avenue
You’ll start to get a sense of why Gold Sounds has risen to the top so quickly once you discover that Chip Su is at work. Su has served as a director of events/talent buyer for not just Gold Sounds, but Black Bear Bar, Santos Party House, and Fat Baby. In other words, he knows exactly what he is doing and how to do it. The spot opened up this March, and aside from the sonic-infused name, it boasts a variety of vintage music inspired ephemera, like a vintage 45-rpm record jukebox and a curtained-off stage room. Su is joined in this venture by Cenk Eryaman, and together, the two of them are seeking to create a dive bar feel that easily spills over into the live music setting. They aim to book undiscovered and emerging talent instead of headliners, and create a space where people are encountering new bands for the first time, and finding music that speaks to them in a way that feels both familiar and brand new.
The best part: We tried to resist, but this old-fashioned record-playing jukebox is pretty fucking cool.
Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk
Our Wicked Lady
153 Morgan Ave
Our Wicked Lady has only been open for about ten months, spearheaded by the trifecta of owners Zach Glass, Wayne Gordon and Keith Hamilton. But despite the limited timeframe, they’ve already accumulated quite a lengthy list of accomplishments. The Bushwick space is actually the first-ever rooftop bar in the neighborhood (at least, that’s what we heard) and along with the venue and inside bar area, the venue is also home to nine band rehearsal spaces and four artist studios. Did we mention the rooftop bar is 1,300 square feet? That’s a lot of room for moshing. OWL follows in the footsteps or community-based spaced like Silent Barn, who seek to create more than just a concert hall where people shuffle in and out without ever feeling connected to the space or each other. Speaking of shuffling, one of the other primary events that Our Wicked Lady is privy to is the monthly showcase for independent music blog Indie Shuffle, a recurring event that’s just $5 every time. A lot of those connections are facilitated by the space’s booker, Christiana Bartolini, who also serves as lead senior staff writer and booker at Indie Shuffle and Daptone office manager. But whether it’s for an industry night showcase, or catching a face-melting live show, this is a venue that is seeking to create connections within the community, and maintain them for years to come.
The best part: You read the words “rooftop bar” and still needed to ask? Those two words say it all.
The Hall At MP
470 Driggs Avenue
Chef and restauranteur Michael Psilakis entered the venue scene back in 2015 when he launched MP Taverna at the corner of Driggs and N 10th. Initially, it was a Mediterranean restaurant, but soon Psilakis incorporated another seated venue space where guests could order a meal and drinks before the show began–think City Winery, but Brooklyn style. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with eating and drinking while you watch music, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the music! It may be sleek and sophisticated, but there’s still 19 beers on tap at that long marble bar. And the most recent booking that drew my attention this place? West Coast zen-weirdo poet rapper Milo–an MC who put out one of the best rap albums of last year–so don’t say Psilakis is slacking at all when it comes to getting the best talent through his doors.
The best part: You could feasibly order a whole suckling pig and eat that while listening to one of your favorite bands. New life goal right there.
140 Wilson Avenue
This is another venue that made our Best Brooklyn Venues list but also deserves an extra shoutout here. Skylar Insler (a co-owner of Alaska bar) and Scott Rosenthal (a member of the band Class Actress and Beverly) teamed up to open this place back in fall of 2014, offering a space that functions as dive bar, restaurant and venue all in one. In the ensuing months since their opening, Alphaville has also become a regular meeting up point for industry people looking to munch on the ever decadent chicken nuggets (affectionately dubbed “nugz” on the menu) and drink a couple libations before heading into whatever show the evening has in store. That’s the thing about neighborhood joints where everyone just heads to meet up–you can’t really define or label that kind of hospitality. It just comes naturally.
The best part: The bills here are always quite eclectic and fascinating, there’s a reason The Voice dubbed it best DIY venue last year. But oh, come on who, are we kidding? The best part is obviously the NUGZ.
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