Any question about what role Brooklyn Steel would fill in the borough’s music scene was eradicated once and for all when the venue announced their slate of opening shows. The new venue from East Coast concert promoting monolith The Bowery Presents will start its run with a five show LCD Soundsystem residency taking place from April 6th to April 11th, a fittingly unprecedented event for a concert hall seeking to add a totally new dimension to Brooklyn’s concert-going options—the mid-level venue sandwiched between a club show and an arena, but one that can also attract the world’s biggest acts.
The Bowery Presents already owns one of Brooklyn’s most popular venues, the Music Hall of Williamsburg, in addition to Rough Trade, but Brooklyn Steel is also able to position itself as a rival music hub to the most storied venues in Manhattan. While the LCD shows are at the top of the marquee, the acts don’t dip from there. In just its first two months Brooklyn Steel will house the Pixies, The Decemberists, PJ Harvey, Sylvan Esso, and Mitski, among many others.
“There’s no big, general admission venue in Brooklyn, so it just seemed like an obvious void in the marketplace,” said Jim Glancy, one of Bowery Presents’s principal partners. “We felt like much the way Music Hall of Williamsburg and Bowery Ballroom compliment each other in terms of the booking, that Brooklyn Steel would do the same between Manhattan and Brooklyn.”
Compared not only to other Bowery venues like Rough Trade (capacity: 300) or Music Hall of Williamsburg (650), but also to other Brooklyn venues like Baby’s All Right (280) or even Brooklyn Bowl (600), the sheer size of Brooklyn Steel—with a capacity of approximately 1800 people—makes its arrival all the more jaw dropping.
Then, there’s the matter of its location. While many of Brooklyn’s best-known venues are clustered in the buzziest cross-sections of Williamsburg near Bedford, Brooklyn Steel is actually farther east, much closer to Greenpoint. The space, originally a steel fabrication plant, is located at 319 Frost Street. The Bowery Presents wanted to keep ties to its industrial heritage, using repurposed materials and salvaged steel in addition to an art installation made of the plant’s original fans.
The location choice was out of necessity (it’s hard to find an available 20,0000 square foot space anywhere in New York) and a decision to cater to a Brooklyn-based community that has emerged in the last decade, according to Glancy and Bowery Presents’s other principal partner, John Moore.
“When Music Hall opened [in Williamsburg] almost a decade ago, it was Williamsburg when it almost became a national buzzword. But I think at this point you’re talking about neighborhoods like Greenpoint, Bushwick, Ridgewood Queens; it’s not just this little pocket,” said Glancy. “We’re serving people who live in Brooklyn, work in Brooklyn, and play in Brooklyn. We’re seeing an audience that’s really embracing that.”
Moore stressed the importance of finding the proper geographic fit for the gargantuan concert hall, which also includes three bars and production, promoter, and vendor offices on-site.
“Generally speaking, going a little further out from, in this case, Bedford, gave us more opportunity to find the right space in the right building in the right neighborhood,” he explained.
As Brooklyn has increasingly staked its claim in the city’s music culture, the quality of artists who chose to play there versus (or in addition to) a Manhattan venue has only increased, which was another major reason this felt like the right time to build a space on this scale.
“A couple years ago would have been fine, but five, seven, 10 years ago it would have struggled, and you wouldn’t see our opening lineup, which in our opinion is pretty massive, in 2009 or 2007,” Glancy said.
Brooklyn Steel’s notable opening run has been a source of some controversy on Twitter. All five LCD Soundsystem shows sold out almost instantly, seemingly plucked by automated bots for resale. Tickets on Stubhub start well over $200 and reach prices so high that I was afraid to click anywhere near them for fear of accidentally purchasing one. The venue tweeted that they will be working with ticket provider AXS to ensure that as many actual humans as possible have the opportunity to see one of Brooklyn’s seminal bands. Several of Brooklyn Steel’s later shows are sold out as well, though they’re on the resale market for far more reasonable figures.
Still, the arrival of Brooklyn Steel undeniably adds a new element to the borough’s live music scene. It’s one that Glancy likens to Terminal 5, another massive Bowery Presents venue, which has re-shaped the city’s musical landscape.
“I think a place like Terminal 5, at this point is on the map, people in the entire metropolitan area know about it, and the type of artist that can play there is really any kind of genre,” Glancy said. “I think given where we are [with Brooklyn Steel] in our location and the size, I think you’re going to see certainly in the first few years an edgier type of artist playing here.”
It’s easy to see Brooklyn Steel quickly becoming yet another Williamsburg cultural beacon, so we’d recommend you get your spot in line, and wallet filled, early.
Photos by Jane Bruce