Well, we can’t say we didn’t see this one coming. Having just opened MP Taverna on Driggs and North 10th Streets (pretty much ground zero for Williamsburg’s shiny new condos) chef and restauranteur Michael Psilakis is now getting into the business of venues. What better way to connect to the neighborhood and a now nearly mythologized North Brooklyn cultural movement and indie rock scene? The Hall, a new music venue that boasts a mission to “put the focus back on supporting local arts, musicians, creatives, students and neighborhood residents,” won’t officially open till later this month. But we attended a preview event last night to see what we’re in for.
The showcase party was admittedly a very free, and in many ways very awesome, get-down thrown by Psilakis and MP to celebrate the new venture. There were free tattoos, a photo booth (with the option for getting your gif taken), tarot readings, enough food to sate an Afghani wedding (including sushi and a suckling pig), and an array of boozy libations to suck down. It was fancy. We had a good time.
But by the looks of the partygoers, it seemed the mysterious residents of the nearby sparkly towers had come down to play. Which is like, whatever. That’s to be expected for these openings. Who knows what the actual clientele will look like come opening night.
While we could only speculate as to who might be lining up to check out bands at The Hall, we were able to vibe out what a show might feel like there. The venue is set up so that, for seated shows, people can order their meals and even drinks in advance to be ready and waiting for them when they arrive and take their seats. Guests can even order that whole suckling pig we went all paparazzi on as soon as it came out of the kitchen, though we’re not sure the logistics of feasting on that while a band plays, unless of course you and your crew have snagged one of those fancy cordoned-off tables along the wall.
Something quite jarring to find if you’re unprepared is that The Hall is connected to MP Taverna, though not super obviously. If you wander down a hallway adjacent to the restrooms, you’re suddenly plopped smack dab in the middle of the restaurant, which is magically sealed from most of the noise next door (save for an ever so gentle throbbing of bass). So feasibly, you could get your Greek-inspired food in a peaceful setting, visit the water closet, and pop out at some cray show on the other side without ever having to leave the building.
The Hall is a literal description of the venue, which very much feels like a very large hallway. The stage is located directly at the back wall, while the impressively long marble bar (which claims 19 craft beers on tap) flanked by pewter horse heads, is immediately accessible upon entry.
As far as the design of the place is concerned, this might be a case of “be careful what you wished for.” If you count yourself a member of the chorus that complains endlessly about the ubiquity of reclaimed wood and industrial accents, hold your breath because The Hall is certainly not that. But instead of browns and rustic minimalism, we get squeaky clean leather, silver, and purple — clean, smooth surfaces and good lighting to make the well-heeled look alive. Warm, recessed lights and the sleek, mall-ish tone of the place call to mind a Midtown lounge more so than any venue we’ve ever been to in Williamsburg.
Sure, there are plenty of slick places opening up all over Brooklyn to add to the existing sanitized music spaces we can think of, but The Hall is a whole new level of venue. And like MP Taverna next door, it’s all about making people feel comfortable. A press release described the venue’s “prime focus on hospitality” and a new space that “incorporates unparalleled offerings to its guests.” This cordiality extends to visiting artists as well, who will have access to a pimped-out rooftop greenroom complete with showers and an Xbox.
And don’t get us wrong, the service was great, the bar couldn’t have been run more efficiently (even with the place packed wall-to-wall), and the acoustics made for very pleasant sounds emanating from Mr. Jackie Greene of the Black Crowes.
But that was just it — The Hall is so very, very pleasant that it’s hard to imagine ourselves inside it. Sure, the half-off everything daily happy hour is ballin’, but we like our music venues with at least a little bit of grit (even if it’s contrived grit).
After leaving The Hall, we went to see a show at Silent Barn, which as far as venues of its caliber go is the most legit and approachable. It was suddenly glaringly obvious to us the vast separation between the bands and artists who would play here and those who might play at The Hall. Consider that last night’s bill at Silent Barn consisted of Future Punx, Pill and Heaven’s Gate. Meanwhile The Hall offered acoustic singer-songwriter stuff and soft rock (think Kings of Leon or the Black Keys) from the Hollows, Jackie Greene, and Greene’s brother, Alex Nelson.
We didn’t find The Hall to be kooky or outrageously glamorous in any way, so it’s hard to imagine most venue-going people we know choosing an establishment like this to splurge at. That’s because it’s not as much a place for people who want to treat themselves as it’s a place for people who feel they deserve a certain level of comfort to be met before they even enter the building.