It was bitterly cold last Thursday night, but a sandwich board outside of Sunnyvale promised: “Free shot if you prove you went to Pumps!” Aside from the strip club, some lonely looking art studios, and hot corn smells emitting from the tortilla factory, there’s not much nightlife at this industrial edge of East Williamsburg. But walking inside the multi-purpose venue that opened its doors earlier this month, I didn’t find a throng of strip club patrons clutching lap dance receipts (which they probably thought were only good for “business lunch” write-offs until now) and clamoring for oversized pours of Jose Cuervo. Thankfully.
Market Hotel did a remarkable job of capturing our attention with that Sleater-Kinney show. It’s almost as if the place is run by someone who knows a thing or two about putting on a great show. Huh. But since the Liquor Man and his cohort of party poopers (er, the State Liquor Authority) had only granted a temporary license for the soft opening, we were starting to get a real bad case of nervous dry mouth at the thought that perhaps we’d be waiting a long time for the Bushwick DIY venue to officially throw open its doors at Broadway-Myrtle. After all, we’d waited about half a decade already…
A brand new “DIY done-right” venue, as booker Nelson Antonio Espinal calls it, has been operating (at half-capacity anyway) in the J train’s shadow these past few weeks, while most of us probably had no idea. The secretive new operation, aptly called The Gateway, is located just off the Gates Avenue stop on the Bed-Stuy side of Broadway. Late nights, it’s pretty quiet around here, save for a Crown Chicken knockoff, a newish vegan diner called Toad Style, and the twice-a-weekend shows at Bohemian Grove, just north on the Bushwick side of the border.
The Silent Barn wasn’t about to wait for CMJ to do its thing before reopening. On October 14, while the music exec’s wet dream (and everyone else’s headache-inducing cluster fuck) raged on, the DIY venue welcomed show-comers back into its space, closed since a fire ripped through one of the upstairs residencies, and left behind an expensive mess a large chunk of the building. It had been less than three weeks since the fire, and after a slew of benefit shows, volunteer efforts, small gestures of support, and around $25,000 in donations, the show-space reconstruction efforts were complete.
Still, the reopening was “bittersweet,” according to Stephanie Griffin, Silent Barn’s spokesperson. “It’s kind of hard to get people to understand that even though we’re open downstairs, everything upstairs is still a mess. It isn’t a public space, so people don’t really see it and don’t really understand the extent of our need to keep fundraising.”
In many ways, Williamsburg’s newest venue couldn’t be more different from the (mostly) defunct DIY show spaces (bar/art-galleries and dingy old warehouses) that once lined the waterfront area. (Cameo, at least, is still here — for another month and a half, anyway). That’s because National Sawdust is a refined concert hall, a serious non-profit institution with powerful and moneyed supporters plus a leadership of established talent tapped directly from the music and art worlds.
Last Friday was a typical one at the Silent Barn— Bushwick’s beloved multi-faceted DIY music venue, art gallery, studio space, and artist residency is teeming with activity almost every day and night of the week– Freak Out Fest raged downstairs while a band practiced upstairs. And one resident was in their room when a fire broke out, one that the artist collective believes was caused by an “electrical malfunction.” Thankfully, spokesperson and longtime Silent Barn member Stephanie Griffin told us that no one was hurt. Of the 60 or so people at the show, “everyone got out within two minutes,” she said. But the damage is significant and threatens to upend Silent Barn’s delicate financial situation.
For the city’s DIY scene, the year 2014 was anything but static– openings, closings, you know the drill. And while one little venue might seem like it’s simply joining the list of short-lived venues and tragic casualties, in all probability, Nola Darling is just getting started.
It’s been almost a full year since we first caught up with the three guys behind Our Wicked Lady; needless to say, the East Williamsburg bar-venue-studio hybrid is unrecognizable as the gutted industrial space we first happened upon. Incandescent bulbs shine down on a long wooden bar, behind which glows an illuminated drink menu. “Do you think that font is too small?” Wayne Gordon asked.
While tonight is the soft opening (friends, family, and investors only), it’s clear Wayne and his partners Zachary Glass and Keith Hamilton, all service industry vets, are set on making everything just right for July 8 when they open their doors for real. “It’s going to be crazy,” Wayne said of the grand opening.
Trans-Pecos isn’t a new establishment by any definition– the Ridgewood music venue brought to us by DIY veteran Todd P has been hosting shows in the old Silent Barn space for about a year and a half now. During that time they’ve struggled to obtain a liquor license, which, let’s face it, makes all the difference in the world when it comes to running a (legal) show space. But when we stopped by Monday night for the return of Diamond Terrifier‘s experimental and outsider music series, Practice, the place was bubbling anew not just with boozy energy thanks to a spanking new license to serve, but with a combination that might seem lost on most other venues around town: hypnotic attentiveness to mind-bending music and an experimental lineup that was magically paired with a sense of accessibility.
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.
Eric Sosa and Michael Zuco are partners in life and now they’re about to be partners in business as well. The couple, who recently got engaged, decided to hold off their wedding in lieu of opening up a new bar on Bed-Stuy’s bustling Franklin Avenue. “We’re going to a give it a year so we can get this place on its feet,” Sosa explained. When it opens in a couple of weeks, C’mon Everybody will join a gaggle of new restaurants and bars along the Franklin Avenue strip south of DeKalb. But Sosa and Zuco are offering more than just booze and the possibility of good times. C’mon Everybody will be one of the few places in the area with a space dedicated to live music. “We’re going back to that sort of underground New York nightlife scene in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s,” Zuco explained. “We’re all really influenced by that era, and the decor reflects that without being too kitschy or over the top.”