Yesterday dozens of construction workers milled about 319 Frost Street in Williamsburg, where The Bowery Presents has been turning a former steel fabrication plant into Brooklyn’s largest general admission venue. This Thursday, April 6, the first of five sold-out LCD Soundsystem shows will kick off a month of performances by bands like The Decemberists, PJ Harvey, The Pixies, Two Door Cinema Club and Tycho.
Brooklyn Steel joins the line-up of five other New York City venues owned by The Bowery Presents, including Mercury Lounge, Bowery Ballroom, Terminal 5, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Rough Trade. Principal partners Jim Glancy and John Moore, who partnered with AEG Live earlier this year, told us a bit more about their newest venue, four years in the making.
How do you expect Brooklyn Steel to come into the music scene and interact with a community of artists that you guys have worked with over the years?
John Moore: It feels like it’s going to be a logical extension of what we’ve already done and what we’ve been doing. With a 250 capacity at Rough Trade an artist can then move up to Music Hall of Williamsburg at 600 and then up to Brooklyn Steel whether they’re doing a 1,200 capacity [show] or up to 1,800. There’s plenty of room for growth as well as additional opportunity for larger bands who haven’t had the opportunity to play that big in Brooklyn. There’s no other GA concert venue with an 1,800 capacity in Brooklyn.
Jim Glancy: I think it’s less about, “Okay, we’ll put one artist here, and a different artist there,” and more [like], “Okay… we want to start with an artist as early in their career as we can and go from there.”
The underground music scene in New York is really shifting out of Manhattan– out to Brooklyn and out even further now. Has that impacted how you guys have looked for new spaces?
JG: Yeah, I think the real estate drives so much. It drives where young struggling artists are and where people can work and socialize and live. This venue is 20,000 square feet and a bunch of our concerts are going to be $20, $22.50 or $25 a ticket, so to have a square footage that can still accommodate a band who’s growing and who isn’t necessarily charging $45 or $50, by definition you’re going to be moving further away from the core of the market. It’s further out towards Bushwick, Greenpoint and Ridgewood, Queens… places like that. I think that’s spot on.
One of your priorities as your creating new venues and new spaces to play has always been to put emphasis on the music itself and the sound. How will this new venue continue to further that initiative?
JM: Sound and sight lines are huge and Brooklyn Steel is going to continue in that tradition. From fans to artists, everyone is going to have just an A+ experience. It’s truly amazing. And the building has a lot of soul.How would you describe the style of Brooklyn Steel and what can we expect design-wise from the space?
JG: You know, it was a steel fabrication plant and we didn’t want to move too far from its industrial past. The design touches will be a reference to what it was before. And I think hopefully the flow of the venue, the sight lines, certain things in design are gathering from what we’ve learned over the years.
And I read that you guys will have a green roof at the venue– what is that for and how does it work?
JG: Anywhere we are, we want to be good neighbors and there’s some folks who live across the street from us. One of the ways that we could do that was by having a green roof, so I think 60% of the roof is covered with soil and… Jim, what are they? Succulents? Is that what it is?
JM: Sedum, I believe it is. It looks like sod and it looks like real grass. But it’s real soil and at it’s most moist it is absorbing a lot of sound.
So that will help keep the neighborhood quiet?
Most of the shows you have at Brooklyn Steel have already sold out– that’s incredible.
JG: It is, and we’re really excited. And to be honest I’m personally pretty humbled that we’re selling out shows for a venue that hasn’t opened yet. People haven’t been yet and they’re buying tickets and that’s amazing.
JM: We’ve opened venues in New York, but we’ve also opened venues in Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Maine and Birmingham, Alabama. So, since Terminal 5 opened in 2007, I’m guessing we’ve probably opened 8-10 venues. Some shot out of a rocket, both in terms of the number of shows and the way they sell tickets. For some it’s more of a slow build to establish yourself in the market place. I think we’re seeing a number of things.
If you guys could book any musician or any one group at any of your venues who would it be?
JM: You know what, I’ll answer part of that question. If I could book anyone today, it would be Tom Waits.
JG: I’d be honored to promote a Led Zeppelin concert.