A Scene Grows in Brooklyn

Live Rock Finds a New Home Across the Williamsburg Bridge

As White points out, Brooklyn's become a hotbed of new musicians, with local artists such as Les Savy Fav, Radio 4, the Mink Lungs, Champale, and Longwave proudly calling the borough home. Brooklyn-based label Arena Rock recently put out a two-disc compilation, This Is Next Year, featuring more than 40 Brooklyn-based artists. "It's the same kind of grassroots, real-music-loving vibe that existed in the East Village in the late '80s," says Tee Pee Records' Tony Presedo.

This community vibe manifests itself to Steinhauser in the fact that "many of the people I see at shows in the city live out here." Besides cheap beer and proximity to the homes of many touring musicians' friends, Williamsburg offers visiting acts a less frenetic pace and easy parking, making load-in less stressful, claims Susanne McCarthy of Chicago's Flower Booking Agency. "Bands come into Manhattan," McCarthy says, "and unfortunately one of the first things they have to think is not about the show but, 'is my gear going to get stolen and is my van going to get towed?"'

For booking agents, the new venues provide added leverage when bargaining with promoters. "The word is on the street that these places exist. It's only a matter of time before the word gets to every other booking agent," says McCarthy. "You're going to have agents calling buyers and saying, 'Well, I can play one night in Irving Plaza. Or I could do a night at Northsix and a night at the Bowery.' "

Illustrations by Jorge Colombo

CMJ's White says competition benefits the local music scene as a whole, because "the more places to play, the more bands get to play, which helps those bands develop as musicians and artists." Knitting Factory's Guy Compton supports the competition, and suggests it will just make clubs work harder. Others may not be so magnanimous. According to Northsix's Steinhauser, "I know that some of the other clubs in the city have a huge issue with us booking bands that are playing their club that week."

Yet, the question of Williamsburg lies deeper than in the inevitable backroom skirmishes over acts and dates. "The hipsters and artists tend to always have to emigrate somewhere else and move to the next cheap, cool neighborhood. In that sense, those venues are kind of chasing a trend or a scene, which is to their detriment probably," says Compton. "But in the short term I am sure they will get their sea legs beneath them, and it will benefit live music in New York."

Related story:
"Push Push in the Flatbush: Brooklyn Dance Clubs Pick Up the Cabaret Law’s Slack" by Tricia Romano

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