Where It’s At: Mercury Lounge

Following on from last week’s Cake Shop jaunt, it’s time to take a look at another LES establishment: Mercury Lounge is at 217 East Houston (house-ton, next you’ll be telling me I have to say tom-ay-to), between Ludlow and Essex.

The venue is also home to the box office for all Bowery Presents venues, meaning you are a trip away from saving yourself those infuriating “service” fees one is faced with via ticketmaster (I mean really, an $8 ticket with a $3 “service” fee?). The box office is open Monday to Saturday from 12-7pm, note that it is cash only.

Quite often there will be early and late shows, with early shows kicking off at 6:30/7 and late shows starting at 9:30/10, music usually starts 30 minutes after the doors open so there isn’t much hanging about which is fine by me. However, it puts a bit more pressure on the early show to run like clockwork and potential for a headliners set to be cut a little short (or maybe it just feels that way when you want someone to play all night).

Inside you will find a rather glorious and long wooden bar, unfortunately the price and selection of beer here is less impressive, with most drafts coming in at $8 (Blue Moon, Stella, Magic Hat, even a water Bud is $6). Brooklyn Lager again, then…

A call of nature will see you inside a rather uninspiring toilet (and for the gents, our first urinal of the series), with a copper finish to the walls, minimal graffiti and a few posters promoting upcoming events, it all lacks a bit of character and it’s a bit too nice, which I think is the MO here. My feet don’t even stick to the floor, an integral part of the music venue experience. I’m told the ladies facilities are a bit more rough (and that I also should have procured the La Luz poster…).

Upon making your way into the back you’ll find a square room with a capacity of around 250 and some padded seating on each side of the room, the stage is raised about a foot off the ground.

Despite the general lack of character, the expensive booze and the general cleanliness on offer, Mercury Lounge does have one particular ace up its sleeve; the sound is great. If you’re going to get one thing spot-on, it should be the most important part of a concert, being able to hear the band. I have yet to experience a bad sounding show here and I’m guessing bands must come for that reason. Notable gigs this year so far have been Ken Stringfellow, Meat Puppets and the Chilean double-act of Follakzoid and The Holydrug Couple (without sounding too pretentious and obfuscate, Chile is producing some amazing acts, do check the aforementioned as well as Vuelveteloca, The Ganjas and The Tsunamis among others!).

One quirk in the back room is the waitress service, not entirely sure how I feel about that in a rock club in all honesty. I’m perfectly capable of ordering my own drink when I’m ready, but for the lazy drinkers out there I guess it doesn’t really hurt between sets.

The inevitable action shots… I find it hard to get decent pictures here which I think might be down to the positioning of the spotlights, but I’m not exactly a pro…

Meat Puppets
Ken Stringfellow
The Holydrug Couple

My go-to place for pre-gig food is Clinton Street Bakery, nothing has ever been so equally wrong and right as attempting an artery bursting combination of pancakes and milkshake. There’s also the obvious choice of Katz’s Deli a block away (though I confess I have yet to go).

If you could somehow combine Cake Shop’s upper level with the back room of Mercury Lounge you would have a thing of real beauty. Enjoy the Mercury Lounge for what it is though, a consistently great sounding room. Despite some of the less enthusiastic aspects of the venue, I genuinely look forward to visiting because I know I’ll be able to enjoy the show.

Check out our Mercury Lounge listing for upcoming events.

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