This week we’re covering an official (as of 2008) New York City Landmark. Located at 125 East 11th Street, the building has a long history and was built in 1886. Long-term New Yorkers would have visited when it was known as The Ritz in the 80s, with Webster Hall as we currently know it being in place since 1992. Ideally placed close to Union Square, if you can’t manage to get a L,N,Q,R,4,5,6 train from somewhere to get there it’d be impressive (or rather, unimpressive.)
Capacity in the grand ballroom is around 1500, although it certainly doesn’t feel three times the size of Music Hall Williamsburg. There are other rooms including The Studio, but we’ll cover that at a later date. The room is bulked out with an upper-circle level which sports an elegant golden trim.
There are two bars in the hall, one plonked towards the back of the main space, which serves on both sides. Another one is located off to the side in another room which can often be a bit more quiet. Sadly the selection of beers is again somewhat uninspiring, as well as being a bit pricier than it should be, and the beer often tastes stale.
The toilets are at the back-corner of the hall next to the bar pictured above and are unisex, which isn’t obvious as you approach them with some trepidation, before being reassured by a staff member that it’s ok. The bathrooms also feature an oddity; attendants selling gum and candy. Now I don’t know about you, and sure, the goods are sealed, but I don’t really want to make any transactions in the same room as people are ridding their bodies of waste; fecal and urine molecules get everywhere, man. The toilets themselves are clean enough and functional with a black and white chequerboard flooring; boring basically. Note that everything bottlenecks after a gig so if you need to go, try to do so before the music starts not afterwards!
As with many venues that hover around this size, sometimes the sound is not great but I think they get it right more often than not. There is definitely an emphasis on the low-end. The barrier in front of the stage does create a bit of a dividing line between the artists and the audience, which isn’t really necessary unless a band is playing where the audience is obviously going to be a bit rowdy and in need of some assistance whilst crowd surfing (I don’t really get that, but each to their own unless you stick your boot in my face). The stage is higher than most and without any obstructions of which to speak you should get a decent view wherever you are.
Along with the previously reviewed Terminal 5, Webster Hall is a frustrating venue to get out of, and possibly even worse. The main reason for this is that not only is everyone exiting out the same point, but you have to all take the same staircase, so as well as getting to practice your penguin-like waddle along with everyone else, you then have to avoid the death-traps on the stairs (empty cups and bottles, etc).
If you’re in a hurry for some food before the show, hit up Dos Toros for a satisfying burrito. For those with a bit of time to kill beforehand then I like to nerd out at The Strand or Forbidden Planet. Caffeine addicts in the area before 6pm should go to Abraco (closed Mondays) on East 7th Street between 1st and 2nd ave and get a drip coffee, which might just be my favourite thing in the world.
Webster Hall doesn’t offer us the ostentatious setting that perhaps it could, given the age and status of the building, I think it would be better if it embraced the older features it has (and they certainly need to clean those beer taps and pipes). It does, however, offer a key buffer between venues that hold around 500 and the 3000-capacity rooms like Terminal 5.
Check out our listings for upcoming events at Webster Hall.