If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? We need to observe bands to hear their songs, and without the myriad of venues the city has to offer, our existence would be as pointless as that crashed sycamore in a deserted land. In an attempt to say thanks to those who give bands and artists a platform, we dish out our first Where It’s At awards, for where would this website be without them?
Best Sound: Mercury Lounge
There are many great sounding rooms in the city, but I have not been to a show that sounded anything less than brilliant here. I heard recently that the stage is filled with sand (left over from its days as a mortuary), which absorbs some of the bass that can plague other venues. I don’t know if that is true (though it makes sense), but what I do know is you won’t go wrong checking out a show at the Mercury Lounge (current listings).
Best Atmosphere: Death By Audio
The vibe in DBA is completely unpretentious, everyone just wants to have a good time and see whatever bands are playing. The atmosphere is welcoming and chill, until the place erupts at showtime. DBA is probably my favourite place in the whole of New York (current listings).
Best Bookings: Music Hall of Williamsburg
I thought long and hard about this one. A lot of venues have had a strong roster of acts treading their boards this year, but when I looked through all the shows I had been to in 2013 (over 150) one venue stood out: Music Hall of Williamsburg. While some of Bowery Presents’ bookings blur a bit across their venues (bands will often play Bowery and then MHoW or vice-versa), the Music Hall seemed to get the rub of the green overall. Playing host to the likes of Vivian Girls, Mudhoney, Medicine, Weekend, Anna Calvi (live review), John Grant (live review), Crocodiles and Wymond Miles (live review) among many others (current listings).
Best Bar: Muchmore’s
Some venues have good bars, and there are other times where you have to pre-game elsewhere. Muchmore’s offers a rotating selection of beers on tap for $5 or cans for $3, as well as cocktails and wine. If you’re not in the mood for booze (at which point you may not be speaking my language anymore), then Muchmore’s also boasts incredible pour-over coffee. Well priced drinks, great coffee, free wifi: Muchmore’s looks after you (current listings).
Best Newcomer: Baby’s All Right
The end of the year has seen a flurry of activity for new venues popping up in the city. While Rough Trade looks like it will be out of action until 2014, BRIC House being a little slow at curating their concert series, and Trans Pecos has only just opened this month. It has been left somewhat to Baby’s All Right to entertain us with something new and pretty. They also deserve this award because it is where Macauly Culkin bought us pizza and played kazoo (current listings).
Best ‘WTF’ Moment: 59 Canal Street
Seeing Macauly Culkin play a kazoo solo should take this one, but I also went to see Roomrunner, Speedy Ortiz , Sea Monsters and Stats at the end of February at 59 Canal. That’s a mighty fine lineup to be playing a weird bar on the second floor of an apartment building in Chinatown to a handful of people. The owner kept telling Roomrunner to turn the noise down, who then pretended to do so only to turn their amps up each time. I will remember the angry look on her face for the rest of my life, it was hilarious. When she really lost it and began shouting “no more!” at the band, singer Denny Bowen announced, “this will be our last song, it’s called No More.” I think you had to be there…
Best/Worst Toilets: Death By Audio
Really, a picture paints a thousand words. Nothing says “I love and hate this” more.
Best Outdoor Space: South Street Seaport
The seaport hosted possibly the strongest single event in New York this year, with a formidable lineup at the 4knots festival. And while all the major players in this category have pros and cons (Pier 84 had a really weak lineup this year), the curation for the seaport this year was incredibly strong. The sound is decent and with the Smorgasburg vendors on the other side of the road there’s decent food to be had as well.