Indie rock, jazz, hip-hop, classical, even flamenco: Williamsburg offers a vast array of live music at an equally eclectic array of venues, which include a bowling alley, a record store, a supper club, a former sawdust factory, and a one-time numbers joint.
146 Broadway (between Driggs and Bedford Avenues)
Upon entering Baby’s All Right, you might feel as if you stepped into a retro-hip diner, thanks to its swivel barstools, tiled floor, and old-school booths. And indeed, it does include a lounge with a full-service bar and a restaurant serving spring rolls, rice balls, and other Asian comfort food. But it also hosts live music at least several nights a week from up-and-coming and cult performers. In February alone, latter-day surf rockers the Nude Party, indie soul singer Caleb Hawley, hip-hop artist Mir Fontane, and Zeshan B (whose music can best be described as Indo-Pakistani meets blues meets soul) were among the acts scheduled.
61 Wythe Avenue (between North 11th and North 12th Streets)
The Growlers playing at the Brooklyn Bowl. Image: Steven Pisano/Flickr
Brooklyn Bowl is a 16-lane bowling alley. It is also a restaurant/bar serving upscale diner food (fried calamari, French bread pizzas, ribs, burgers) and Brooklyn-brewed beers on tap. And it is a music venue with a 600-person capacity. Scheduled to kick off February were reggae/roots music band Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad and Afrobeat group Underground System. Latin-fusion collective People of Earth, the Kyle Hollingsworth Band (led by a former keyboardist with the String Cheese Incident), reggae legends the Wailers, and Bruce Springsteen and Amy Winehouse tribute bands were also among those slated to perform throughout the month. On Sunday mornings, Brooklyn Bowl also hosts the Rock and Roll Playhouse, where kids are introduced to the music of a different band each week and encouraged to rock out as only little ones can.
361 Metropolitan Avenue (between Havemeyer and Roebling Streets)
Neither cavernous nor intimate, the Williamsburg outpost of Knitting Factory Entertainment can accommodate up to 300 people in its main room and 100 in its front room. There’s a show just about every night, usually spotlighting experimental or indie bands. In February, for instance, house music act AutoErotique, electronica (by way of hip-hop and jazz) ensemble Exmag, and recently formed rap crew Shredders were on the docket. Knitting Factory hosts occasional dance parties too, such as the recent “Boybands vs. Girlbands,” featuring tribute bands playing hits by Backstreet Boys, the Spice Girls, TLC, and the like. On Sunday nights, the front room hosts a comedy night, compered by Will Miles, Clark Jones, and Kenny DeForest.
66 North Sixth Street (between Wythe and Kent Avenues)
Music Hall of Williamsburg. Image: Chun-Hung Eric Cheng/Flickr
A band takes the stage nearly every night at this venue, which can hold up to 550 people. Again, indie and alternative rock acts reign supreme. Among those scheduled for February were synthcore pioneers Enter Shikari, emo-revival trio Tiny Moving Parts, and singer/songwriter Phoebe Bridgers.
80 North Sixth Street (at Wythe Avenue)
A not-for-profit organization, National Sawdust aims to support and nurture emerging composers and musicians. In addition to providing yearlong residencies, it produces performances at its venue. So acoustically impressive and airy is the hall, one might find it difficult to believe that it once was, as its name indicates, a sawdust factory. Performances range from classical to jazz to world music. The venue was scheduled to ring in February with “Tarek Yamani’s Jazz Conceptions in Classical Arabic” and end with jazz pianist Craig Taborn; 12-member vocal ensemble (and artists-in-residence) Choral Chameleon, classical pianist Lara Downes, and Cajun band Lost Bayou Ramblers were among those scheduled to perform in between.
709 Lorimer Street (between Frost and Richardson Streets)
Pete’s Candy Store never was a candy store, though it was the site of a general store, a diner, and a numbers joint. Since 1999 it has been a bar with live music, comedy, and other performances every night. Jazz band the Buck and A Quarter Quartet, psychedelic-tinged folk group Golden Alphabet, and Latin-rock-funk group Cartagena the Band were among those booked for February. Pete’s Candy Store also hosts an open-mic night every Sunday, a pub quiz every Wednesday evening followed by a comedy showcase, and reading series throughout each month.
113 North Third Street (between Berry and Wythe Avenues)
Radegast Hall. Image: Bob/Flickr
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when Williamsburg was a heavily German neighborhood, beer halls were no doubt commonplace. Radegast Hall describes itself as “Brooklyn’s first authentic biergarten in the new era.” While that means the food menu includes the likes of veal schnitzel and sausages and the bar offers a wealth of German beers, it does not mean that your meal will be accompanied by an oompah band. The Koran Agan Trio plays jazz during brunch every Sunday, deejays spin every Saturday night, and a wide-ranging assortment of jazz, blues, and swing bands perform every evening in between. Among those scheduled for February: funk band Lucky Chops, gypsy-jazz ensemble UltraFaux, and swing band Cait and the Critters.
64 North Ninth Street (between Wythe and Kent Avenues)
Rough Trade. Image: edwardhblake/Flickr
The first Rough Trade record shop was established in London in 1976, just as punk rock was coming into its own. A champion of the original punks, the store expanded into a record label and launched other retail offshoots, including its Williamsburg store, which also encompasses a café, a bookshop, and a music venue with a bar run by the same company, Bowery Presents, that operates Music Hall of Williamsburg. Surprisingly, punk music does not dominate Rough Trade’s calendar. Electronic-pop singer/songwriter Wafia, folk-influenced ensemble Stolen Jars, EDM duo the Funk Hunters, and hip-hop trio Injury Reserve were among the performers scheduled for February.
345 Grand Street (between Marcy Avenue and Havemeyer Street)
As befits a supper club, St. Mazie favors jazz and swing performers; Professor Cunningham & His Old School, Tamar Korn & a Kornucopia, and Alex Simon’s Gypsy Jazz Ensemble are among those who played here recently. But that is not the only sort of music you can hear at St. Mazie: Other recent performers included “dirty gospel” singer/musician Reverend Vince Anderson, Latin music ensemble Lapachamambo, and blues guitarist Tito Harlem Slim. The club also has regular flamenco nights, which feature dancers accompanied by a guitarist and vocalist.
152 Metropolitan Avenue (at Berry Street)
Skinny Dennis was named after Skinny Dennis Sanchez, a country session musician who played the upright bass and was indeed exceptionally thin (due to having Marfan syndrome, he was nearly seven feet tall but weighed only 135 pounds). The bar looks like a decades-old honky-tonk joint, down to the mismatched pleather barstools and the layers of bumper stickers covering the refrigerator doors, and it books the sort of bands you would expect to see playing (and drinking) in this setting. Roots rock-and-roll band the National Reserve has had a standing Friday night gig; rockabilly group Lara Hope & the Ark-Tones, folk rocker John Fatum, and country-blues performer Margo Valiante were among those also slated to perform in February.
484 Union Avenue (at Meeker Avenue)
There’s no swimming pool at Union Pool, but this bar is located in a former pool-supplies store. In addition to a large covered outdoor space and a taco truck should you want some grub to go with your brew, it has a stage for live performances. Synth-pop artist Glasser, soul singer-songwriter Kendra Morris, hard-rock duo Bat Fangs, and Grateful Dead cover band High Time were among the artists scheduled to be keeping the bar’s party vibe going throughout February.