How Has All This Snow Affected Brooklyn’s Live Music Venues?

02/02/2011 10:08 AM |

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As you may have noticed, New York City has been covered in multiple feet of snow since the day after Christmas. It was charming at first, but then almost immediately less so. By now we know the horrible drill: It melts a little, then it freezes back up, and then you fall down. And then it snows again. This keeps happening, over and over again, and everyone just desperately wants it to stop. It’s making everything more of a chore than it needs to be, and as a result our already pretty appealing couches seem like the best place we could possibly be at any given moment.

So that’s how it’s affecting us. But how ’bout all the music venues? They live and die based on our willingness to leave our couches behind, after all. We asked a few local club-owners and show promoters how they’ve been coping with the foul weather.

Jake Rosenthal, Glasslands
I had a really amazing experience recently related to your question that’s maybe worth sharing.

A few months ago we booked Yuck (from the UK) to play at Glasslands – their performance was last week, but the night before the show they announced that visa troubles were keeping them held up at customs in London.

After about 24 hourly updates from abroad, their visa troubles somehow got sorted out, but a massive blizzard was brewing in NYC! Their flight into JFK was cancelled, so they tried their luck at Newark, and landed at the airport about an hour before their set.

The blizzard was full on when they got to the venue (on the way home they had to push their van out of a snowbank), but Glasslands was packed. Everyone was posted up, no one was going anywhere, and the chaos outside gave the show an incredible nervous energy that I like to think had something to do with Total Slacker destroying their guitar on stage (thanks Tucker!).

All that is to say: I think if you’ve got an amazing band that’s champ enough to brave all obstacles, you’ll probably have an amazing fan base that’s willing to do the same. That night was really special because of the weather, not in spite of it.

Jack “Skippy” McFadden, The Rock Shop, Littlefield, Santos Party House
Traditionally, clubs are a dead zone from December 15 to January 15 anyway. Besides New Year’s Eve and a handful of special events, there’s no national touring bands, and even with the local bands, there’s always a band member away to make booking difficult. So that said, it’s actually a GOOD time of year for the snow. As it drags on, however, yeah, the recovery gets harder.

For us, at the Rock Shop, maybe we’re experiencing a honeymoon period still, but when we DO have shows, the last two weeks, we’ve been PACKED. Like, really packed. I think for the early (Blondie Chaplin) and late (Peter Bjorn & John) show last Friday, we had close to 350 people all night. Wye Oak the night before, 150 easy. And it was cold, and snowy, and icy. So, I think at some point, NYC’ers get sick of the cabin fever.

Maybe I’m a romantic, but there’s something special about being in a packed club (or bar or venue) during bad weather. Everyone bonds and it makes the event (& performers) feel that much more special. I guess, though, when it’s BAD, it’s worse.

And yeah, drinks wise, we sell a TON of hot toddys and rich 8% beers (Brooklyn Blast, etc.).

I think the destination venues will have a harder time always, but the ones near subway stops, and the local bars (mine in Windsor Terrace is SLAMMED always (The Double Windsor)) will actually flourish. To be honest, it’s the same in summer too. The GOOD weather actually kills some of these venues as people prefer to be outside. It’s why every national band tours in spring and fall…

Chris Diaz, The Knitting Factory
I wouldn’t say there has been a significant change, but we definitely have seen a decrease in paid attendance, as well as in bar-going folk. The weather only seems to deter people when it’s snowing heavily, or the day after it snows heavily. Otherwise, people in NY are well equipped to get to where they need/want to go. We’ve had a few shows directly affected by the amount of snow, but nothing too major. The performers are bummed but still manage to have a good time. (I’d be bummed too if I had to load all my equipment in 2+ feet of snow and then play to a half empty room!) As far as alcohol sales go… more people ask for hot drinks, like cider or hot toddies. They also tend to order straight up liquor more often than a beer or a mixed drink.

Will, Brooklyn Bowl
When the winter weather gets ugly we try to put a focus on rewarding the people who tough it out. For instance we’ve offered free bowling for the folks who make it down when the snow is particularly brutal. But in general we have found that people are more than willing to trudge through the sludge to support our shows and the artists who have spent long hours making it to NYC to play for them.

Jify Shah, Cameo Gallery
In general, attendance definitely is lower than usual. BUT then we’ve also had a night or two here and there where we were slammed. It’s interesting. There’s definitely a crowd that goes out no matter what. I guess either they’re suffering of cabin fever, they’re true fans or they are the real deal party people.

[Have shows been more poorly attended?] I’d say 25% less than usual.

[Have you noticed it affecting the performers in any meaningful way?] I’d say yes, i have definitely seen a few disappointed faces. They put time and hard work into their shows, promotions and then loading in and out in the snow.

[Have there been any noticeable differences in the amount/type of drinks you've been selling?] Definitely in the type! Bourbon ciders in the lovin cup is being ordered a whole bunch. It’s such a great drink, and it also makes the room smell delicious adding to the warm vibe here. I think the people that do go out drink some more, and there’s less hopping around going on.