It has been many years since I played around New York’s rock clubs, but when I did the nicest place I ever played was Southpaw. The Park Slope venue, slated soon to shutter, often hosted mid-level acts and marquee names since its 2001 founding, but would also book local no names like the makeshift family of bands I gigged with. We made an evening of it. I think it snowed, and a lot of our friends didn’t show up. Still, we were treated well; an expansive basement served as a sort of green room. (A green room! I can assure you the Acme Underground had no green room.) And they gave us a bucket of beers, a far friendlier gesture than drink tickets.
I barely remember the actual show, how we sounded or what we were paid. These tiny acts of kindness and comfort are all that stand out, so meaningful were they in that unglamorous musician’s-life. For all I know, there are places like this now in Williamsburg. (Are there? Tell me.) But this to me was Southpaw’s strength—not as a local spot to catch somebody like Patti Smith, but a place for up-and-coming locals to be treated to a taste of respect. Getting booked at Southpaw felt a lot more meaningful than playing the 8:30 show at the Mercury Lounge.
Still, I get that it’s closing. I don’t think I’ve been back to Southpaw since I played it. “I’m kind of over Park Slope—it’s not a destination for nightlife anymore,” the owner told the Brooklyn Paper. (A commenter throws it back at him: “You did not know how to hire a booker who knew what he/she was doing. Don’t blame anyone but yourself.”) It’ll be replaced by a tutoring and rock-climbing center called New York City Kids. And that’s Park Slope in a nutshell.
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