It seems fair to say Warsaw has been stuck in a strange music venue purgatory over the last few years. Housed in the Polish National Home in Greenpoint, of course, it was once the preferred spot for of-the-moment touring acts (The New Pornographers, Le Tigre, The Raveonettes) to play when in town — with enough passing through to earn New York Magazine‘s honor for “best rock venue” in 2002 — before falling out of favor with bands (or maybe just their agents) who began opting for one of the borough’s numerous other options.
A concerted effort to re-establish its presence, not just as a viable option for national acts, but as a neighborhood bar supporting local bands for people who love and hate pierogies alike, is now under way. A new drink menu is set to be rolled out ($5 beer and whiskey shot, anyone?), alongside nightly DJs spinning a vast range of music — from soul to Brit pop to metal, and everything in between. (Forgot to mention free pool and wi-fi.) We talked to recently hired bar manager Jennifer Moss to find out more about the face-lift.
Would it be fair to call the focus on bringing in new drinks/DJs/local bands an attempt to “rebrand” Warsaw?
I’m not sure if it would exactly be called a rebranding. The owners just realize that there are a lot of locals who have never stepped foot in Warsaw unless there was a major band playing in our ballroom. We want to utilize our space the best way possible by having the bar open Tuesday through Sunday to anyone and everyone. By playing a different selection of music each night, we can surely please the ears of most of our locals. One night I’m super excited about getting going is Sundays with “Church.” The music will be in the feel of The Cure, Joy Division, The Smiths, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Depeche Mode, New Order, Wolfsheim, De/Vision, VNV, The Chameleons, The Mission UK, Jesus and Mary Chain…
It seems that a lot of people associate the venue with Polish heritage and, well, pierogies. (“Where pierogies meet punk,” right?) How important is it for the community, and the owners, for that matter, to keep the Polish identity of the space as you move forward?
It’s very important to them, and that is why I want to get us back on track with serving food every night that we’re open. Pierogies and keilbasa… paninis and pizzas. We have our Polish Zabawa every Saturday night (traditional Polish dinner/dance) in the ballroom. That is one event that will definitely remain on our calendar since the Polish community loves it so very much.
When you say you’d like to bring in some more local bands to play, would you be looking for them to fill up an 800-cap space or are you open to hosting some smaller-scale shows too?
I’d LOVE for them to fill the ballroom, but if it’s a smaller scale show that will only pull 100 people, that’s good too. We would host the smaller bands in our bar area.
Any bands in particular that you’d personally love to see play the space?
Oh my! I could sit here for three days listing all of the bands that I would love to play at Warsaw. I’ll definitely be seeking out some of my favorites.
Over the past few years, the venue would host a big national act every few months it seems — that Fucked Up/Titus Andronicus show comes to mind as being the most recent. Is the goal to host these type of shows on a more regular basis or keep them spread out among the nightly DJs and smaller acts?
We are currently working on booking larger national acts to play at least a few times a month. Once a week is our goal, and then add on even more down the line. I’m really anxious to see our venue filled up on a regular basis… ballroom and bar areas.
Follow Lauren Beck on Twitter @heylaurenbeck.