Fill in the Blanks: Alternative Cash Flow in Nightlife

Live music came up in conversation yesterday in a “should we or shouldn’t we” chat at The Darby. When you build a joint nowadays versatility is a must. There must be a place for an act—even a small one—to perform. There must be visuals to go with audio. Maybe that’s simply a pull-down projection screen to watch the big game, but non traditional revenue streams are often necessary to survive. We in the club biz used to say “all’s we’re really selling is air and booze.” That’s when people paid admission for entry.

Nobody I know ever admits they paid to get into one of my joints, but a 75% pay on a weekend was common. I miss my beautiful, lying following sometimes. Now very few places even think about having cashier booths. Expanding the hours from the traditional 10pm to 4am is essential. In the restaurant game, going late and picking up revenues from a pickup bar scene often pays the landlord. Early events like “happy hours,” late night bar menus, and a well-placed TV help.

For a century, pinball, bowling games, and pool tables paid for the electricity. Specialty cocktails, which are more often than not diabolical chemistry experiments, get people spending 18 dollars for a drink rather than 10. They also require lots of extra room on bars. Drink rails, which used to be 4 inches wide, now need to be 10 inches to accommodate rhubarb, specialty olives, and crushed exotic nuts and vegetables. More refrigeration behind and under the bar is needed to accommodate bottles of never-used-before juices and mixers. It’s all to separate the consumer from his or her cash, and it’s all in fun anyway. Few complain, and those that do are content with their PBRs and shots.

The weekend brunch has been a goldmine for many, sometimes taking in cash that dwarfs normal hours profits. As the weather improves, joints that have outdoor spaces and even swimming pools become more of a factor. With fast-track licenses on the horizon for restaurants, why would anyone open just a club? With very few joints being built with cashier booths anymore, owners turned aggressively to bottle service, the super hero of revenue streams for a decade.

Will more restaurants concentrate on live show to have an edge on the competition? Darby opened its “lounge” last night, while upstairs a rather large band entertained diners. Will many more restaurants follow suit? The costs involved might prove prohibitive. Space and sight lines are always a factor. In order to really do it right, a separate and costly sound system has to exist. Lighting, to show off the talent, needs to be purchased. Maybe a piano or drum set, and certainly a supply of microphones need to be ready so a spontaneous act can strut, and so you’re not renting everyday. A proper stage must be built, and that takes up valuable real estate from the dining or drinking room. Booths and tables need to be configured so people can see the show. Soundproofing and acoustical treatments need to be considered during design. After all that, you actually have to pay for the entertainment and possibly an employee to book it and then market it. All in all, it’s a game for the brave. All around town Bingo and Karaoke and trivia games are filling in blanks at places looking for a few extra bucks. Club and restaurant operators know that the Jack Daniels sold at their swanky joint is the same Jack sold at the dive bar. Atmosphere, which we used to call air, is the reason they can triple the price.

With that in mind, what better venue is there for this than Brooklyn Bowl? World class sushi and other tid-bits, great DJs, live acts, and bowling make this a unique venue that I keep returning to. Tonight I will attend the Perpetual Groove/Zoogma offering. These are southern (Athens, Georgia/Memphis,Tennessee/Oxford, Mississippi) rock bands with solid followings. My friend Barrett Beard is tempting me to attend. He caught up with Zoogma after their show in Connecticut last night and sent me this to tell their story:

Zoogma is a 5 piece live electronic rock band based out of Oxford MS / Memphis TN that strives to bridge the gap between the sonic palette and precise execution of high energy electronic dance music with the immediacy and spontaneity of a rock band. Zoogma combines drum machines, synthesizers, guitars, live drums, sequencers and bone-crushing bass in their live shows to take the audience through a broad spectrum of musical styles ranging from progressive house, trip-hop, drum and bass, dubstep, and electro with a heavy emphasis on improvisation delivering audiences unique shows night after night. The Brooklyn Bowl show is night 3 of a short Northeast tour with Perpetual Groove with other stops including great venues in Philadelphia and Richmond. We feel this tour is a testament that two southern towns, both rich in musical history (Athens Ga, ; Memphis Tn) are still producing unique and intriguing sounds that are enjoyed nationwide. Zoogma has traveled everywhere between NYC and Colorado. The band has plans to tour the west coast in the near future. In just 3 short years, Zoogma has become one of the southeast’s biggest exports. Much of this success is due to the availability of their music. The band gives fans the opportunity to download ALL of their music for free from their website at

Perpetual Groove headlines the event tonight, and my people who know about these things say I must attend. Here is what Brooklyn Bowl’s crew sent me about them:

Perpetual Groove has become a rock band. That’s the impression fans got when they heard one of the rock & roll tracks from Perpetual Groove’s new album, LiveLoveDie at the band’s sold out New Year’s Eve performance.The album was produced by Grammy winner Robert Hannon (Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below) and Perpetual Groove. The album was produced with renewable energy through Perpetual Groove’s partnership with Tree Sound Studios, Sustainable Waves, and Green Mountain Energy Company, and is being released by the environmentally progressive label, Tree Leaf Music. Fans call their sound “trance arena rock,” and with a funky blend of jazz-rock, neo-psychedelia, R&B, trance electronica, progressive rock and anthemic arena rock, the Bonnaroo veterans have conquered the festival circuit and continue to tour relentlessly.

A Very Important Night in New York

To V.I.P. or not to V.I.P., that is the question. I am always conflicted about which New York to show clients. Should I take them to La Esquina, Lit, White Noise, or Don Hill’s? Should I venture out to my beloved BK for Brooklyn Bowl and Manhattan Inn? The Manhattan hot spots are designed for client relations and the special white-glove pick-pocketing that goes with it. It seems to be a dollar-and-cents thing that makes sense when the deal is sealed. My clients with limos and expensive expectations wanted the V.I.P. New York that they understand, because it’s quite similar to the V.I.P. experience they know from Vegas and Los Angeles. We were to meet at Avenue after my DJ gig in Chelsea.

I almost DJ’d at the APM models holiday soiree at The Chelsea Room. I walked in, looked for APM V.I.P. Penny Basch, and watched the crowd jump to that special House music only played in the most swanky joints around town. I knew every track and wished I didn’t. I very much doubt superstar DJ David Guetta, who begins Pacha’s 5 year anniversary celebration tonight, will be offering up this drivel. Anyway, the crowd at The Chelsea Room was living for it, so I opted out. My special blend of tracks produced long before Penny’s long-legged crew were born would have stopped the show. I walked out after gaggles of fake giggles and double-sided cheek kisses, and headed west to meet my clients. The party was fab and the place accommodating, but my business took me elsewhere.

Noel Ashman, the former operator of the Chelsea Room, called me as I departed. In some sort of cosmic karma coincidence, the long call ended as I passed Darby, the other space he once operated as N.A. and Plumm. Amanda found 2 bowling trophies by a lamp post and we promptly dropped them off at the ever-developing SNAP, which needs some more sporty stuff. The trophies were for “lowest score” in some tournament, and the receiver I guess dumped them when he had lost the people who thought that was cute. The double coincidences were not lost on Amanda and I. We bought a lottery ticket. The great Willie Sutton, who robbed over 100 banks – a career decision that had him in jail for most of his life – once said, “A man should place a bet every day. Otherwise, he could be walking around lucky and not even know it.” We lost our money, and with it, respect for Willie Sutton’s advice.

We arrived at V.I.P. joint Avenue and were whisked to a table. Avenue has some of the best “whiskers” in town. The door people whisk you into the hosts, who whisk the clients credit card to some safe spot as the waitrons whisk bottles of sticky liquids into glasses that are in a position nearby just waiting to be whisked. In no time at all, thousands of dollars were being whisked from one bank account to another. Everybody on staff smiles impossibly wide smiles with immaculate pearly white teeth. A trip to the men’s room had a security guard, who recognized that I was at a table, whisk me to a small private bathroom. That level of service separates the great whiskers from the boys. My clients were ecstatic, surrounded by movers and shakers and beautiful women. Hotel magnates told of projects and I heard the name “Dubai” 3 different times from 3 different folk. I bet there’s a whole lot of whisking going on at that Dubai place. Avenue is all that it should be and an absolute goldmine. Everybody was having fun and knew that they were in the right place. And then suddenly we were to be whisked “elsewhere,” as intelligent phones carried the news that “elsewhere” was better. “Elsewhere” would be more perfect than this perfect.

Cars were outside to whisk us to Lavo, where our beautiful crew was whisked inside by proprieter Noah Tepperberg to other proprietor Mark Packer’s table. Jayma Cardoza – the best whisker ever – grabbed my girl by the hand, and with unbelievable glee made friends with her. Somewhere nearby, someone was putting some credit card in some safe place. Promoters to the left and promoters to the right, with tables full of 6 foot beauties, came over to say hello. The 6-footers smiled perfect smiles at me, and whisked perfect hair from their almost-perfect faces. I remembered the old days, when beauty could also be found in shorter people as well. Alas, I’m sure that’s still true in other non-V.I.P., non–whisking, non-credit-card-maxing places. I wondered if some promoters were paid by the inch. The same music was being played at Lavo that was offered at The Chelsea Room. Avenue had the hip-hop or open format version of that music.

After a while, when the business talk had been shouted out over the din, it was time to leave. Nearby, men in nice suits danced like bobble head dolls with women who truly loved them for their personalities. I imagined them talking about Dubai for a minute, but then noticed nobody was really talking. For the most part, the loud, almost-house music, took the talking out of the mix. What was there to talk about, really? We all have money, we all look good, and we spend all the rest of the time of our lives talking with cell phones and computers. Now was the time to sway, pump it up, and flirt with eyes, and celebrate our successes and desires. Hot-as-hell go-go dancers would have been great conversation pieces, but due to the volume, were perfect just as pieces.

I double kissed a dozen people, and I pointed at a couple bottles on the table, and shouted to my client to take 2 of these and call me in the morning – or tomorrow night. I offered my giggly joke to all, waved to people I didn’t want to say goodbye to, and headed to the street. Lavo is amazing, wonderful, and banging. But of course, not for me. I headed to Williamsburg in a fast yellow chariot and stopped at Kellogg’s Diner before home. The lobsters in the tank by the door greeted me with confused stares. They belonged at Kellogg’s about as much as I belonged at those V.I.P. spots. The music on the radio at Kellogg’s was pretty much the same stuff offered up at the clubs, but it came with a cheesburger deluxe, and I accepted it.

Where Celebs Go Out: Stanley Tucci, Tom Colicchio, Alessandro Nivola

Stanley Tucci at The Luxury Collection Destination Guide Launch with Assouline: I like to go to a lot of different places, but certainly Mario Batali’s restaurants. The beef cheek ravioli at Babbo is so delicious and so incredible. Just about anything he cooks is okay with me. I always stay at the St. Regis, here in New York. ● Rosie Perez: I love Gino’s in Bay Ridge. The arroz con gandule at Luz in Brooklyn is a favorite, and the roasted chicken is the best deal in town. Here in the city, Dok Suni’s for Korean barbeque, at First Avenue and 7th Street.

Alessandro Nivola: Sunny’s, a bar in Red Hook, which has bluegrass bands on some nights. It’s where they filmed On the Waterfront. And a restaurant called The Good Fork in the same neighborhood. The Red Hook Bait and Tackle is a bar that’s seedier than Sunny’s. In Boerum Hill, there’s a great place called Mile End, a hip, Jewish deli. They smoke their own meats and have this incredible beef brisket. ● Estelle: Avenue and SL, I love ’em both. ● Krysten Ritter: I love Brooklyn Bowl. Kenmare is a fun place to go. Aurora in Williamsburg on Grand Street has a wonderful, little beet salad with hazelnuts. ● Timo Weiland: I love to go to Norwood and Gramercy Park Hotel. Sugarland in Brooklyn, so much fun. It’s off-the-beaten path, but a wild dance party. ● Daniel Boulud at the James Beard Awards: Right now, DBGB these days, because it’s one that keeps me the most busy. I like Marea, Le Bernardin, Di Fara Pizza in Brooklyn. ● Tom Colicchio: I live in the West Village, so I, often, go to Barbuto or Spotted Pig, ’cause they’re in walking distance. The food’s all good. I try different things all the time, so I don’t go back and try the same thing over and over. ● Wylie Dufresne: We like to go to PDT for a cocktail late at night or some tater tots. 15 East is a favorite. We just came from the new Terroir in Tribeca that was great. DBGB just opened up in our neighborhood. The hundred-layer lasagne at Del Posto was pretty special. ● David Burke: Corton was great. From the Garden is a favorite dish there. ● Michael Oher at Big Brothers Big Sisters Sidewalks of New York gala: I live in Baltimore. I love seafood, so anything on the Inner Harbor. The Cheesecake Factory is there. At PF Changs, I get the shrimp-and-chicken fried rice. ● Sebastian Copeland at Pepcom for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of Into the Cold: My favorite sushi is in the Valley at Nozawa, which is a place that Spielberg goes to and tried to have Mr. Nozawa open a restaurant in New York. He serves you the food, so you can’t ask for what you want. He kicked out Cherlize Theron one time. He’s known as the “Sushi Nazi.” ● Miranda Cosgrove at Sony Music luncheon celebrating the release of her debut album, Sparks Fly: I go to Mozza in L.A. It’s like a pizza place. They have squash blossoms and really, good margherita pizza. Hungry Cat, on Sunset, has the best dessert. It’s like a chocolate souflee. ● Phil Ramone at opening night of Million Dollar Quartet on Broadway: Bravo Gianni’s on the east side. Sardi’s because I want to feel the history, and they have a good wine list.

Industry Insiders: James Habacker, Punch Drunk Love

James Habacker is the proprietor of The Slipper Room, a burlesque haunt on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Habacker and his wife, Camille, opened the joint in 1999 and hosted their wedding reception there, cabaret-style. The progressive performance space is home to the longest-running burlesque show in New York, Mr. Choade’s Upstairs/Downstairs, and Queens-born Habacker graces the stage weekly as his signature character, Mel Frye (pictured above). Pre-Slipper Room days, Habacker was a part of Plush, the Meatpacking District dance club. The venue has come a long way in the past 10 years and hosts nightly performances that showcase talent from around the world. Renovations taking place this summer will improve the sight lines at the venue and celebrate the next ten years of worthwhile burlesque acts. More after the jump.

On recent renovations at The Slipper Room: It’s a one story building and they’re going to add another floor. I’m going to have a whole new theater. The big problem with The Slipper Room is the sight lines. We’re gonna change all that with 16 foot ceilings and a mezzanine. The renovations should only last six to nine months. In the meantime, I’ve been talking to a couple of other spaces about moving our programming. We’re booked through the end of May, and we’ll probably be closed in June. That’s the thing about New York. I love this town, but I always say it moves too slowly.

On getting a start in the burlesque world: When I first opened The Slipper Room, the idea was: build it and they will come. It was a little touch-and-go at first. I used to get our friends drunk, dress them up in funny costumes and throw them on stage. Pretty quickly, people started showing up and saying, “I’m interested and I want to do this,” or, “I have this act.” The audience was interesting, too. It was a new bar on Orchard Street and their reaction would be, “Why is there a performance happening?” Within a very short period of time, people would be stopping in, asking, “Is there a show tonight?” It really just built on itself. The whole burlesque theme really did spring up around the Slipper Room. We gave people a forum, and I’ve always been really open to the idea of letting people do whatever it is that they want to do to express themselves.

On the name: I wanted to call it the ‘something’ room. I had it in my head for a while, but I didn’t know what. I read a lot of history and read that a slipper room is an Edwardian term for a place where a gentleman could bring his paramour in the afternoon for a tryst. So, it’s the Edwardian idea of a “no-tell motel.” It seemed kind of naughty and yet sophisticated at the same time. I liked the ring of it.

On going solo (from a business perspective): About two years ago, I bought out all my partners. I never had a working partner, but I had several investors. Peter Shapiro from Brooklyn Bowl was the first person to put up money at The Slipper Room. He’d seen shows that I’d done at other places and he believed in the project. So, when I bought everybody out, Pete said that he still wanted to be a part of it. So, we ended up working it out so Pete owns 1% of the place at this point and I own 99%.

On The Slipper Room’s worst audition: I do a show every Wednesday. That’s my main show. It’s my favorite night there. The way we audition people is slot them into that show. Anybody who auditions is doing it in front of a live audience. I don’t really think I can get a good sense of what somebody’s going to do in the afternoon on the stage in The Slipper Room. Because it’s a legitimate theater and there is no forth wall, there needs to be interaction with the audience. So, we’ve seen some people do some really crazy stuff in the middle of my show. One of my favorites was somebody who had called/e-mailed saying she wanted to come down. We started the show and she wasn’t there. Then, I was doing the show and there was some woman sitting in the front row who had spread out this construction paper and glitter and cardboard and stuff and was basically just making crafts. So, I was hosting as Mel Frye and I really started laying into her and getting a lot of laughs. We took an intermission. Then, we were getting ready to start the set and she came up to me. It turned out that she was the audition girl! She was making her costume for the show.

On burlesque in different corners of the world: The scene is most developed in New York and London. Every place has totally different vibe. London is really competitive and vicious. The thing that’s really great about the New York burlesque scene is how mutually supportive everybody is. Nobody’s jaded. Everybody’s doing it because they love doing it. It’s just like one big happy family. In another city, there would be a big competition between us and we wouldn’t talk to each other because there is only so much audience. New York is the furthest along in terms of artistic development.

On The Box and ‘the scene’: I personally don’t think the Box has had an effect on the scene whatsoever. The Box is so separate from everything else. For me, it’s all about the art. It’s all about giving people a forum to express themselves in and explore their artistic vision. The Box is all about a few specific people’s decadent lifestyle. I’ve had friends that have gone over and auditioned with amazing acts. Simon’s [Hammerstein] attitude is, “Oh. That’s great, but could you do it with a dildo up your ass?” They’re not in it for the art; it’s about the shock value.

On his wedding reception as the first Slipper Room party: September, 11th 1999. We got married on the roof of the Chelsea Hotel and then had our reception at The Slipper Room. It was brand new. Every year, we have an anniversary for us and The Slipper Room. We call it the last bar built for love because that’s what started it all.

Go-to places? I spend a lot of time at The Players Club up on Gramercy Park.

Snoop Dogg Brings the Party to Brooklyn Bowl

So Brooklyn Bowl made a waiter out of me. That’s because everybody lined up and waited their turn for the Snoop Dogg gig at the Williamsburg mega-alley. It was so refreshing to see everyone turn in to equals at the show—even the record exec-types, with their limo parked like it’s hot, were made to cue up. Then they carded me! ID’ing me is like asking Ron Jeremy if he’s a virgin. Even my shoes were older than 21.

I won’t bother to tell you what songs Snoop performed. You know what songs he performed. The crowd was of the Brooklyn hipster variety, maybe a little older than usual, and the venue was sold out. Brooklyn Bowl is almost perfect, certainly a wonderfully intimate setting to see a show like this. The only downside of the place is it’s really hard to buy a drink. Seeing as I write about clubs and what works and what doesn’t, I’ll send them a message. Their 40-foot main bar is as inefficient as it gets. Bartenders are running all over the place to get things they need while the crowd is 3 deep and patiently waiting. Anytime a barkeep is traveling 15 feet to get a glass or ring up something or get a bottle, the joint is losing loot and the customer is not too happy. The crowd was patient and chatty but it took everyone at least 15 minutes to buy anything.

We positioned ourselves stage right, front row. We watched the Dogg entourage leak onto the big stage. Bambu’ paper (and now Bambu’ clothing) line honcho Sarah Saiger joined us with Avenue‘s Rich Thomas and his lovely 4-month preggers wife Tamie. The security was dressed in smokin’ three-button suits that didn’t come with a smile. They checked out the scene without moving, looking like giant upholstered couches. Their serious eyes scanning the crowd for a maniac. There were no dangers in this crowd, it was all so mellow, a far cry from 17 years ago when Snoop came from the edge. Now he’s a lover and we watched the girls push their way to the front to sing along and flirt. He came on with hoopla, Yankee gear and a diamond-studded mic.

Brooklyn Bowl is intimate. We were all right there, up front and personal. Snoop’s tall, thin frame made his clothes hang off him like a new suit on a hanger. His “seen it all” eyes were smiling. For all the 30 million records sold, movies, TV and coaching, Snoop doesn’t really do much on stage. He’s got his lean down perfect. He’s perfected the hang, he’ll give it a little sway while his feet rarely move. He’s sort of like a marionette, with his arms dangling or pumping up the crowd. The posters on the way in celebrated Malice in Wonderland which came out over Christmas. Doesn’t Christmas seem like years ago? He blazed through his anthems, adding tribute covers for Tupac and Biggie. The crowd knew all the words to Biggie’s best and Snoop let them sing it all out alone. Sexual seduction was prefaced with “you know I’m not much of an R&B singer,” though it didn’t matter what he did, he sells everything with his cool. He had a group of girls in the front rows just dying. He sang to them all night, although I got the feeling he wouldn’t hit any one of them but maybe all 9 of them. His playlist is the history of the Bedford L train and the twenty-somethings who grew up on him. They continued to prove that they knew all the words, as if it validated their street smarts. The only peeps who weren’t sure were his sidekicks, who continuously checked in on the teleprompter for reminders. One performer actually had his cell phone out and was “corresponding” with his back to the crowd. It sort of worked, the casual approach, the “I’m so smooth, cool, hot, hip” and the “I’m just hanging with you at this party” attitude. Anything could slide and although there was never a frenzy, it was an orgasmic escape from the troubles of the world. We all felt it was nice to be in the same room with them and see Snoop up there enjoying himself, floating like a butterfly and stinging like he still believed.

Cocktail waitresses brought me Diet Cokes and I couldn’t think of the last time I ordered from a cocktail waitress. In an “oops” moment that made my gal smile, I caught myself singing “I got the rolly on my arm and I’m pouring Chandon.” I love my weekly excursions to Brooklyn, I love Brooklyn Bowl.

I read that Snoop was just added to that Glastonbury festival thing this June. He’s finally allowed back in England after a four year ban. Everybody in the world will be playing this thing, including U2, Stevie Wonder, Slash, MGMT, The Pet Shop Boys and Shakira—even Vanila Ice! For rizzle!!!

A Night at Brooklyn Bowl With Kate Nash

When Kate Nash opens her mouth, words fall out: “I got an amazing bunny rabbit for my birthday. She’s called Fluffy. She’s like my best friend. We found out that she had cancer. Then I had a conversation with someone about being vegetarian, and they were like, ‘You should be vegetarian.’ I was like, I like eating meat. But then it popped into my brain that if I didn’t eat animals, maybe Fluffy would be okay. I was being OCD, like, if I didn’t do this, then something bad would happen. So I stopped eating meat. She’s had the operation now, but I’m still doing it. But if anyone ever says to me, ‘I’m thinking of going vegetarian,’ I’m like, No, no, no. Don’t go vegetarian. My favorite thing is cheeseburgers.”

The quality of mind on display in this soliloquy—inspired by a basket of fried chicken delivered to a corner booth at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl, where Nash is about to prove she knows her way around a strike—should be recognizable to anyone who has heard Made of Bricks, the 22-year-old musician’s award-winning, platinum-selling debut album. There’s the same idiosyncratic logic, voluble bigheartedness, quirky enthusiasm and talent for turning even the dreariest minutiae into a compelling yarn. image


Nash’s sophomore offering, this month’s My Best Friend Is You, contains all of these traits plus an extra splash of attitude. The young Brit returns to the themes behind Made of Bricks’ lead single “Foundations”—about a romance that’s over in all but appearance—and delves even deeper into the dark side of relationships, despite being in a good one herself. She sings about jealousy, cheating boyfriends and, in “Mansion Song,” delivers a rant about sex that channels Ani DiFranco by way of Ozzy Osbourne (“I can get fucked and be fucked like the best of men,” she sneers). Groupies inspired “Mansion Song,” says Nash, explaining, “I don’t like to see people sell themselves short. I had this one girl confess to me while crying that she gave someone a blow job in the toilets. You should fuck people ’cause you feel good about yourself, not because you feel bad.” image

On “Do-Wah Doo,” the album’s lead single, Nash takes aim at mean girls, a group with whom she’s had considerable experience. “I was locked in a cupboard by evil girls when I was 17,” says Nash, recalling one of her more scarring run-ins. “I hate people who are mean in a really subtle way because you can never say anything. But this was so blatant. Literally, these girls were making my life miserable. I was at school and I was shut in this cupboard. I rang my best friend to get me out. He was really skinny and nerdy, so he got locked in as well. We just sat there.” But knowing Nash, she probably used that time to tell her friend one hell of a story.

Photography by Zoey Grossman Hair and Makeup Jordan Long @ excLusive artists ManageMent.

Industry Insiders: Peter Shapiro, Alley Cat

Peter Shapiro, the owner of Williamsburg’s music venue/bowling alley Brooklyn Bowl, has been a mainstay in the New York music scene since the mid-’90s when he purchased TriBeCa jam band headquarters Wetlands at the age of 23. Environmentally conscious and LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified, Brooklyn Bowl is packed every night of the week. With Bowery Presents promoter Josh Moore and Brooklyn Bowl’s Will Griggs, Shapiro books talent from Snoop Dogg to Galactic to Neon Indian. More on upcoming events and the path to hipster and commercial success after the jump.

On upcoming events: When we first opened the club, we thought maybe we’d do three to four nights a week, total. It’s evolved into doing something every night. We’re going to have Questlove from the Roots DJ every Thursday in April. Q-tip is DJing regularly. We do an awesome karaoke party every Monday called Karaoke Killed the Cat. It’s wild. We have bowling leagues now, too. We do Fader Bowl once a month and Movie Bowl where we show films. We’re doing a big thing once a month called Local X Local. We do that to showcase local bands and food vendors. Brooklyn Bowl enables us to do things booking-wise that you can’t do at the more traditional live music venues in NYC like Irving Plaza or Bowery Ballroom. We can book live events ten nights in a row because we’ve got so many people coming in. It isn’t just the average theater.

Biggest moments at BB: Facebook and Twitter have enabled us to do some amazing last-minute shows. A day or two out of the event we can just announce it and expect a full-house. We were able to do a series of Haiti benefits, Q-Tip, Questlove, Talib Kweli… signed on the day of, basically. We did one with Robert Randolph. That was big. We did a last minute show that was two or three days notice with Citizen Cope. There’s a jam band called Moe that we did that with as well. And Galactic from New Orleans got stuck in a snow storm on Superbowl night so we were able to announce one day out that they were going to play after the Superbowl. Our marketing and promotions team, Learned Evolution, has also been instrumental in making these events happen.

On the inspiration and process: If I was going to do another venue, I wanted to create a place that was different than anything done to date. My partner, Charley Ryan was the GM at Wetlands and we worked together to find this kind of space. We looked all over Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn. When we walked into this building, it was a dump—no electricity, no plumbing. We were just like, ‘Holy shit, yes!’ You can’t really find spaces that size and in that rustic condition in the city, no matter what kind of money you have. It feels like you’re in an old industrial bar in Colorado. We were able to protect and maintain a lot of the original wood and it’s the first LEED certified bowling alley in the world. That took a lot of time and effort given that it wasn’t a new structure. It was a conversion from an old building using iron work from the 1880s. So, to get it ready to pass the LEED certification took a lot of work and resources.

On being 23 and owning Wetlands: I’d been a film student at Northwestern University. I was really into film and music and through a weird series of events, ended up going on the road with the Grateful Dead. Then, I went back to New York and heard that the owner of Wetlands was looking to pass the club on the someone who would continue the mission. I still to this day don’t know what I was thinking. I had no experience; didn’t have the resources; didn’t have the money. I just sort of raised my hand. I went to see him and said, “This is a really great place, I’d like to help,” He let me pay him on a note and the value of the club was reduced because the lease was short term, and people had a sense in TriBeCa that you weren’t going to be renewing a long term lease. There are no more clubs there or bars because all those buildings — old commercial manufacture buildings — are condos. So, I owned a club from ‘96 on through when it closed around 9/11.

On the similarities between his projects: An old Wetlands regular came in and said, “It’s Wetlands 8.0.” There’s the whole integration of technology. It is so different, yet there’s a touch of Wetlands there. I made a concerted effort in the first six months of opening to bring in a lot of the bands that were regulars at Wetlands. I’m proud that we’ve been able to have Bob Weir, Warren Haynes, Galactic, Moe, Karl Denson, and Soul Live, and just go down the list of the regulars. So many bands came back. We’ve also been able to add so many bands that weren’t part of the Wetlands stuff. Especially a lot of indie Brooklyn bands.

On what makes a good music venue: Good sight line, good sound, good staff, good entry, accessible and good priced drinks, a venues that fosters interaction rather than just people coming in having a beer and watching a show. When I’m in the room I just know whether it’s a good place. A good promoter has a sixth sense. There are just certain things you feel and know from experience. If the band wants an encore, but crowd isn’t clapping enough. You can be in the crowd clapping loud and you would be surprised how one person clapping loud at the right time can encourage the rest of the crowd to start clapping. I’ve used that a couple times and it works.

Go-to spots: Coffee Shop. There’s nowhere better for breakfast. There’s nowhere better for a casual dinner than Noho Star. I love Subway Inn. Another classic for weekend brunch is City Bakery. I lean towards classic institutions more than trendy places.

Photo: Peter Shapiro with pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph by Dino Perrucci.

NYC: All the Week’s Parties

With Spring comes a veritable shift in nightlife. Not only are rooftops reopening and patios getting their shine on, but people start feeling inspired to jumpstart their social life and there are plenty of new offerings vying to be the jumper cables. Simonez makes a jump to Pravda on Wednesday nights (an attendees sardonic review: “Like the Vanity Fair Oscar party combined with being backstage at Woodstock”), and Mike has started using his Apartment to shoot rap videos. Meanwhile, all wait with baited breath to see what will become of the old Nells/new Scott and Richie spot, which is set to open next month.


Lowdown: This is Manhattanites’ Friday night. Whipped has moved to Baddies, the hipster alcoholics moving closer to their hipster roots. Hot Now:CV (Lower East Side) – Something has finally been done with the over-saturated spot formerly known as 105 Rivington. Let’s see how long this minor revamp will last. ● BEast(Chinatown) – Main Man, Ryan McGinley’s night of debauchery, is still in swing. Expect a Misshape or two, Sophia Lamar, and a band of insiders. ● Coffee Shop (Union Square) – One of the true day clubs, chocked full of promoters networking via text message; the basement named USL will be making random appearances throughout the week. Avenue, Boom Boom Room and 1Oak are still a great standby for good times, while the down belows like Macao’s basement opium den, is also great. imageBaddies (West Village) – The former Butter party was moved around until it finally flew to coop to the basement bar of Kingswood. Resident hipster DJs Matt & Maia draw out big name fashion folks like Alexander Wang and the Ronsons. Other Things to Try:New Party: The guys from Stereo of party days past have a newbie night at the Penthouse @ Hotel on Rivington named “A Family Affair.” Could use a better name. ● About Town: Fashion folks, take a break from your vodka/cigarette diet and check out ‘Wichcrafts cozy sandwich/fire pit thingy. “Bryant Park’s Southwest Porch provides free appetizers and drinks courtesy of ‘wichcraft, with heat lamps and a fire pit to stay warm.” Yeah, no hooch but it’s free food and a toasty atmosphere. If you’re a Bushwickian, head to Don Pedro’s from 9-10PM (the working man’s Happy Hour) for some free Colt 45 and some metal music at the Impose’s Test Patterns party for a mere $5 cover. If you’re one to mourn the loss of the Annex, then help the Tiswas Weekly party, now at Beauty Bar (on the island). Showboating with vodka from 10:30PM- 11:30PM.


Lowdown: Doesn’t much feel like Friday if you had the luxury of sitting around your apartment in your underwear, celebrating President’s Day. But it’s already here! Hot Now:Boom Boom Room (Meatpacking District) – You probably won’t make it in like the rest of the plebeians (us included), but if you could, this would be the night to go. ● Home Sweet Home (Lower East Side) – Jonathan Toubin brings the fairly popular New York Night Train to this little living room on Friday nights. ● Santos’ Party House (Chinatown) – A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip. Upstairs. Funk. Other Things to Try:


Lowdown: Saturday: a day of rest, a night of partying. Hot Now:Boom Boom Room (Meatpacking District) – Again, try your luck. ● Lit Lounge (East Village) – Saturday night is grimy and fun! ● Bowery Hotel (East Village) – Simonez throws ragers here, spanning Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night. Other Things to Try:


Lowdown: Sundays have been a solid party night, even through the bluster of the winter season. Hot Now:GoldBar (Nolita) – Frequented by the Ronson clan and celebfolk who go unrecognized by a collection of spendy bankers. A favorite amongst models, Danny Masterson, and DJ Jesse Marco. ● Sway (Sway) – Moroccan themed bar has become the Pants on the Ground song. Sort of creepy, but a guilty pleasure and viral. ● Greenhouse (Soho) – The Van Dam party begs the question: Where is Jean Claude Van Dam? ● White Slab Palace (Lower East Side) – Another odd place to stumble into late night. Hit or miss and always a “Where did all of these people come from?” moment. Other Things To Try:Free Booze: Home Sweet Home tries to offer an alterna-Sway with their new Sunday party, N.W.N.S (No Way No Sway). Enjoy an open vodka bar from 10:30pm-11pm with no cover. ● Arlo and Esme has something called Buns and Puns, free Jell-O shots starting at 7:30PM.


Lowdown: Monday night is for getting rid of your Sunday hangover. Hot Now:Stanton Social (Lower East Side) – Yes, still a great place to have a fun bite/Monday night drinks. ● Butter (Noho) – Not only is this a truly great place to get sloshed on Mondays, I am now excited to admit it. There’s a cool, younger crowd that’s mixing in on Mondays and adding a bit of an edge to the festivities. ● Black & White (Greenwich Village) – Restaurant becomes cramped, sexy, and very cozy after ten. ● Johnny Utah’s (Midtown West) Football season is over, but it’s still industry night here. Other Things to Try:


Rose Bar (Gramercy) – This really has a lot to do with Nur Khan, who is pairing up with Paul Sevigny on the next New York hot spot, Kenmare. ● Avenue (Chelsea) – People were astounded to find this place under our Tuesday heading: “Duh, the hot nights are Monday and Wednesday, obvi.” Those people are right, but those people have never known the true Bea. And really, Avenue is good every night — right? ● 1Oak (Chelsea) – Right around the corner, the one-of-a-kind kids get the spillage of displaced hipster kids, who can’t decide between one gilded lounge or the other. Again, people agreed to disagree — and with a name like “Tight Jean Tuesday,” we know Jay-Z’s knots don’t fit. ● SL (Meatpacking District) – Might be able to add another notch on its belt; Tuesdays are hot at SL. ● Greenhouse (Soho) – Green followers love Tuesdays too. Other Things to Try:

Free Booze: It’s Trainwreck Tuesday at Angels & Kings. This means two open vodka bars with no cover. The first freebie power half-hour: 10pm-10:30pm, the second from 1-1:30am. Happy Ending has free vodka from 11-12am at their weekly Disco Down party with 66Sick, and Brooklyn’s Glasslands Gallery for Todd & Harrison’s Tuesday Night Disco. This means free absinthe and live music with a $7 cover.


Hot Now:Le Cubain (Lower East Side) – Great spot for pre-drinks and cheap eat with babes with bangs in boots and vintage fur coats. Maybe even make it downstairs for a Chloe revival — bottle models pack it in pre-1Oak and Boom Boom Room. ● 1Oak (Chelsea) – This is still 1Oak’s undisputed hot night. ● Greenhouse (Soho) – BlackFun (indieelectropopbangers) take over the party along with banter & booze from Marc Alan + Kieren+ Mike de Guzman+Joey Nova+ Valerie Termini+Anna Maltezos & Friends. (hint: these are names to drop @ the door kiddies.) ● Avenue (Chelsea) – Another good night for the kids on the Ave. ● subMercer(Soho) – The FAM (Friends and Music) party, featuring Gabby, Richard and Tariq has been going strong for the past few months. ● Su Casa (Greenwich Village)- The kids from Upstairs (remember Upstairs? Leo Di doesn’t either) are putting together this new party. Heavy on the gays and the girls, produced by Michael Cohen, Cameron Moir and Mark Holcomb. imageSouthside (Nolita) – Tutti, Franco, and Brion run the DJ booth at their TGIWednesday party. Von (Noho) – Party in the basement is “pretty packed and a lot of fun” for the Noho set after 10pm. image

Brooklynization, Paris Powwow and Sally Shan’s Birthday

The Brooklynization of Uncle Steve continues as I find a better product, a better meal, a better conversation and all around better attitude there. I hit Union Pool yet again, and caught Dead Stars– a fabulous band. Cousins Jaye Moore on drums and Jeff Moore on guitar are legendary in Japan, so I’m told, from their previous band, Orange Park. Jon Watterberg plays bass. They were absolutely brilliant. You know a rock band is solid when you’re hearing their set for the first time and the songs catch you. Afterward we all hung outside by the wood burning fire pit and talked rock n’ roll hootchie-coo. I am so tired of the jaded haters and wannabes who have taken over the Manhattan club scene that I retreat to Brooklyn constantly to hang out with homogeneous hipsters wearing variations of the same plaid. At least there’s good conversation and an unending supply of said hipsters. Everywhere I go there is a party. I bought a Diet Coke at Union Pool and they charged me a buck. The only thing you get for a buck in a Manhattan joint is a wrapped white mint from the bathroom attendant.

I played a little skee-ball at Full Circle Bar and had a seriously fantastic meal at Vutera, where waitrons Jeff and Sarah made it special. The large table next doo, presided over by my new best friend Jeff Shonert, engaged us in witty conversation and party games. It’s like that every night. I’m going to Brooklyn Bowl tonight and this is either a severe midlife crisis or the real thing. Speaking of the real thing, my second foray to the Belmont Lounge’s Stones night proved to be even more satisfying then the last. This is a beautiful, friendly, fun crowd .

I chatted with my jet-setting pal Paul Sevigny about the weather and the whether or nots. He’s in town after Costa Rica and on his way to Paris with the lucky ones. My pal Malcolm Harris is already there and I asked him to give me a blow by blow of all the ooh la la action. He says:

“’I’ve got to be honest, not much on the way of reporting on Paris nightlife. As much as there are a lot of places open, the only place that really matters and has a heart and soul is Le Baron. They seem to get nightlife and embrace all the creatures of creativity. Le Régine, Le Montana, Le Magnifique and- uggghhh VIP – all seem to lack a true vibe. They all seem like people crammed into a box because it’s just a little better than staying at home… For me all roads lead to Le Baron. No matter where I start the night, for some reason the New Yorker in me leads me to Le Baron. So if you want me to cover the nightlife, just know that all roads lead to Le Baron.”

Sally Shan is a tenacious presence on the night life scene. A year ago when she was starting out, I interviewed her and she says I gave her the push and the credibility she needed. This may or may not be true, but a year later finds her growing and very relevant to owners concerned with the bottom line. The bottom line with Sally is that she consistently generates money for clubs in need of that stuff. I asked a highly successful club owner and marketing guru what the story was with Sally Shan. He said, “Sally has the remarkable ability to deliver a spending crowd. While many promoters only can bring people to a good party, Sally’s crowds are loyal to her and will follow her anywhere. Once there, she takes care of them and ensures them a great time.“ I caught up with Sally and chatted with her on her “Nightlife Anniversary,” celebrating the annual date she got into nightlife, near to her week long birthday celebration.

Its been a year since you started working in nightlife. How did you start your business and where is it today? Like with any business, I started with an idea; how could I make some money in this damn recession? So I started with one party. That one party went from one venue a week to three to now six parties at some of the top venues in NYC. Along with that I’ve expanded to incorporate a team of promoters, artist managers, fashion and charity events, and corporate sponsorships.

What clubs do you work at now? I get requests from a lot of different clubs all the time. The key places I’m working at right now are Greenhouse, Hudson Terrace, Tenjune, Marquee, Kiss & Fly, Pink, La Pomme.

What does your crowd expect of you and how do you make sure they get it? As you know here in NYC we expect everything, and that’s what I deliver. Best venues and locations, hottest DJs and music, beautiful people and atmosphere and, of course, Sally Shan, they get me too.

What’s the difference between Sally Shan the brand and the person? Sally Shan the brand is the experience I create, it’s what I give back to people. Sally Shan the person is what I do to stay balanced. What creates that balance is my integrity, values and purpose. That’s what allows me to go and build a great brand.

After promotions at clubs where does your brand go? My brand goes everywhere I go, and where it’s going is to creating corporate alliances. For example Svedka Vodka is sponsoring my birthday party. I’m establishing relationships with clubs internationally to take the Sally Shan experience worldwide. I’m working with designers and brands to promote charities and private events. It’s really about creating a world of lifestyle that has me looking at all forms of media, print, digital and possibly television. It should be a fun ride.

Who are your influences, mentors, idols in clubs and out. You mean besides you Steve? Well, the world I came from is one that was always immersed in live entertainment. Broadway, theater, TV and film. So now I take a lot of that creative energy to create live experiences for people in club and party settings. I choose my mentors and idols from a wide range of places, mavericks and pioneers in film, music and fashion. All the things that make up part of who I am.

Where do you hang when you’re not working? I take my brand with me everywhere but I also know when I need to recharge. I frequent Miami and LA for a quick break.

What are you going to be when you grow up? My best ideas have come from breaking the rules, being creative, not knowing what an adult would do, so I hope I don’t grow up too quickly.

Your most satisfying club experience? Ask me after my birthday celebration week. It starts tonight at Hudson Terrace with DJ Peter Paul and DJ Alan Liao. Sunday it’s at Tenjune with a special guest performance and Tuesday at Greenhouse there’s a birthday CD tribute for my EDEN party. I have a feeling that those will be one of my best club experiences.