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Williamsburg, NY: The Scene
enjoy the hip-village
by: Andrew Keller - March 11, 2008

The first few stops off the L train in Williamsburg have become a haven for chicks and guys with expensive haircuts, super tight slacks, and thick glasses. In this piece, we asked our readers to tell us what their favorite places to eat, shop, and kick back at, and we even included a colorful map to go along with it. But don't blink because the rate at which things are going now means we'll all be moving inwards to Bushwick in a matter of months!

Record Stores

There are a wide variety of awesome record shops all around Brooklyn, not to mention all the ones just in the small area of Williamsburg it's difficult to figure out where to begin! Amy and Mike from Fancy Magazine told us "Academy Record Annex (N. 6th st.) [is] hands down the greatest used vinyl store in NYC, in our own little neighborhood [nonetheless]." Claire Bowman from The Bowmans favors "Sound Fix (110 Bedford Ave)...because it's a great place to see in-store performances by cool local and traveling bands, it's a great place to buy and sell your record, and it's a great place to meet that prospective manager whom you can get to know while sinking into the velvety cushions of an old but ageless sofa."

Ear Wax (218 Bedford Ave) is just down the street from Soundfix, where you'll find a good selection of plenty of new and used records, and they also sell tickets to a lot of the shows around the neighborhood Passout Records (131 Grand St) will have an online store up soon, and they also have regular in-store performances Rocks In Your Head (133 Roebling St) was formerly on Prince St. in Manhattan for 28 years before making the move to Brooklyn, but they still continue to offer free in-stores, parties, and movie nights.

Bars/Venues

The only place better to listen to music than a record store is in a venue, live with booze, drugs, and sex all at one's disposal. Galapagos (70 N. 6th St) is one of our favorites, and it's also Jim Heekin's (myspace.com/jimheekinband): "I've seen and played a bunch of shows at this venue. Great sound, unbelievable atmosphere." Just a few feet away from Galapagos is the brand new Music Hall of Williamsburg (66 N. 6th St), once known as Northsix, where many of the bigger national names in indie rock play their gigs in the Brooklyn borough. The venue now has higher ceilings and a slightly larger occupancy that still provides some of the best shows in NYC. Union Pool (484 Union Ave), is a quite recent bar with connected performance space created out of old swimming pool supply store it has a long boomerang shaped bar and a fun jukebox. McCarren Park is next on the list, as Matt K writes, “Even before the Pool opened, the park was important for music. I remember seeing familiar NYC band members there every weekend, and also the bloggers that write about them. When the pool opened the lazy park scene exploded into something fun and exciting." Glasslands Gallery (289 Kent Ave) is where Brad from (now defunct) Bling Kong rocks: "It's a very comfortable space to see music and the sound is decent enough for a loft space." Across the Burg, located in the Polish National Home is Warsaw (261 Driggs Ave): high ceilings, good sight lines, and quality sound make this old dance-hall one of the up and coming premier venues. Another victim of the LES condos mentioned above is Luna Lounge (361 Metropolitan Ave), where this state-of-the-art venue relocated to a midsize space on Metropolitan Ave in 2005. Finally, the Lucky Cat (245 Grand St) offers great live music and an excellent selection of beers from around the world, not to mention the outdoor garden area for the shunned NYC smoker.

Of course, a bar would be the next best place to hear some of the local favorites, and drinks in Brooklyn tend to be pretty cheap. Jake Vogel loves "Trash Bar (256 Grand St)....As a fan of live music I've headed there a few times and I've never been disappointed." The dudes from Wooden Ghost are fans of "Spuyten Duyvil (359 Metropolitan Ave)...great beers from all over the world! Too bad they don't serve breakfast..." If this were Germany they would, but we digress onward! Ian of The Larch kicks it at "Laila Lounge (113 N. 7th St). They have great live music on Fridays The DJs play an excellent mix of 60's thru 90's guitar pop Friday drink special - buy one get the next half price. Good ambience [and] interesting art shows." Amy and Mike from Fancy Mag make another great call with "Rocky's (S. 5th & Kent Ave) (aka Rock star Bar, Local, Mermaid Bar, Splash), a great dive club that was once a strip joint... We have hosted many a FANCY affair here." Character Nine's Luke digs Supreme Trading (213 N. 8th St): "[I] stumbled upon this awesome bar a few months ago and it made a lasting impression. They have one of the coolest performance spaces I've seen around the city, an enormous unfinished loft space with bleachers against the far wall - straight out of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit.’" Two avenues west and a few blocks south takes us to The Levee (212 Berry St), which is Phil Common's favorite spot because "plenty of musicians hang there, and with very good reason. The best chili-dogs in NYC! Pool table, great crowd and staff. A must love-it place."

Other watering holes worth mentioning are K&M Bar (225 N. 8th St), which was a former pierogi plant, but now serves a wide selection of lesser-known brews the Brooklyn Brewery (79 N. 11th St), where everyone knows Friday happy hours serve $3 pints Pete's Candy Store (709 Lorimer St) where Brooklynites go Tuesday nights to bingo it up, Wednesday nights for weekly quiz-offs and on weekends for intimate live music Royal Oak (594 Union Ave), a classic bar room with brass fixtures, red wallpaper, and leather booths and Zebulon (258 Wythe Ave), with good beers and even better wines, nightly shows (very eclectic) make it guaranteed satisfaction on any given evening.

Instrument Shops

With so many artists and musicians concentrated in this small section of Brooklyn, it's an absolute necessity to have easy access to dependable and affordable instrument shops for quick repairs and new gear. Virtually everyone who commented on this topic said one thing: Main Drag Music (330 Wythe Avenue). Mindy Seegal Abovitz from Taigaa! writes that it's an "awesome place to find hard to get vintage musical gear. They allow you to test out amps and pedals before you buy them. They are all so knowledgeable and friendly there. They can repair almost any piece of equipment and not rip you off while doing so! All around perfect music shop." Dr. Steam Whipple adds, " I like this place because I like the people that work there. They have a nice selection of new and used gear, and there are always treasures cycling through the store." Guitarists and bass players in love with the word "vintage" might want to check out also Southside Guitars, a tiny but charming store on 742 Driggs Avenue

Recording Studios/Rehearsal Spaces

With so many record stores, venues, and instrument shops, it logically follows that there would be an equal amount of places for bands to record and practice. Joel Hamilton is at Studio G (448 Union Ave) "every single day recording or mixing," while Mindy Seegal Abovitz says, "Monster Island Practice Space (Metropolitan & River St), [despite] all its setbacks, has served my band well for the last year." Jason Lam and Russell Dungan from Tigers and Monkeys use "Sweatshop Rehearsal Studios (573 Metropolitan Ave) - Best deal in NYC. We probably should keep that a secret, but it's always booked weeks in advance anyways." Brad from Bling Kong likes Music Garage (177 S. 4th St because "it is one of the cleanest and safest places to practice." Also of note is Flood Music Studios (143 Roebling), where the starting rates are cheap, the studios are clean, and the doors are open 24/7 for all those late night practice sessions. Headgear Recording (234 Wythe Ave) can't be forgotten because of it's long list of great NYC artists who record there i.e. Animal Collective, Dirty On Purpose, Ambulance Ltd, Parts & Labor, Early Man, TV On The Radio, The National, Yeah Yeah Yeah's, and many others. Finally, Galuminum Foil (90 Walton St) received the most votes from our readers, with David Jenness summing it up best: "A rough pine-paneled gem inside a garage, where Jeff and Chris put excellent ears and the latest technology to work for a shockingly low price."

Food/Restaurants

A band's gotta eat, and in Williamsburg there certainly is no shortage of great locally owned food stops. It was tough to cut down all of the many different restaurants and cafes that our readers sent in to us, but here's a quick list of some of the most delicious ones. For Vanessa Boyd (vanessaboyd.com), Verb Cafe (218 Bedford Ave) is "such a great place to meet up with folks before going to a show, and best of all for late breakfast/early lunch meetings the peanut butter and banana sandwich is for post-show recuperation." Dr. Steam Whipple (myspace.com/dandy_job) makes his way again into this article with a second excellent vote for "Pies-N-Thighs (351 Kent Ave). They make some of the best Southern Style food in the city, period." Randy Lee of Zen Media Group (zenmediagroup.net) has a much different pick, in that there are no roasting pigs here: "Food Swings (295 Grand St)… Throw in a cozy setting, the occasional hardcore song, a couple of Wizard magazines and a pleasantly tattooed staff, and you have the BEST DAMN vegan spot in the town." Au Revoir Simone's (aurevoirsimone.com) Erika gets excited about "Supercore (305 Bedford Ave)! This sweet cafe is the perfect spot for band meetings or interviews or pretty much anything because they have lovely Japanese snacks and tea, and they let you stay as long as you want!" Finally, Read Cafe (158 Bedford Ave) is Matt K's favorite spot: "When I first moved to Williamsburg I used to see TV On The Radio here almost every day. I've heard that the YYY crew used to hang here too. There was certainly a time when the musicians of Williamsburg shared ideas at this little coffee shop."

Clothes, Gifts, Etc.

If you've had enough of all the music, bars, and food, but still bored with nothing to do, buy a gift for your mom at one of the unique Williamsburg boutiques. Nano Turner shops at Beacon's Closet (88 N. 11th St): "It's like a tough little sister of the awesome thrift shops in the pacific northwest. Sometimes she has an attitude, but if you keep digging you'll find plenty of love (and cool shoes)." Arts & Fleas (129 N. 6th St) is another place where one is likely to find hidden treasures. A weekly market "created to give emerging designers, local artists, and shoppers-with-a-good-eye-and-a-need-to-buy a place to buy, sell and hang out" (artsandfleas.com). It's only open on the weekends, but a hodgepodge of goods are always on sale including antiques, clothing, books, photographs, jewelry, and vinyl. From here, walk just a few blocks over to Bedford Ave between N. 4th and N. 5th to Williamsburg's own mini mall, the Real Form Girdle Factory Mall! Verb Cafe is located here, along with a salon (Hello, Beautiful), comic book/toy store, yoga center, art gallery, and a furniture store, among others. Next, stop in at Junk (578 Driggs Ave) where the name says it all: 30's, 40's, 50's, and 60's furniture, objects, and clothing. Timeout NY says, "Filled with enough cheap vintage kitchen tables, dressers, rugs and kitchenware to fill several loft apartments. As with most great junk shops, the fun is in the ephemera." Lastly, hit up Brooklyn Industries (162 Bedford Ave) the store Village Voice heralds as: "The mini-franchise [that] keeps Brooklynites fully outfitted in a wide selection of community-casual T-shirts, hoodies, hats, and bags announcing BKLYN as the place to be....there's plenty of Brooklyn gear and pride to go around so rock it..."



 
 

"At the rate at which things are going now means we'll all be moving inwards to Bushwick in a matter of months! "


Williamsburg, NY: The Scene
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