You may be looking at the only
good thing about Live Nation's new Gramercy Theater -- the marquee. Aside from the bigger, more formal venues (Radio City, Beacon, etc.), none of New York's music venues have real marquees showing the names of the musicians performing. Maybe it's just me, but there's something cool about seeing the name of the band you're seeing on a marquee. Another cool thing about the Gramercy is its TLA-like
(err, make that The Fillmore Philadelphia
-like) sloping floor, which makes sight-lines much, much better. So, yeah, it's got two things going for it.
Unfortunately, everything else about the Gramercy reminds me of watching my friends' band (Mad Anthony
represent, yo) play during a pep rally in our high school gym. (It was 1992 and they played "One" by Metallica, and the crazy suburban Ohio kids moshed. Oh did we mosh.) From the institutional-esque entryway, to the crappy cement floor, to the temporary bars along the sides of the room, to the laughable seating bleachers in the back, to the mediocre acoustics of the room, the whole room just screams "Battles of the Bands". It's essentially the Warsaw without the pierogis and the scary (yet authentic) Polish bouncers. If it weren't 3 blocks from my apartment, I might never go back.
That said, is it possible for Live Nation to make the Gramercy Theater a legitimate contender? Maybe. It needs a serious personality injection -- posters, paint, permanent bars. It also needs some acoustic refinements. If I had to guess, there were about 150-200 people in attendance last night. (Yeah, Birdmonster seems to have overshot its audience a bit, given that the room fits about 600). Whereas at Bowery Ballroom, which has a similar capacity, the ceiling is low enough that even 150-200 people can make a decent amount of noise, the 50' ceilings swallowed up the crowd's applause and made it sound as if 10 people were in the crowd. Awful and depressing.
Despite the problems with the venue, though, Birdmonster
were as energetic and fun as always. Much like the set that I caught down in Austin, the band mixed old and new songs, playing either 5 or 6 new songs in total, all of which sound pretty damn good. The acoustics were pretty awful where I was standing about 10 feet from the stage -- you could barely make out Peter's vocals or guitar, Justin's bass was way too high in the mix, and the drum sound seemed to go in and out throughout the show. Still, I've never seen a band Birdmonster show, and last night didn't break that streak. Just hope that next time they're back at the Mercury (or even Bowery for that matter).
PS: Also managed to catch The Long Winters
and The Broken West
at Maxwell's on Friday night. Forgot my camera, hence they don't get their own post. Both bands were great as usual, but whoever was doing the mix seemed to have decided to turn everything up to 11. Waaaaay too loud. I've had that problem at Maxwell's before. It's almost as if they think they're doing sound for Irving Plaza (capacity 1000) rather than a tiny little backroom at a bar that holds 150.