The Market Hotel. Photo by Annie Escobar
Ask any 20-something indie rock lover in New York what they’re doing this weekend, and they’re bound to rattle off names of North Brooklyn concert venues that aren’t technically supposed to exist: Monster Island Basement, Secret Project Robot, Death by Audio, Silent Barn, Shea Stadium, Party Expo. Check the show recommendations in The Village Voice, The Times, and even The New Yorker, and you will discover these cartoonish monikers sprinkled alongside trusty Manhattan standbys like Bowery Ballroom and Webster Hall.
Semi-legal concert spaces in Williamsburg and Bushwick are evolving from niche attractions to popular above-ground destinations. And yet they seem to have everything working against them, aside from their underground cachét: no budget, no liquor licenses, NOISE, far-flung geographical locations, and the passionate belief that quality live music should be accessible to everyone — even those too young to drink. So how are New York’s DIY venues staying open, despite all the economic and legal obstacles?
Truth be told, not all of these venues do stay open. Market Hotel, a dilapidated old bank building in Bushwick that once attracted up to 600 concert-goers at a time, closed its doors to the public last April after being raided by cops two nights in a row. Over on the Williamsburg waterfront, Paris London West Nile shut down this summer when its landlords increased the rent; neighboring venue Glasslands, meanwhile, became so popular that its owners decided to purchase a liquor license, weed out minors at the door, and go legit.