Bwog’s resident concert expert Justin Goncalves answers all your questions about the best venues, where to go when you’ve had it up to here with indie rock, and that elusive Brooklynite Todd P.
Do you like music? I like music. Do you know what the best thing about living in New York while someone else pays the rent? Spending all that extra cheese on concerts.
Before I hook all you freshies up with the best places to go for concert listings and reviews, let me tell you all a little story. Just two years ago, I was in your shoes (red Converse high-tops, anyone?). Sure, I might’ve spent my first week at Columbia in a serious delirium, but, once playing beer-pong at Pike gets old (one time is enough, believe you me), you’ve gotta branch out. People really throw around this phrase too much, but, in all honesty, New York is the mecca for all things music. Whether you want to catch JT share the bill with Good Charlotte (which I did, and it was doooope), sing along to some great Hank Williams and Johnny Cash tunes with Alex Battles, or see Clipse melt your face off with their rhymes of fury, you can do it all. First semester, I spent all money and at least one night a week seeing a concert. One weekend, and I’m still not so sure why I thought this would be a good idea, I saw four consecutive nights of live music. And, to be honest, I can only remember seeing Animal Collective on Thursday and Ted Leo on Sunday. So, the most important advice I can give you is to pace yourself.
Now I’ll answer your questions:
“Where can I find the coolest, hippest concerts around?”
Well, if you belong to this Facebook group (I think we all have to thank Lucy for that find), than you’ve probably got a pretty firm grasp on ohmyrockness’ listing system. While they specialize in straight-up indie rock, they take care of some of your hip-hop/metal/experimental concerns. Be careful, their band profiles/general taste in music blows. You’ve been warned.
“What’s the best venue to see my favorite band play?”
Assuming your favorite band isn’t the Rolling Stones, the Bowery Ballroom is always a good experience (except when they don’t let you in to see Sufjan Stevens because you’re one month shy of your eighteenth birthday and the show is 18+). I also really like the Knitting Factory. Both of these venues run on the smaller side (Bowery’s capacity is 600; the Knitting Factory is like seeing a show in your basement). The bigger venues are fine for what they are.
“Who’s Todd P? I hear he’s this awesome indie God or something…”
Todd P, aka Todd Patrick, is the supreme overlord for all things DIY in Brooklyn. His shows are cheap and all-ages. Every time I’ve gone, it’s like I’ve landed in some movie where everyone to wear horn-rims, v-necks, and ball-choking jeans, which is kinda cool, I guess.
“But I don’t like indie rock, I listen to sophisticated Jazz.”
All the better! I, personally, can’t afford to get into a lot of the jazz venues in Manhattan, but there are some good ones, depending on your taste. If you’re into more straight ahead jazz (bebop, hard bop, etc.), than the Village Vanguard is where you want to go. Their scheduling can be a bit eclectic, so make sure you either a) go with an open mind or b) check out the group pre-departure. If you’re not up for the trek, you might want to stop by Smoke. Last time I heard, they’re pretty strict with the 21+ policy (welcome to New York!). Catching two-hour sets at the Vanguard or Smoke will usually cost you around $30. And, last but not least, with Tonic’s recent closing, the Stone has become the unequivocal home for the avant-garde. With certified genius John Zorn serving as artistic director and $5 student admission, this long trek to the Lower East Side is certainly worth it.
“What’s good with the on-campus music scene?”
Funny you should ask. Miller Theatre is the place for new and early music – think Frank Zappa and Gregorian chants. WKCR and WBAR, the official Columbia and Barnard radio stations, respectively, do some things here and there. Word on the street is WBAR has got a pretty great line-up of shows for the fall semester. Like Miller Theatre, WKCR’s influence goes well beyond the campus. There’s also an NSOP concert in the fall and a Bachannal concert in the spring, both curated by Columbia Concerts. (Full disclosure: I work for both WKCR and Columbia Concerts.)
That’s all I’ve got, kiddos. Another good place to look is Time Out New York. They’ve got the best listing of events (music and otherwise) in the city. I can answer your questions in the comments section too.