This semi-rant appears in the newly launched NYU Local.
Your favorite band is in town. If the promoters are doing their jobs, you’ll know a couple months before the show. You’ve got two courses of action: stomach the surcharge and punch in your ticket purchase online or take a walk of variable length to the relevant box office. But wait – what’s this? The show is 21+!
There’s nothing quite like the feeling of knowing an artist is playing in town, but that you can’t get in. Depending on your tastes, this scenario may occur infrequently. The Bowery Presents empire is relatively forgiving when it comes to age restrictions. If you can vote, you can probably enter one of their venues. But if you decide to take the scenic route and purchase a ticket at their Manhattan box office, don’t expect to be able to enter after 7 p.m.
That locale, the Mercury Lounge, is one of the more hallowed sites of the Lower East Side, with a huge stage and intensely intimate set up. It’s also clearly a bar, squeezed against the corridor before that big stage. Perhaps the venue wants to lower liability costs – there’s apparently a greater insurance price tag when minors are allowed inside. And ultimately, it comes down to economics: one underage patron is one less customer for an overpriced drink.
Similarly, the typical ticket to a dance-oriented venue like Studio B or Hiro Ballroom is around $10. This light asking price comes with the assumption that the majority of the crowd will stop by the bar. In some cases, drinks will even be free for a couple hours, to increase turnout. Sometimes, there won’t be a cover at the door and there will be a drink deal. It almost seems that it’s not about the music, but rather the booze.
That isn’t the case. The DJ set is inherently different from the ordered setlist of your typical hard-working band, and it won’t appeal to everyone. But it has just as much musical merit. Excellent artists – Gui Boratto, Ellen Allien, Trentemøller, Lindstrøm – have played recently or will be playing soon in New York City. But what is quite possibly their only stateside appearance for the entire year will be blocked off to anyone without the proper ID, fake or otherwise.
But what’s really illogical is when a venue that is normally 18+ will have a 21+ show “just because.” Autechre, a British electronic duo, will play a show on April 15 at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, another Bowery Presents venue. The show was originally 21+, to my dismay, but was changed to 18+, selling out quickly thereafter. What was the point of having it as 21+ in the first place? It’s not as if a venue closes down the bar when they host a show that isn’t 21+, so what’s the point of keeping age restrictions at all?
I would love to see a statement from the venues explaining the logic of 21+. Surely if controlling alcohol access at an “all ages” venue as massive as Terminal 5 can be done, a much smaller venue can do the same.