Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Near miasma of Gowanus, a new music venue takes root

This feature appears in today's Washington Square News.

It all begin a few years ago when Scott Koshnoodi and his partner Julie Kim were catching some live music at a unique concert venue in a neglected quarter of Oslo.

“We found it in this old industrial area by a canal,” Koshnoodi said. “It had transformed itself into a haven. It was an unbelievable location, surrounded by graffiti everywhere, kind of isolated.”

Half a world away, Koshnoodi found a perfect mirror in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The area is primarily industrial and sandwiched between Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, providing a stark contrast to its bustling neighbors. Because Gowanus’s landmarks are warehouses and the Gowanus Canal, its most appealing feature is that a loud rock club is not going to disturb any neighbors since no one lives there.

In November Koshnoodi and Kim will open Littlefield at 622 Degraw St. The 6,200 square-foot converted warehouse will host live music, as well as art displays and independent movie screenings.

Both owners are environmental engineers by training, and the venue reflects their background.

According to Koshnoodi, Littlefield’s green features will include a landscaped interior courtyard, sound walls formed from recycled rubber tires and a bar constructed of salvaged bowling alley lanes.

“It fit with our aesthetic, which was mixing industry and organic,” Koshnoodi said.

After school, Kim became involved in music booking with the promoters FRICTION NYC, who will help fill out the schedule. Meanwhile, Koshnoodi became a chef and hopes to flex his management skills.

However, Littlefield won’t be the only attraction in Gowanus, which was the first Dutch settlement in what is now Brooklyn.

The Yard, an outdoor venue along the canal, has been active over the last three years. Under MeanRed Productions, it hosted numerous shows this past summer, including the Sunday Best dance parties, which featured appearances from disc jockeys Kevin Saunderson, John Tejada and Metro Area. The venue will close for the season in October, but not before an appearance from José González as part of the New York Magazine 40th Anniversary festival.

Last week the owners of Union Hall opened a sister venue in Gowanus called the Bell House at 149 7th St. The Rosebuds, Crystal Stilts and A.C. Newman of the New Pornographers are some of the acts slated to perform in the coming months.

Even as our post-Lehman Brothers economy implodes, such expansion is evidence that entertainment continues to boom.

“New York has its own economy. It doesn’t seem like the city is affected. Even after 9/11, we were packed a week after,” Koshnoodi said. “The economy here is just so powerful; you have so many young people who don’t want to stay at home. Even in bad times, people want drinks.”

The downside is saturation. Although more options exist than ever, it can be challenging for a venue to distinguish itself.

“Everyone can put a box up, and as long as you have good talent buyers, you can have good bands,” Koshnoodi said. “We just wouldn’t be proud of having a box with some speakers. For us, if we’re going to be spending this kind of money, it has to be something that we have to proud of. Will it make people interested? That’s the chance you take. I don’t think it’s a detriment to do something interesting, and then you roll the dice.”

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