“What I like about Nublu is that I can kick off my shoes, put my feet up, lean back on the couch and have a drink while listening to music,” my friend said as we settled in for the May 17 Brooklyn Rider release party for their new Philip Glass CD. On a black leather couch, we could look at our reflections (as well of that of the art work above our heads) in a large mirror on the other side of the room. Johnny Gandelsman, one of the quartet’s violinists (who, by the way, has the most unusual, high-on-the-stick bow-hand position of any non-early-music violinist I’ve seen) had thanked the audience for coming to “the most alternative of alternative venues.” (OK, I’d had a beer by then. That comment could have come from Colin Jacobsen, the other violinist.)
More relaxed and casual than LPR, NuBlu is just a few blocks up from John Zorn’s bare-bones small avant-garde performance space The Stone. (“Are all the really cool places in New York on Avenue C?” I asked.) An attractively grungy bar with a variety of art on the walls (some of the graffiti variety), and a combination of couches, upholstered balls (in holders that keep them from rolling around), bar stools and the, yes, the floor to sit on, it’s a surprisingly enjoyable place to listen to a concert. Especially if you’ve snagged a couch seat. Drinks reasonably priced for New York ($7). The entrance is unmarked; just a booth with a (stern) doorman. About as East Village as you can get. (Or is this the Lower East Side? Still working out Manhattan neighborhood boundaries. At Ave. C and 5th St., it’s definitely in “Alphabet City.”)
All Philip Glass music–no rock covers, mashups, or remixes, the kind of thing that some of us think is needed to bring in a young audeince, played by a classical/eclectic string quartet. Virtually the entire audience in their 20s, or not much beyond. Usually I go to a classical concert and, at 52, get to feel like a kid again, since almost everyone’s older than me. What a pleasure it was to feel like an old guy. (“I don’t think you’re allowed to live in the Lower East Side if you’re over 25,” my friend said as we took a cab home.)
This was the second time I’ve heard Brooklyn Rider play–the first was at Tully Scope. Once again, amplified, well, and effectively. All the players standing, except for cellist Eric Jacobsen, perched on an speaker. Terrific, committed playing. “We devoted three years to this project,” Colin told me after the performance, and it shows. “I don’t like Glass,” my friend said, “but I loved this performance.” And she must be a big fan of Brooklyn Rider, because it takes a major effort (three subway trains and a long walk) to get to NuBlu from the Upper West Side, where each of us lives. “This is like another country,” she said.
I’m still getting used to the fact that these club shows invariably start late. The Nublu site didn’t actually list a time; just said that Brooklyn Rider was “the early show.” (I take that back; I just looked again and the site says the “early band” is at 9:00 PM). The BR site listed as 9:00 PM.
But that was more the start-mingling-and-drinking-in-earnest time. The music started about forty minutes later. I’d been a little antsy about getting there by the announced time, just in case. The advantage was that we were there early enough to claim half a couch. (Unfortunately, the other half was taken by a couple who, unlike everyone else in the place, talked through the entire performance. They were quiet only between pieces.)
I was entranced by the music. If I wasn’t pretty broke now from New-York-overspending syndrome, I’d buy the BR CD of the complete Glass quartets. They played the Fourth Quartet, the Second (“Company”), and the Third (“Mishima,” for the film it was composed for.)
Cool place. Great group. Fantastic music. Young crowd, listening attentively (except for the chatty couple next to me), clearly absorbed.
There is a younger audience. Glad to have been there with them.
One of the Nublu staff has written me that the Nublu Orchestra with Butch Morris will be doing four shows next month. The June calendar isn’t up yet, but I’ll definitely try to catch one if I’m still in town.