LPR: A Destination Shuffle Venue? (SJ IX)

“Let me ask you something,” said the bartender at [le] poisson rouge to my daughter and I.  The Dueling Fiddlers concert (which I blogged about here) had finished, and I was paying our tab.  “Did you come specifically to hear this show, or did you just come to be at the club?”*

That surprised me.  Not only had we come for that event, we’d each left our respective Super Bowl parties early to get there on time.  (If you’ve ever lived in Wisconsin and the Packers are in the Super Bowl, you’re a big football fan, even if it’s for that night only.)  “The reason I’m asking,” he explained, “is that we’re finding that people are starting to come just to be at the club.  They’ve been here before, or have heard it’s really cool, so they just show up and see whatever is going on. They’ll even pay a $30 cover.” (Many LPR shows are much less than that.)

Fascinating.  The venue itself is becoming the attraction. A place where you know you can show up, have a good drink and/or some food, and know something interesting will be happening.  Hey, what do you want to do tonight?  Let’s just go to LPR.

That hadn’t occurred to me.  If it’s really working out that way, then not only are the LPR staff doing a great job, but the eclectic spirit of the club is meeting an equally (or near-equally) eclectic spirit among it’s patron base.

You can’t say LPR is a classical club or a rock club or a jazz club or a hip-hop club or a whatever club, because it presents all those things.  What I’d assumed up until that conversation was that LPR serves a wide array of mostly separate audiences, with some overlap–a view shaped, I’m sure, by my age and background.  But why shouldn’t the screw-genres, we-like-everything spirit of composer/performers like Missy Mazzoli and Gabriel Kahane (my comments on their Chamber Music America panel discussion are here) be present in their audiences as well?

We live in iPod shuffle times.  For those living life without small music player, filled with all sorts of different music tracks, the “shuffle” feature will, at your request, play individual pieces, movements, songs, etc., in random order.  I found it annoying as hell when I first turned it on by accident, and rarely use it myself.  But millions of (mostly younger) people love it.  What are you going to hear next?  It’s a surprise. That’s the fun of it.

And so why not a club, like LPR, serving as an institutional shuffle device?  Show up and take what you get. Maybe–perhaps even preferably–something you wouldn’t have chosen on your own.

Now that I think about it, it makes perfect sense.


*I wasn’t recording that conversation, so it’s reconstructed from memory.  But I’m quite sure I have the gist of it right.



Filed under Le Poisson Rouge, sabbatical journal

8 responses to “LPR: A Destination Shuffle Venue? (SJ IX)

  1. Pingback: Classical music is dead! Ha! (SJ X) | Eric Edberg

  2. This is how the Upright Citizens Brigade works, too – people know they’ll see something funny, edgy and improvised, so they just drop by. It creates a venue-oriented crowd of people. It’s one of a few reasons I think that place could be a model for music performance venues and even community music schools.

  3. All successful venues are as much of a draw for audiences as they artists they bring in–in fact, the artists brought in helps to define the venue. Glad to know LPR is starting to rank up there with The Knitting Factory and The Kitchen for edgier performances!

  4. Thanks, Jon. And as I wrote about in another post, it’s becoming increasingly clear to me that it works both ways. Just as some venues draw a particular audience, others repel that same one. So here in NY, for example, LPR draws an audience that simply won’t go to Merkin, and vice-versa. (Not to say that there aren’t some of us who go to both.)

  5. Yes! I still remember some of the mixed feelings I had when I first started playing [cello] in bars and clubs. Sometimes it just felt like it was wrong for me to be in there. And some of that was as much what little residual snobbery I had for the type of musician [Classical] that I obviously was no longer, as it was about feeling like I’ve invaded someone’s performing space.

    And that had nothing to do with me being new to playing clubs–I’d already spent a few years playing them with the experimental music, so already knew some of the ropes.

    Fascinating how closely tied our identity can be to the instrument we happen to be using and I would think it’s a little bit of the same for audience expectations as well.

  6. The dynamics, internal and social, are fascinating, aren’t they?

  7. Very much so! And I’m so glad and thankful I’ve had (and still have) these experiences as there’s always more to learn about our relationship to our instruments and to the venues we play them in.

    And always great to be able to share some of those insights–I’m so glad you’re able to do this Sabbatical Journey!

  8. Pingback: Tully Scope: As Good to Watch as It Was to Listen To | Eric Edberg

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