An Ode to Joe’s Pub

Everyone who has lived in NYC for more than a few months has a venue, perhaps more than one, that they hold near to their heart. We all have those places that have defined some aspect of our New York experience. The spot where you first saw that great band, or first drank some astonishing concoction that became ‘your drink.’ I have been here now for eleven years and of all the venues I have frequented the one that is most tightly woven into my life in NYC is Joe’s Pub.

The following appears on the Joe’s Pub website:

The New York Times has praised Joe’s Pub as at the “nexus” of “a downtown axis of clubs whose performers gleefully fuzz the boundaries between old and new, and between pop, rock, jazz, rhythm-and-blues, swing, country, world music and performance art.”

This very much describes the variety of performances I have seen on their stage. One of my first was a gospel singer whose name I no longer remember. I was invited to the show by my boss, perhaps the hippest partner in a law firm you can imagine. I felt very adult sitting at the tiny table, elbow to elbow with the well dressed crowd, sipping a fancy cocktail. The stage lights were dazzling, the sound system smooth and balanced, and the singer’s voice reverberated around the intimate space. I remember thinking that this must be how important people attend concerts, as opposed to the hot and echoey rooms where young people listen to music standing up and pushing each other for a clear view of the stage. I liked the comfort of sitting and absorbing the performance. I have since paid close attention to their upcoming shows and have enjoyed quite a variety of music from their tightly packed tables.

One of the most memorable was a performance by The Wet Spots, a duo who performs some of the raunchiest and most absurd songs I have had the pleasure of enjoying. Joe’s Pub is especially well suited to this kind of act. You’re close enough that the performers can pick on you and make you part of the act. The intimacy and the fact that you’re not standing and crowding the stage, allows the performers to really take the pulse of the crowd and adjust accordingly. Lady Rizo is another prime example of a performer who really blossoms on this stage. She’s performing there again soon as a matter of fact and I would very much recommend being part of her audience.

Joe’s Pub is also an excellent venue for performers who require a good deal of attention to detail. Sxip Shirey is best seen in this kind of venue. His use of music boxes, bells and marbles to make a variety of ethereal sounds can only be appreciated when you can actually see his maneuverings. If you see him in some larger venue, standing far back and craning your neck, you will entirely miss what makes his music magical.

Most recently I attended two performances by a wide variety of artists who had all studied under Barbara Maier Gustern. There were absurd costumes of many varieties and the biggest range of musical styles I think I’ve ever experienced in one show. I truly feel that this kind of show is only possible in a venue with an outstanding sound system and a professional staff. As much as pop-up venues and underground spaces foster creativity in the city, this kind of established venue has the ability to bring out the best in performers. I was very pleased to see one of my favorite musicians perform as part of the TRANSformative lineup; Natti Vogel is really best seen in this kind of environment. I think this photo by Albie Mitchell pretty much says it all.

Natti Vogel; photo by Albie Mitchell

Natti Vogel; photo by Albie Mitchell

For those of you who may still be searching for the venues that will define your experience, I recommend trying out Joe’s Pub. Sometimes the official venues offer something the underground venues lack- the smooth sound and comfortable seating that allow you to enjoy the details.