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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

New York, USA

By Marisha Chinsky

When you think about New York City and indie credentials, I bet a few things come to mind. Over several generations of art, the city has embodied the real meaning of indie: not just an aesthetic or a style, but the spirit of creativity, rebellion from the mainstream, and a collective community. In the 1950s, there was Kerouac, Ginsberg and the Beats who took over Columbia University and Greenwich Village. Then there was Bob Dylan and Gerde's Folk City, a music venue which no longer exists. Later on came Andy Warhol and his Factory cohorts such as the Velvet Underground. Fast forward to the late 1970s when CBGBs and Max's Kansas City were the happening place for the likes of Television, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones.
   Bedford Avenue became the hipster hangout of the late 90s and early 2000s, although it's becoming more gentrified and quite possibly "cliché" as an indie-hub. Williamsburg was the neighborhood credited with nurturing the rise of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, and even The Strokes. Larry Tee's Luxx gave us a new style called Electroclash. The club is now called Trash, 256 Grand Street between Driggs and Roebling, and books decent mostly local rock bands. New York City's up and coming neighborhood is usually on the frontier and since the city is very much alive, the fringe is changing and ever-moving. Yesterday's hip new neighborhood for artists could be home to tomorrow's overpriced coffeeshop and expensive luxury condos. There’s lots to discover, so jump right in!


Clubs


Crashin In
Stanton Public, 17 Stanton Street. Every Saturday from 10pm, free.
A bit trendy but in a good way (ie: BBC 6, indie) focuses heavily on Britpop and 90s style shoegaze.
(www.myspace.com/crashinin)

Mondo
Cameo Gallery, 93 North 6th Street, One Saturday Each Month
Indiepop, new wave, post-rock, Britpop, Northern soul, shoegaze - casual atmosphere. Encourages dancing and not playing "predictable" DJ hits.
(mondo-nyc.com/)

DeLuxe
Bellhouse, 149 7th Street, last Thursday of the month.
Dr Maz has been treating NYC's most discerning indie audiophiles with a monthly dose of new and vintage indiepop, britpop, and french pop.
(www.deluxe-nyc.com)

Anything promoted by Todd P
Get all your noise and art rock, ie: Japanther, Oxford Collapse, and see where a lot of bands got their start. Todd tends to book and promote shows that are held in dive bars off the beaten path, on the cusp of something new. On the down low, fun and exciting. Prices and location varies, but usually about $3-$7.
(www.toddpnyc.com)

PS 1
Long Island City, Queens.
Free with recommended donation for admission. Check out the warm up outdoor DJ series every Saturday in the summertime.
(www.ps1.org)


Venues

 

Cake Shop
152 Ludlow Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan.
The best place to see cool new indie bands in New York. Grab a pastry and coffee upstairs, then head downstairs to check out the bands.
(www.cake-shop.com)

Bruar Falls
245 Grand Street
Cake Shop's sister venue in Williamsburg.
(http://bruarfalls.com)

There are usually great shows at: Pianos, Rothko, Mercury Lounge, Trash, Northsix, Bowery Ballroom, Knitting Factory. Pick up a free, weekly Village Voice from a kiosk anywhere in the city. Go online: www.villagevoice.com


Bars

Hi-Fi
169 Avenue A between 10th and 11th Streets, East Village, Manhattan.
Location used to be the legendary club Brownies. Has an mp3 jukebox, updated weekly with over 30,000 albums or something ridiculous. Very fun. Tons of great classic record covers decorate the space.
(browniesnyc.com)

Great Lakes
285 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn.
This bar is an "Indie Rock haven." Great Jukebox caters to 1990s indierock. Laid back crowd.

Buttermilk
557 Fifth Avenue, Park Slope.
Great jukebox, also.

Iona bar
180 Grand St, Williamsburg
Nice little Irish bar in Williamsburg. Good place to go for an afternoon drink or hang out on a Sunday. There are loads of good CDs behind the bar and the bar staff will usually stick on your requests. Good selection of beer and one of the best beer gardens in New York. Also includes a table tennis table for anyone who can play it (unlike me).(DB)

The 5th Estate
506 5th Ave Between 12th and 13th Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn
New performance space on the site of the old Royale bar.


Record Shops


Other Music
15 East 4th Street, Manhattan.
Hands down the best record shop in NYC, widely considered to be the best in America. Smaller than competitors but selection is both masterfully curated and overwhelmingly diverse. Noah Lennox (AKA Panda Bear from Animal Collective) used to work here. Regular in-store performances.
(www.othermusic.com)

Kim's
6 St Mark's Place, East Village.
Severely downsized but still worth a visit; there's a cool new selection of ultra-limited cassette releases and zines at the front counter, some in-store shows. The owner's passion is clearly for film over music and some past mutations of the shop have reflected this.

Downtown Music Gallery
13 Monroe Street, New York, NY 10002
A really excellent store that's been around a long time, this is your best bet if you're looking for avant-garde/experimental/"new" music of some description.
(www.downtownmusicgallery.com/)

Rockit Scientist
33 St. Marks Pl., New York, NY 10003
Specializes in 60s psych/prog/glam/britpop etc, including bootlegs and rarities on both vinyl and CD.
(www.myspace.com/rockitscientistrecords)

Good Records NYC
218 East 5th Street, New York, NY 10003
Owned by Tim Delaughter from the Polyphonic Spree, this is a brand new outpost of his legendary Dallas store/label.
(www.goodrecordsnyc.com)

Bleecker St Records
239 Bleecker St, New York, NY 10014
Big store with CDs, some rare jazz LPs and a large basement full of used vinyl.
(www.bleeckerstreetrecordsnyc.com/)

Generation Records
210 Thompson St, New York, NY
Best shop for punk rock in the city, huge selection of obscure-ish band t-shirts and other merch (posters, stickers, etc) in the basement.
(www.generationrecordsnyc.com)

Bleecker Bob's Golden Oldies
118 W 3RD St, New York, NY 10012
Great vintage 7" selections behind the counter (you have to ask), and some hilariously overpriced LPs, often of the variety you'd find at a yard sale. Oh and there's a tattoo parlor in the back nowadays. I'm not sure this is a recommendation, but it's been there forever.

Academy Records
12 West 18th Street New York, NY 1001
Large secondhand only vinyl selection with bookshop-like feel
(www.academy-records.com/)

Academy Annex
96 North 6th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Biggest used record store in nyc with over 25,000 LPs of every genre. Mike Sniper from Blank Dogs works here.
(www.academyannex.com)

Earwax
218 Bedford Avenue, New York
Small store with huge new vinyl selection. Slightly pricey.

Sound Fix
44 Berry St., Brooklyn New York 11211
Specializes in new independent releases with little room for 'classic rock'. Regular in-store performances.
(www.soundfixrecords.com)

Black Gold Records
461 Court Street, Brooklyn, NY 11231
Coffee, records and taxidermy. All. In. One. Shop.
(blackgoldbrooklyn.com)

Sounds
20 Saint Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003
Uninspiring selection priced to move.

EAT Records
124 Meserole Avenue, Greenpoint.
Has now opened a café/coffeeshop. Great vinyl and used selection. Occasionally hosts shows by local bands and sells tickets to Todd P-promoted shows.
(www.eatrecords.com)

Permanent Records
181 Franklin St, Brooklyn NY
(permanentrecords.info)

(All record store reviews - apart from EAT - by Joshua Andrew Shamash)


Local Bands

 

Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
NYC 's favourite indiepop sons and daughter, who started off as fuzzed up early MBV fans but now play more mainstream friendly 80s pop.
(www.thepainsofbeingpureatheart.com)

Au Revior Simone
Gorgeous electro pop from this brilliant female trio from Williamsburg.
(http://aurevoirsimone.com/)

Vivian Girls
Fuzzed up, post Shop Assistants indiepop from this cool female trio from Brooklyn.
(www.myspace.com/viviangirlsnyc)

Cause Co-motion.
Lo-fi post punk in the vein of the TVPs and The Pastels.
(www.causeco-motion.com)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Tension, drama, excitement, all sealed with a kiss and a tremble from Brooklyn. CYHSY take their cue from the Arcade Fire, the Violent Femmes, Orange Juice, The Wedding Present and The Rapture.
(www.clapyourhands.com)

Metric Mile
(www.metricmile.com)

My Teenage Stride
(www.myteenagestride.com)

The Consultants
(www.theconsultantsband.com)


Miscellaneous
 


Air Market
97 Third Avenue, Manhattan
Amazing imported Japanese store. Clothes, accessories, stickers, and more.

Take the Staten Island Ferrry to Staten Island and back. It's free!

Main New York photo © Urban75
Additional reviews by Daniel Bailey and Ian Watson

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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