While some may think of Park Slope as more strollers than rock and rollers, locals know that this corner of Brooklyn also supports a thriving creative music scene.
On nearly every night of the week, you can hear free live music in the ‘hood that housed artists as varied as Talib Kweli to Ingrid Michaelson to Miss Foxy Brown. No matter what’s on your iPod right now, the pleasures of a live show are consistent.
Head into a dimly lit bar and feel the bass thump in your chest, start to sway as those early drinks kick in and relax into the enveloping sound that reminds you that going out is often about fun, but sometimes, at special times, is also about joy.
While there are excellent Park Slope venues with first-rate shows for as little as $5, like or and its sister venue , this week The Late Shift would like to give a shout out to the freebies, the bars where there’s no cover, no tickets and sometimes not even a stage—just a place for local (and not so local) musicians to do their thing and patrons to serendipitously sweeten their evening with some tunes.
The first place to take in some weekday jams is at (661 Sackett Street). New father and owner Mike Ragolia has another new baby to be proud of. Co-curated with bartender Brett Saxon, The Sackett will be inaugurating the first of its monthly live music series starting Monday, October 10 and then the second Monday of each month thereafter.
Nestled in this street corner brick bar, surrounded by dark wooden tables and comfy leather banquets, you’ll find the musicians of “The Sackett Unplugged.” Acoustic performance shows will feature normally loud rock bands, “broken down to acoustic in a more vulnerable setting and not guarded by an amp,” according to Saxon.
As a singer/songwriter himself, Saxon is interested in the social connections of playing a live show. And Ragolia, who before getting into the bar business ran a tiny indie-punk record store (Sound and Fury) on Orchard Street, firmly believes in the D.I.Y. aspect of music.
“You don’t need a performance space to play, just an instrument,” he said.
The first show will feature modern 1990s-influenced rockers, Luck War (who are also Sackett regulars). Future acts to include Edmund II, a Tom Waits-esque guitarist with a stripped down sound, and funk soul duo, Bow Ribbons, in January.
If you like to stay local, but want to listen to something global, (379 9th Street) has a special New York niche. They only play what they like—a third style that’s not straight jazz, nor straight rock, but straight from African and Latin American jazz-influenced music. They are one of the only places north of the equator where you can hear Chicha music.
Oliver Conan, co-owner of Barbes and the president of Barbes Records, offers larger New York musicians the opportunity to showcase personal projects and new material in a “work-shopping" environment with an attentive and enlightened audience. "They love it because they know we care,” Conan said.
This weekend catch Smokey Hormel (also known as Beck’s guitar player) on Saturday, October 15, playing with Smokey’s Secret Family, his project that takes early Congolese rumba and blends it with Congolese kwassa kwassa to make original rhythmic beats. Or spend your Sunday, October 16, indulging in the Enso String Quartet as part of the ongoing classical series at Barbes.
And if it’s a rollicking, feel good, dance party you’re after, (506 5th Avenue) is your spot. This bar-turned-music-hall also has its acts booked by musicians, bartender Ray Gehring, a guitarist with The Halliard, and Kathleen Cholewka, from Discovery. As performers, they know what it’s like to put on a show and they love being able to make it fun for the bands and the audience.
Tuesday, October 11, is their classic jazz night, with Diego Voglino, and on weekends anything goes. This Friday, October 14, Damian Quinones will be giving up modern soul with some feet stomping horns that could lift even the spirits of the dead.
“Music is the purest cultural Americana,” said Gehring.
So go on and have a listen, it’s the patriotic thing to do.