Well, I’ve just completed the first week of the Digisaurus Spring Solo Tour and I capped it off with a short stint in New York City. I’m no stranger to the Big Apple. I spent my younger life growing up in a commuter town near the city, lived in Manhattan for a summer in my college years, and have played shows with various bands all over the boroughs.
I have to say, I wasn’t the biggest fan of New York. I was a pretty impatient person when I was younger (some might say I still I am), and I found the stress of extensive planning to get anywhere, bleeding money, and being a small fish in a big pond really didn’t jive well with me. I just never felt like it offered me anything special compared with most other cities.
I also didn’t really like playing in New York. My first band tried to gig there a few times and here was how things typically went down: We got booked at a place with a well known name somewhere in the Lower East Side. The venue charged a ten to fifteen dollar cover and the bill also had ten other bands. So in the end, the cover deterred people from coming, the people who did come missed our fifteen minute set because they were outside smoking a cigarette, and we typically didn’t make enough to cover our parking during the gig.
This scenario isn’t unique to New York, but I do feel like it was more present there. However, my last couple of experiences have been much more pleasant. Digisaurus got to play the CMJ Music Marathon last fall, and although it was a logistical nightmare, we did get to play to a good crowd and make some new fans. This experience made me optimistic for the shows this past week. Instead of the Lower East Side, I was playing shows in Harlem at the Shrine World Music Venue and in Brooklyn at The Way Station. Both venues operate on a free show/tips basket model and I’m happy to say, that model worked well.
The energy in Harlem is invigorating and the interior of the Shrine perfectly captures the area’s diversity in people, art, and culture. Album covers and records plaster the walls and ceilings, the food at the connected french Bistro is scrumptious, and the atmosphere is friendly. I was a little worried about the NCAA Men’s basketball championship being on during the show, but the audience was very respectful and attentive. I am happy that I managed to get off the stage just in time to see Kris Jenkins sink that fantastic 3 point shot to seal the championship for Villanova.
The Way Station in Brooklyn is also a unique venue. At least, it’s the first Dr. Who themed bar I’ve ever played in. I’m not the biggest Dr. Who fan, and I was totally confused by a bartender’s explanation of the Daleks. But luckily, the audience seemed to be there more for the music and I made some new friends who wanted to talk about The Walking Dead instead. Overall, a great small listening room with a nice time travelling toilet.
Maybe the city’s becoming nicer, or maybe my attitude’s adjusted to suit the pace better. But I have to say I’m really starting to enjoy going to New York to play shows and catch up with friends. I’m heading up north for now, but I’m already looking forward to being back next week for a show in Queens at the Shillelagh Tavern.