Northsix Williamsburg, NY



Brooklyn Rock City.

Last May, the music magazine Blender declared Williamsburg, Bro
oklyn, “the rock & roll capital of America”. While the Kiss Army in Detroit Rock City, as well as executives at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, may have been pissed off, anybody who’s ever been to Northsix, Williamsburg’s premier live music venue, on a hot night would be hard pressed to argue. Standing on the sidewalk outside the club, with the crowd of exiled smokers (thanks, Mayor Bloomberg!), you’ll probably have more “Hey, didn’t I see that person in a video on MTV2 last night?” moments than you would anywhere else in the country.
Artists and bohemian types have been moving to the industrial neighborhood just across New York’s East River from Greenwich Village for the past decade or so, escaping astronomical Manhattan rents and establishing a cozy community among the warehouses and factories. But it’s only been in the last few years that the place has exploded with hipness, and the entire area now seems over-run with fashionable art school graduates in their 20’s. The opening of Northsix in late 2001 certainly added to Williamsburg’s desirability, offering local buzz bands and touring acts an alternative to Manhattan spaces like Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, Mercury Lounge and Knitting Factory.  
With a 400-capacity main room that features a large bar, as well as a smaller front bar/lounge area and a basement chill-out space, Northsix has been praised in the local press for its booking quality, sound system, and diverse layout. Our Stalkers are regulars on the Manhattan rock club circuit – so how did Northsix measure up in their eyes?

Stalker #1
First of all, I think it’s so great that Northsix shows are always open to all ages. I hate not being able to see my favorite band play at the Mercury Lounge because I’m not turning 21 until later this year. Why can’t every venue just put an “X” on your hand like Northsix does?
The club was super-crowded on the night that we went, which was surprising to me, since the headlining act was a local post-punk band that hasn’t had a new record out in two years. But it was a Saturday night, and I guess all the Williamsburg hipsters didn’t have anywhere else to go. They were certainly out in force: The place was a fashion show of shag haircuts, tight black pants, studded belts, and newsboy caps (trucker hats are so last year). I must admit that I didn’t feel too out of place in my baggy jeans and bulky winter coat, though, as there seemed to be a nice contingent of people who were more interested in having a rockin’ good time than in checking out what everybody else was wearing.
We didn’t care about the first opening act, so we checked out the downstairs chill-out lounge. It was kind of creepy and dark, and there weren’t too many people there, so we headed back upstairs. We hung out in the front room for awhile, getting drinks from the bar and checking out the amazing jukebox.
I was impressed with the main concert space. It offered good sight lines from everywhere in the room, except from behind the two enormous support beams in the middle of the floor. Unfortunately, we didn’t arrive early enough to get seats on the bleacher-like risers opposite the stage, but we were able to push our way to the front of the crowd and get close to the band anyway. As the band played, the room got nice and sweaty, but not so hot that I felt like I needed a bath afterwards. The sound was also high quality, crystal clear and not so loud that I felt like I was going deaf.
Overall, I thought Northsix was an excellent setting for a rock ‘n’ roll evening. It’s definitely worth the trek across the river.

Stalker #2
I really can’t stand all those artsy Williamsburg types, so I was initially hesitant to check out Northsix. However, I found that the place had a much friendlier atmosphere than I expected. Maybe having to drink out of plastic cups, and the lack of any sort of VIP area (thank God!) makes people less obnoxious. Sure, there were a fair share of drunk girls with nose piercings shoving past me to get to their boyfriends, but on the whole, Northsix was way more down-to-earth than many Manhattan rock clubs I’ve been to. And the main performance space wasn’t too big, so I felt close to the band even when I was waiting in line for the bathroom in the back. I might add that although the bathrooms were far from clean and well-equipped (what rock club bathroom is?), there were plenty of them, so I didn’t have to wait long.

Stalker #3
I think Northsix is actually my favorite place to see live bands in all of New York City. For the type of music that I like (mostly indie rock), you really can’t beat the bands they book here. Plus, unlike Irving Plaza, or lots of other rock venues around the city, Northsix is independently owned and operated, free from the vice-like grip that Clear Channel has been tightening around the entertainment industry.
I’ve been going to Northsix since it opened a few years ago, and it’s been cool to watch the neighborhood change around it. When I first went there, the walk down North 6th Street from Bedford towards the river was a little scary, with only a few bodegas and markets among all the dark warehouse buildings. Now, the street is lined with bars, restaurants, and clothing stores, and is almost always crowded.
My only complaints are that the drinks really aren’t any cheaper than in Manhattan, and if you’re stuck behind one of those poles in the middle of the main space, you’re not going to have a very good time. But those are minor details. For rock ‘n’ roll in New York City, Northsix is where it’s at.

– Compiled by Amy H. Philips

Copyright 2003 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2003 TESTA Communications