When Rolling Stone polled music industry insiders to create the definitive list of the best music venues in the country, Bowery Ballroom came out at the very top, at number one. The magazine described the New York institution like this: “Opened 15 years ago in a vacant jewelry store and haberdashery on the Lower East Side, the 550-capacity club is a must-play for bands on the way to stardom…It’s both intimate and grand, with consistently great sound and sightlines, and touches of old-school class, like 84-year-old brass rails.” More than just a rite of passage for musicians, it is where Joan Baez recorded Bowery Songs in 2004 and the kind of place that makes the Lower East Side an entry point to the larger-than-life performers of the best of the current music scene. Living at the One Manhattan Square condos means that in the next few months alone, artists like Adam Lambert and Jaymes Young will be playing in your proverbial backyard. Here is a list of some upcoming shows.
On November 21st, Jaymes Young played his first New York gig on his new North American Tour, named for a new song, “Happiest Year,” which he wrote as a way of seeing the positive in having and then losing a relationship. It’s an apt theme for a musician who is returning to the stage and the recording studio two years after he released his first album, Feel Something. Last summer, Young told Billboard. “I spent a lot of days over the past year writing and reflecting on who I am as an artist and what’s important to me. With that, I can say I’m coming back to music officially.”
On December 5, Eric Rachmany will take the stage, along with Howi Spangler and The John Dank Show, for a concert that is part of a nationwide tour to benefit The Last Prisoner Project, an initiative that is dedicated to helping people incarcerated for cannabis. It’s rare for a performer to embark on an entire tour where all profits go directly to a cause he is passionate about. This is also a chance to see Rachmany, who is the frontman of Rebelution, playing his unique brand of reggae-influenced sounds in a new acoustic context. He recently talked to Billboard about the Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds album Live at Luther College and its influence on the tour: “That album changed my life, I fell in love with the acoustic concept; it was just Dave and another guitarist…[We] are taking reggae-influenced songs, Rebelution songs, some covers and we’re throwing in a ton of instrumentalism. We’re getting a really unique acoustic sound that I don’t think anyone has done before.”
On December 16, Adam Lambert will perform from his new EP, Velvet: Side A, which The Guardian calls “a liberated, funky take on ’70s rock that provides the missing link between Queen and the electro-pop of his solo albums.” It’s a kind of through-line for a singer who auditioned for the ninth season of American Idol with “Bohemian Rhapsody” and later came to play regularly with Queen. To hear Lambert play the Bowery Ballroom this holiday season is to be a part of what is not just a concert but a cultural event, like so much of life on the iconic, ever cutting-edge Lower East Side.