Now known as the Music Hall of Williamsburg, this Brooklyn venue continues its relevance as one of the borough’s and city’s hottest commodities.
It is hard to remember for most New Yorkers, and for those relatively new to the city it is impossible to remember, but there was a time when you had to go to Manhattan when you wanted to take in nearly any live music event, especially indie rock. Up through the late 20th century, downtown Manhattan was virtually the only spot to catch up and coming New York City bands, as well as many of the hipper touring acts passing through the city. Even music fans living in apartments near Williamsburg would have to leave their now white-hot Brooklyn neighborhood and hop on the L train to see a show.
Of course, these days are long past, and Brooklyn is now the indisputable center of live, local music in New York City, and throughout the sizable borough there is a wealth of fantastic music venues. However, Williamsburg remains the figurative center of it all in terms of music, comedy, restaurants, bars and nightlife in general.
Williamsburg owes at least part of its distinct flavor to the fact that it was not always part of New York City, nor was it always part of Brooklyn. In fact, for much of the 19th century Williamsburg was an independent city. Just like the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Williamsburg became a diverse hub of varied ethnic communities during the immigration boom of the late 1800s; creating an exciting, multifaceted energy still felt in the neighborhood today. Williamsburg did become part of Brooklyn and New York City when the boroughs were consolidated in 1898, and its proximity to downtown Manhattan ensured its continued importance and popularity.
As rents increased throughout Manhattan in the late 20th century, the artistic community of New York City began looking outside of the island for an affordable enclave. With lower prices for apartments near Williamsburg and easy access afforded by the Williamsburg Bridge and the L train, this section of Brooklyn soon became of the city’s most exciting cultural centers. However, before the other trendy music venues that now dot the north and south sides of the neighborhood opened, there was Northsix.
Named after its location on North 6th Street, this moderately-sized club opened in 2001 during an especially fertile period for independent music in the city. During its early years, Northsix hosted burgeoning, soon to be huge local acts such as Animal Collective and the Hold Steady, and attracted a variety of popular touring acts from Joan Jett to They Might be Giants to of Montreal. The rise of Northsix coincided with the rise of the current alt comedy boom in New York, which means the venue also hosted performances from famous local comedians like Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry, and David Cross.
Residents of apartments near Williamsburg can regularly head to the Music Hall of Williamsburg to see performances from the likes of Sleater-Kinney, Drive-by Truckers and Battles. The club played an important role in the rise of contemporary Williamsburg, and the Music Hall of Williamsburg continues to live up to its reputation as one of the premier entertainment venues in the heart of the neighborhood.