Brooklyn’s Best Music Venue Is in Trouble

by delarue

Barbes is fifteen years old this month. Since 2003, the little Park Slope boîte has been home to the most fearlessly adventurous global sounds from across the borough and around the world. To give you an idea of what kind of magic takes place here, night after night, multi-instrumentalist Chi-Chi Glass played here a couple of nights ago and aired out a brand-new Peruvian piano ballad with lyrics by Maya Angelou, as well as part of an Albeniz piano sonata and a series of haunting Andean-tinged art-songs featuring the rapturously ethereal harmonies and accordion of La Rubias Del Norte’s Alyssa Lamb along with Judith Berkson.

A couple of nights before, psycho mambo band Gato Loco blasted through a set of percussively stalking noir themes with frequent detours into Ethio-jazz. And the Saturday before that, the band in the back room was Les Chauds Lapins, who unveiled a bunch of lush new classically-infused string arrangements to bolster the droll, surrealistic French swing they’ve made a name for themselves with, mostly here. There is nowhere else in New York, maybe in the world, where you can hear such diversely entertaining talent – and unless the venue can come up with seventy grand, there  may not be one anywhere.

They’ve raised a little more than half of that via Indiegogo with a month to go. There are all sorts of awesome musical perks for contributing. Characteristically, the amount you can donate on the page peaks out at $1000. These guys are populist to the core, and probably assume (pretty accurately, actually), that nobody has more than that to spare.

But this blog believes in angels. That’s a matter of personal experience. Having experienced a wave of computer meltdowns over the years, and having been rescued every time by a global support system, it seems more than reasonable to believe that there might be someone out there who’s experienced a degree of personal success and would take pride in rescuing a venue in a time of dire need. You can talk to owners Olivier Conan and Vincent Douglas – the brain trust of legendary psychedelic cumbia band Chicha Libre here.

Another way to help is to treat yourself to a night of some of Barbes’ stable of amazing bands, who are playing a benefit concert on June 9 at Drom featuring mystical Moroccan trance-dance band Innov Gnawa, allstar brass pickup group Fanfare Barbès, (with members of Red Baraat, Slavic Soul Party and Banda de los Muertos), elegantly  menacing film noir instrumental icons Big Lazy, Colombian folk reinventors Bulla en el Barrio and torrential Bahian drum orchestra Maracatu NY, Who’s playing when is still being figured out, but everybody on this bill is worth seeing. Advance tix are a bargain at $20; the show starts at 7 PM and goes into the wee hours. It might be the single best concert of the year.

To lose Barbes would be a devastating blow to the arts in New York, but also would be personally devastating as well. In case you haven’t already figured it out, Barbes is New York Music Daily’s local – notwithstanding the fact that this blog isn’t based in Park Slope.

Sure, if Barbes closes, some of the younger and most popular acts can find gigs elsewhere. But there’s definitely no other place in New York that would provide a home where trumpeter Ben Holmes and accordionist Patrick Farrell could workshop their wickedly creepy Conqueror Worm Suite…or where resonator guitarist Mamie Minch could collaborate with film noir soundtrack maven Steve Ulrich…or where klezmer clarinet wizard Michael Winograd could pull together a band and figure out how he’s going to record all the amazing material he’s written over the past year.

Or where a rustic Greek rembetiko band called Que Vlo-ve could morph into one of this city’s mightiest and most menacing heavy psych bands, Greek Judas. Or where bands like Balkan brass funksters Slavic Soul Party, or western swingers Brain Cloud, or Romany guitar jazz reinventor Stephane Wrembel could play weekly residencies on off nights that would become legendary in Brooklyn history. In an era where spaces that support the arts are being displaced right and left by yuppie greed and status-grubbing, we need Barbes like never before. Hit their Indiegogo page,  tell your rich friends if you have any, and see you at Drom on June 9. 

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