Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Venue Review: The Charleston

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Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Address: 174 Bedford Ave. (between 7th & 8th)
Size: Small
Directions: L to Bedford
Website: [MySpace]

Acoustics: D-
Booking: B-
Helpfulness to bands: C
Atmosphere: A-

Acoustics - The acoustics in the Charleston are atrocious. It's an unfinished basement and it sounds like an unfinished basement. Which is great if you're nostalgic for your friends' bands' shows in high school (and sometimes I am) but not if you actually want to hear the music. Moreover, when I've been there, the sound engineer on duty has done little to fix the situation, often making it worse by basically not paying any attention to the bands.

Booking - The Charleston isn't too hard to book, but they are surprisingly concerned with draw for such a crappy venue. Which is fine, of course - they want to make money, but it certainly doesn't add any joy to playing there. They do seem to encourage bands to find a logical line-up and will give bands as many slots as they want for their friends to play, which avoids some of the problems I mentioned at Lit Lounge (and many other venues I have yet to write up) where you have death metal and indie pop bands playing back to back. That happens at the Charleston, but not as much as some other spots.

Helpfulness - Did I mention the sound guy doesn't pay attention? Because let's start there. The venue is really not accommodating to bands or their audiences, and does little other than allow them to show up and play. The upside is that they are somewhat flexible in their arrangements. However, they have hardly any equipment to speak of, so you'll have to bring everything along.

Atmosphere - Well, like I said, it's good for your nostalgia for the shows in your friends' parents' houses' basements that you went to when you were 15 (assuming you were into music back then), and that's actually not a bad feel. It's very legitimate, there is no gimmick, and that's how an indie rock venue should be.

That said, the visibility is awful - there's no stage so you can't see the band unless a.) you're standing in the front row or b.) either you or the band is freakishly tall. Also, if you're a band, beware - most of the times I've been in the Charleston, there's been severe amounts of water dripping from the pipes above - I don't know if there are actual leaks or if they just collect a lot of moisture, but it's a miracle we haven't all been electrocuted, standing in puddles while hooked up to amplifiers. Well, I guess in that sense, it takes you back the high school basement shows too. And we survived those. Mostly.

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