Monday, August 10, 2009

Venue Review: Cake Shop

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Location: LES, Manhattan
Address: 152 Ludlow St. (between Stanton and Rivington)
Size: Medium-small
Directions: F/V to 2 Ave, walk two blocks east and one block south

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

Acoustics - The acoustics in Cake Shop are surprisingly good for basement venue. The sound engineers are mostly a pretty talented bunch, and I guess the PA system must be OK too. Mostly they achieve good sound by cranking everything up about 30 decibels too high. Which shouldn't work, but it does. I've seen a lot of technical problems go down at Cake Shop, but for the most part, it's one of the best-sounding venues of its kind.

Booking - Cake Shop seems a little cliquey at times, but it doesn't have to be. In my experience, they are pretty responsive and helpful, though occasionally difficult to reach. Of course, you have to be aware that it's a pretty highly regarded venue and getting slots there can be very competitive. The folks there are savvy, profit-driven (not a bad thing when you run a small business) and good at getting trendy bands when they want them, so if you don't draw, you're likely to be out of luck.

Helpfulness - As I mentioned, the venue can be a bit disorganized and out of touch, but compared to a lot of places around town, they've always come off as pretty professional to me. Accordingly, they are reasonably accommodating to bands. Because live music is their focus, you get more attention. The flipside, however, is that they have set ways of doing things and aren't quite as flexible as spaces where the bands are just one extra component.

Atmosphere - Since I first moved to New York, I've felt at home at Cake Shop. There are nights when it's so crowded with hipsters that you can barely get in the door. But when that's not the case, Cake Shop feels down to earth and independent. The decor downstairs, where the shows take place, involves some random Christmas lights and not much else. Upstairs, you can buy cake, coffee and records. Basically, it's all the greatest things in life under one roof.

Small note - there's not much of a stage, so it's hard to see the bands. I recommend getting there early. Also try going around to the side of the stage, which is often not crowded since people are afraid that you have to be super-special to stand back there. (You don't.)

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