There's a new kid in town on the live music scene, and it's here to give it's siblings a run for their money. Lo and behold, it's not in the scenesterish Union Square environs, nor is it a Times Square haunt, nor a ballroom or converted theater. Nope, get a load of this. It's an abandoned pool on the edge of nowhere, beyond Williamsburg, in Brooklyn: McCarren Park Pool.
Being in Williamsburg, the hamlet of hipness defined, it should have come as no surprise that McCarren would be the hotspot of summer 2006. But who would guess that a decrepit old community pool, all cracked concrete, chipped paint, spraypainted walls, and splintered wood beams, would be the draw to NYC for some of the biggest names in alt rock today. Not I. But Ron Delsener sure did.
One of the touring industry's biggest heavy-hitters, Ron Delsener Presents (a division of Live Nation, formerly Clear Channel Entertainment), saw its potential as a fantastic performance space for their more cutting edge artists. All that would be needed to restore the pool to its former glory is a mere $40M. (Yikes!)
To get the fundraising ball rolling, 2005 saw the first performance in the space -- an experimental dance project. But 2006 is when it finally reached a wider audience. With free "Pool Party" concerts each weekend, featuring the likes of Beirut, Deerhoof, The Detroit Cobras, and other up-and-comers, hipsters have come out of the woodwork to enjoy a summer flush with free music. Then come the ticketed concerts, like Bloc Party, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Shins, Neko Case, Gov't Mule & Wolfmother, and you've got a venue that registers on the radar in a really big way. The booking agent is giving Irving and Hammerstein a run for their money, being that the pool can accommodate everything from a nice, intimate evening to a massive sold-out crowd of 5K (i.e. Bloc Party or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs). Mighty impressive for an upstart in need of a serious face lift.
Pictured: Iron & Wine, Questlove, Deerhoof, Bloc Party
I've already been to 3 shows there in the last month, and have another 3 to look forward to before the end of summer. Huzzah, I'm happy to head back. With its clear-as-a-bell sound, and setup that allows you to head right up to the very front, or pull up a beach blanket and relax anywhere across the pool, it's fit for most anyone's concert-going preferences. Just don't forget to drop a buck in the buckets at the entrance, so McCarren can get the refurbishing it deserves.
A word on transportation, which I found a bit daunting my first time. Take the L train to the Bedford stop, which sneaks up on you quickly, so keep your eye out. Walk Northeast from 7th St up Bedford. Continue beyond 12th St. along the baseball diamond that is the first of McCarren Park's many playfields, and continue beyond the second playfield containing the jogging track. The pool is the large, brick red structure just beyond the track, at the intersection of Bedford, Nassau and Lorimer streets. You can bring blankets and picnic stuff, but leave the booze at home, as you can get Brooklyn Brewery's many beers on tap for $5 a cup. (The Weiss Bier is particularly good on a sweltering hot summer afternoon.) Too hot for comfort and the beer isn't cooling enough? Soak yourself on the slip-and-slide, and get in touch with your inner Peter Pan. Or further relive your childhood with a rousing game of kickball between sets.