Venue by Venue: The Rock Shop

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Have a long enough conversation about the Brooklyn live music scene and you’ll probably encounter the name Skippy. Over the past few years Jack McFadden, aka “Skippy,” put South Brooklyn venues Union Hall and The Bell House on the map, roping in acts like The New Pornographers, The National and Fleet Foxes.

This summer he left that gig and almost immediately turned up at The Rock Shop, the new Park Slope venue on 4th Avenue (formerly lesbian dance club CattyShack). He’s brought acts like The Posies, The Wrens and Beach Fossils to the intimate stage since its opening in August, while booking other rooms like Littlefield on the side. But yesterday, he formally announced that he and former Knitting Factory talent buyer Chris White, have formed a new talent buying company, Tiger Mountain Presents. In addition to booking The Rock Shop, Tiger Mountain is now the head booker at Santos Party House in downtown Manhattan, and is booking shows at Littlefield with in-house talent buyer Mads Black Just-Olesen. (They also recently booked Jens Lenkman at The Green Building at 450 Union, but both shows, Dec. 9 and Dec. 10, are sadly sold out!)

With a capacity of 125, The Rock Shop is significantly smaller than Bell House (around 500) and only slightly larger than Union Hall (around 100). So it makes sense that McFadden would need an outlet for some of the bigger acts he’s used to booking. Littlefield, which opened its Gowanus doors last spring, has a 300-person capacity. Santos can fit 470 sweaty bodies upstairs and 250 downstairs.

But back to The Rock Shop. Last week I caught a performance there from Thurston Moore’s noisey three-piece, Northampton Wools. When you walk in, the first thing you notice about the place is the sound. You can’t not notice it. It is loud in there. Not scary-crackling-deafening loud, but heart-beating-to-the-bassline loud. Armhair-wavering loud. Am-I-inside-the-speaker loud. LOUD loud.

But in a very, very good way.

So good, that seeing Northampton Wools in any other setting probably wouldn’t have worked for me. It was, after all, two dudes tooling around on bass and guitar with knives while a highly caffeinated drummer used everything from a rubber funnel to scrap metal to beat his instrument (all while holding a triangle in his teeth). This went on for around 40 minutes. That kinda music requires a little more than your run-of-the-mill PA.

The room helped–it’s easy to fall into a noise-induced trance when you’re crammed into a black box so dark that the only option, scenery-wise, is the stage. Between the sound and the room, I’m not sure a single person blinked or moved, myself included, for the entire 40 minutes. We just stared in mouth-open awe.

So The Rock Shop: small, dark and excellent. There are decent beers on tap (nothing compared to beer garden Mission Delores next door of, course). Upstairs there’s bar food, flat screen TVs rocking sports, a pool table and a patio.

The Rock Shop
249 4th Avenue (between Union and Carrol)
(718) 230-5740

Erin Griffith lives in Boerum Hill. She is the keyboard player for Team Genius and a big fan of lots of bands, probably even yours. She has a travel blog too. Photo by Nplanet via Flickr.

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