Not an habitué of nightclubs, boîtes, or other dens of musical iniquity — I have played 4 times at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge since it opened. In case you didn’t know, this is the “it” place of the new millenium. A club (in the expensively refurbished premises of the former Village Gate) where music, high-toned classical, alt classical, and bands comingle, and drinks are served. It’s caught the attention of the Establishment. Countless mentions and reviews in the New York Times (almost to a point of parody — LPR performances are more often covered than concerts at Carnegie). I first played as an opening act for Max Richter. The place was full of fans — his. And that’s been a strategy for Ronen Givony, one of the LPR masterminds — start an evening with some relatively friendly new classical and follow with music of greater commercial appeal.
LPR is not without parallel elsewhere. The Yellow Lounge in Berlin — although held in changing venues and supported by Deutsche Grammophon. And, in London, Limelight and some events at the much larger Roundhouse.
In New York, I’ve played at John Zorn’s converted Chinese restaurant The Stone. It’s hip (?) but not as swanky as LPR, and no refreshments to wash down the art. Sonic conditions in these “alternative” venues may not be as fine as uptown concert halls. I’ve usually amplified subtly to give a bit of added ressonance. The impact of the performances is something else. After I played Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time at the Poisson Rouge, after nearly an unbroken hour of music, the listeners — many of whom had never heard of Messiaen before and never heard anything like this music before — stood and cheered.