Greenpoint, Brooklyn was once upon a time known as the Garden Spot of the World. Even though since the Civil War, the docks of Greenpoint have housed huge warehouses and iron works (the Civil War ship The Monitor was built on the dock at the end of Monitor Street), the many parks and tree-lined streets that make-up this most northern of Brooklyn neighborhoods has always caused a continuous stream of both workers and the well to do to call the area home.
Taking us on a tour of this sometimes forgotten neighborhood is musician and writer Terrence Adams, a Greenpoint transplant, via Dayton, Ohio, who has made this “Garden Spot” his home for the past 5 years. When Terrence isn’t writing for his three blogs, Option This Movie, The Freewayers and Victrola Cola, he is playing in multiple bands, among which are The Teenage Prayers and The Parking Lots. Of his music Terrence says “I’ve been playing music since the age of 12 and have been writing original songs since the age of 17 (though God help you if you ever come across those early recordings, holy moly). I’ve been in bands since the moment I realized I could sing and play guitar at the same time.”
What should we know before we go to Greenpoint?
First of all you should be aware that Greenpoint is a predominantly (if not wholly) Polish neighborhood. Though gentrification has poked its ugly head through from Williamsburg in recent years, there is a decidedly toned down hipster vibe, even though there are plenty of hipsters. It’s a family oriented ‘hood and does its best to not get too flashy with its demeanor. There are a ton of little quirks and a lot to get into if you look for it.
Who are your local musical heroes?
Hmmm…if you’re talking local as in New York City there are plenty. Nicole Atkins is an amazing singer songwriter, Steve Shiffman and the Land of No is fantastic, Cynthia Hopkins (better known to some from her band Gloria Deluxe) is a fantastic performance artist, R Stevie Moore is a legend. Atlantis Black was a personal musical hero of mine who tragically passed away two years ago, but she, as a friend and as a musician, influenced a lot of what I do creatively today. Goodness, there are almost too many to count now that I think about it.
What local bands or musicians should we be listening out for?
Well, besides my band The Parking Lots (shameless plug!), you should definitely get into Nicole Atkins as she is, as I said before, amazing. Rachel Lipson is the female equivalent to Leonard Cohen with more social skills and is an extremely talented songwriter. If it’s bands you want I highly advise checking in on the group Father Figures as well as West Dakota, who are the second coming of Elf Power. Now, given, not all of these guys live in Greenpoint, but they play in Greenpoint, which is the…well…point? Right, yes, the point, exactly.What are your favorite music venues and where should we eat and drink around there?
There are plenty of places to play in Greenpoint, but only a few that are really worth your energy. It’s on the fringe of the ‘hood (it’s in Ridgewood after all), but Silent Barn is the place to go if you dig the loud and proud music. Just think of what it would be like if your high school prom were taken over by squatters with boomboxes and bad hair and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what that place is all about. Warsaw is a solid standby for when the bigger acts (Wilco played there recently) come through. There’s Bar Matchless on Manhattan Avenue, which books music every night of the week and is very open to bands and musicians who just want to get their feet wet playing live. Coco66 on Greenpoint Avenue is an up and coming venue that is starting to gain some serious recognition. Hmmm…my personal stand by (though it’s right on the edge of Williamsburg and Greenpoint) is Pete’s Candy Store. It’s the place where I cut my teeth playing live and it’s the place I always return to so I can hash out new material.
If you want good sushi, go to Kyoto Sushi on Nassau Avenue, which has amazing dinner specials and high quality eats. If you want to be seen, hit up Enid’s on Manhattan Avenue, where the food is good and the drinks are generally reasonable, just watch out for hip-hop night on the weekends, as the sight of a hundred white kids trying to dance to Notorious B.I.G. can leave scars on your retinas if you don’t look away fast enough. For a toned down but classy vibe, check out Manhattan Inn on, you guessed it, Manhattan Avenue, they’ve got a piano and everything. If you want dives with cheap beer and sports, check out Boulevard on Meeker Avenue and if you like dives with cheap beer and artsy films check out Daddy’s over on Graham Avenue.
Okay, now I’m starting to feel like a Zagat’s guide. I would advise also checking out any and all Polish restaurants, as the majority of them are amazing and low priced. Basically just wander around and experiment, you’ll find something that suits you just fine.
Any local music festivals or events we should put on our calendar?
Anytime The Parking Lots play a show, throw it on your calendar! As far as festivals, there are always good little street fairs and block parties going on where DJs and live bands frequently bring the ruckus. I advise putting your ear to the ground and finding out what’s what. Every Tuesday in August the amazing Cynthia Hopkins is playing a solo show at Pete’s Candy Store, so throw that on your calendar for sure.
Is there a “Greenpoint sound”? Or is there a community/scene vibe in the city?
There’s not really a “Greenpoint sound” so to speak. I mean, it’s a community full of culture, music and art, so to pigeonhole it into one specific label or box would be selling it short. I would say that more than anything the neighborhood is full of artists who do it themselves and create not just for the sake of creating, but to better the world around them…except for the creepy Omen-like kid who lives down the street from me, that little dude gives me the yips.
There is more of a community here than a scene. The families that live here and the long and storied history of the area make you feel a sense of belonging to a wide ranging genealogy of sorts, if that makes sense. I personally love it.
What’s your perfect night out in Greenpoint?
You mean besides drinking beer on my roof? Well, let’s see. Start out going to Kyoto for dinner, then bop on over to see what’s shakin’ at Matchless and Enid’s. If there’s music to be seen I’ll go check in at Pete’s Candy Store or Coco66. If there’s not music to be seen I’ll check in at Boulevard for a night cap.
Any other things that are a must see and do in Greenpoint?
Go to Monsignor McGolrick Park between Nassau Avenue and Driggs off Russell Street. It’s a beautiful little park where the neighborhood families go to hang out. It’s the antithesis to the meat market that McCarren Park has become. I sometimes spend entire afternoons there sitting on a bench and reading a book. It’s calm and lovely.
What is your favorite city/venue to play on the road and what place has the craziest fans?
Oh lord, that’s a tough one. There are multiple places that I love playing in. I’m not sure if it’s still there, but JJ’s Bohemia in
Chattanooga, Tennessee is an awesome little rock club. The people in that city are some of the nicest I’ve ever come across. I’d also say that Chicago has some fairly fantastic music fans and some fairly fantastic music venues (Schubas has amazing sound and treats bands with respect). The Rumba Café in Columbus, Ohio is a really great club as well, good music fans and really, really cheap beer.
What’s the best roadside food you’ve found?
Well, it’s kind of a crapshoot when you’re on the road. You’re pretty much married to whatever horrifying gas station and/or fast food is located off the next exit. That being said, if you have a little time, go to Corky’s Rib’s & BBQ in Memphis, Tennessee. That place serves up some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had…ever. Outside of that, I’ve always been a big fan of Arby’s. That five for five deal is nuts.
Pete’s Candy Store
709 Lorimer Street, Brooklyn, NY – (718) 302-3770
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557 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn, NY – (718) 383-5333
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66 Greenpoint Avenue, Brooklyn, NY – (718) 389-7392
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161 Nassau Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11222-4023 – (718) 383-8882
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