In just a few short months, Late Night at Rockwood Music Hall has become something of a phenomenon.
In a city full of recalcitrant talent bookers and apathetic sound men, Ken Rockwood’s Lower East Side venue has been the most artist-friendly venue since opening in 2005.
The stage occupies nearly one fourth of this intimate, brick walled, candle-strewn space, signaling the engaging and enthusiastic staff’s committed to the music.
The recent addition of Matt Basile and Andy Fitzpatrick’s themed after-hour, artist-centric late night jam sessions have been packing the city’s singer/songwriter community into the tiny, sweaty space for since kicking off earlier this summer.
Every week, Late Night picks a year from which performers must cover a song. Last night’s year was 1983, so chosen as everybody’s favorite local drummer’s, Ryan Vaughn, was celebrating his twenty-fourth birthday.
Last night, my singer/songwriter pals Casey Shea, Chris Abad and I hopped a cab down to the LES to get in on the action. By the time we pulled up at 1:15, the place was standing room only, and the sidewalk had become the green room.
The covers were loose, varied, hilarious, and excellent.
Standouts included Matt’s bluesy, mid-tempo rendition of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry, and Wes Hutchinson and Fitzpatrick version of Madness’ “Our House.” Others — Bryan Dunn, Misty Boyce, Wakey! Wakey! — rolled through the year’s Top 100, including whisky soaked versions of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” The Pretender’s “Back On The Chain Gang,” Journey’s “Separate Ways” and Tom Petty’s “You Got Lucky.” The rollicking, rotating backup band included Basile, Fitzpatrick, Jeremiah Birnbaum, Tony Maceli, and young birthday boy, Ryan Vaughn.
The room was still teaming with assorted local scenesters, rabid music fans, and straight-up weirdoes alike when Casey and Andy brought the night to rousing, hilarious end with their dueling duet of Culture Club’s “Do You Really Wanna Hurt Me?”
We poured ourselves back in a cab just as the sun rose over the East Side, humming “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” all the way back to Hell’s Kitchen.