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Exclusive Premiere: Emilyn Brodsky Gets Meaty in “Hands Off the Stove”

Singer-songwriter Emilyn Brodsky isn’t afraid to show her guts. On the cover of the NYC-native’s third record, Emilyn Brodsky’s Digestion, she wears a Slim Goodbody-esque leotard printed with a neon digestive tract, a visual theme carries over to three stop-motion videos she’s made to accompany the album’s singles, all of which touch on something body-related. The first, for “You Read Me Wrong,” features entrails made out of clay; the second, “Yes, Children,” stars braided snakes of hair come to life. And in her latest, “Hands Off the Stove”, which the Voice is excited to premiere, twenty pounds of raw, animated meat hammer home Brodsky’s obsession with musculature, bodily processes, food, and our culture of consumption.

Though she grew up in the city, Brodsky spent summers in Montana on her mother’s family cattle farm. After touring for three months behind her second LP, 2014’s Emilyn Brodsky Eats Her Feelings, Brodsky returned to Montana — this time working at a family-owned meat processing plant. “I did do some actual disemboweling, which is super emotionally intense,” she tells the Voice. “It’s the things you don’t think about. Body heat — these animals are super hot and you’re cutting them open, so it gets incredibly steamy. And you don’t think about how long muscles twitch after the animal is dead. It’s beautiful and important and also fucking nuts.”

That confrontation of reality is a central theme in “Hands Off the Stove,” and Digestion as a whole. Amid quirky orchestral pop production and resplendent horns, Brodsky bleats the line “If you’re willing to kill, is it really a good intention?” She says it’s about a newfound willingness to be judged on her actions, rather than her intentions. “It’s always cathartic to ask that question in a loud voice,” says Brodsky. “If your action is murder, is death, that all ripples out. With meat specifically, it’s very obvious how much compartmentalization is necessary for people to eat the way they do.”

All of the beef used in the video came from her family’s farm, but sat in a freezer for nearly a decade. Brodsky and her team — video director Hailey Wojcik and photographer Brian Galderisi — had to spread it out on the lawn prior to shooting so that it would thaw more quickly.

Though the video reads literally, Digestion is a double-entendre; Brodsky uses the physical conversion of sustenance to energy as a metaphor for processing relationships and experiences throughout her lifetime. “Hands Off the Stove” sees her serenading her inner child, the attention-seeking progeny of a politician and a showgirl. “I refer to this song as the self-help anthem,” she says. “Part of it is learning to trust that your voice matters, and to use it; to write something that can be read as personal, but can also be felt more globally.” But Brodsky admits she’s always front-and-center in her art, winking. “I don’t want you to think that I don’t know that this is just an extension of my beautiful, beautiful narcissism.”

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Sad13’s Sadie Dupuis on Getting Back to Her Pop Music Roots

Sadie Dupuis has found another way to write a pop song. She doesn’t sing about broken dreams, jealous lovers, or shallow hook-ups. On Slugger, her solo debut as Sad13, the Speedy Ortiz bandleader mines pop song structure but instead shares positive personal messages about consent, self-worth, solidarity, and breaking away from broken relationships.

“I wanted to make something that I felt I could stand totally behind, just to put some pop music into the world that I felt was more positive,” Dupuis says. Growing up in New York City, she latched onto pop station Z100 early on, despite the fact that her parents were “cool punks — they were not into radio pop; I could not get enough of the Spice Girls and Britney Spears and Aqua,” Dupuis says. “As a kid, I didn’t really notice anything was off. I was willfully ignorant, maybe, of some of the negative messages being transmitted to me. And that’s still music that I sing along to even if I find it lyrically troublesome.”

By the time she was thirteen, Dupuis’ tastes had shifted slightly — her interest in independent labels and college rock blossomed, and she’d started playing guitar, which lent itself more readily to joining a rock or punk band. A decade later, while teaching songwriting at a summer camp, she started penning songs under the moniker Speedy Ortiz, which she had intended to be a solo project; the Cop Kicker EP and a full-length, The Death of Speedy Ortiz, were self-recorded and featured Dupuis on every instrument, including cello and banjo. But as Speedy Ortiz evolved to become a full band, the folksier vibes fell away and the project congealed around a Nineties-indebted alt-rock sound. “Some of the [early] songs are not obvious rock songs. It feels harder to do that with the group that we have as Speedy,” says Dupuis. “I used [Slugger] as a way to work out some things that wouldn’t work for that group. If it’s just me, I can do whatever I’m drawn to.”

For Dupuis, that meant revisiting the pop music she loved as a kid. “That’s part of my early musical DNA,” she explains. “I wanted to make a record that reflected that part of my tastes.” After collaborating with Minneapolis-based rapper Lizzo to write rallying-cry single “Basement Queens” (a song that, appropriately for both Dupuis and Lizzo, champions women self-producing their own records), it didn’t take long to put together material for Slugger — it was written, recorded and produced in about two weeks.

The virtuosic twists and knots of Dupuis’ signature guitar style are still there, but aren’t always front-and-center, as on the synth-heavy chorus of “Just A Friend,” which calls out jealous lovers and highlights the importance of friendship between genders, or “Tell U What,” on which Dupuis informs an abusive partner, “I’m not worth your violence.” The centerpiece of the record, and perhaps its greatest success, is “Get A Yes,” an electrifying blueprint for consent; its effervescent beat manages to capture all of the fluttery feelings of first forays into physicality with a crush, while her playful vocal also demands respect. For anyone who’s ever held the position that having to ask kills the mood, “Get A Yes” is absolute proof that talking about sexual situations before winding up in them can actually be part of the fun.

Elsewhere on the record, Dupuis demands equal pay as both an artist and a woman (“Coming Into Powers,” featuring Ithaca-based rapper Sammus) — two things that need not be mutually exclusive, as she points out when she rails against tokenizing social quotas on the rollicking “Line Up.” At every turn, Dupuis’ carefully crafted anthems sparkle with confidence and consciousness, but Dupuis insists she needs a band behind her to pull off a live performance. The Slugger tour, which stops at Baby’s All Right on December 13, sees Dupuis playing keys, with three additional bandmates. “I’ve never played synth in a band before. I definitely did my fair share of staying up all night practicing before we left,” she says. Even if the tour enlists other musicians to flesh out the songs live, there’s no question that Slugger is every bit Dupuis’ doing.

“I guess it’s not always clear who’s playing what on the Speedy Ortiz records,” she admits. “I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and assume that it’s not a sexist thing, but I think people often assume the more challenging parts are the male guitar players. [For Slugger], it’s really on me. If something’s really sick, you know I did it!”

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How Greta Kline’s Honest Songs Got Her to Big Stages

As the songwriting heart of Brooklyn indie pop band Frankie Cosmos, Greta Kline cobbles rallying cries from the awkward detritus of bad thoughts and painfully sincere observations, a potent tactic that’s made her wispy voice one of the loudest among her fellow earnest Brooklynites. On Sunday, she made that point clear at her band’s biggest show yet — a homecoming gig at Webster Hall, the final date of a three-week tour.

Her once tenderly strummed, introspective anthems arrived with an almost furious momentum, having evolved into nimble, rousing rockers suited to the full-fledged band Frankie Cosmos have become since Kline’s earliest solo releases on Bandcamp. The near sold-out crowd hung on every word, Kline’s wiry frame and short-shaved hair managing to convey both the fearlessness and the vulnerability that have been hallmarks of her work.

Kline, 22, has a fanbase mostly composed of her peers, and everyone at the show was still reeling from the election results earlier in the week. Having grown up in New York, Kline has a wide network of friends and family (her parents, actors Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, looked on from the VIP balcony) that she said gives her both comfort and bit of anxiety whenever she plays in the city. She thanked anyone she could think of between songs, as if accepting an Academy Award, sounding like she might be paranoid she’d leave someone out.

It was not where she expected to be when she started recording as a teenager in her bedroom. “I wasn’t really planning on being a musician,” she tells the Voice. “It was just something I was doing as a hobby.” She saw herself playing solo at tiny DIY spaces, like Shea Stadium and the now-defunct Death by Audio, but quickly conquered those modest spaces by insinuating herself into the scene.

Kline’s admiration for her cohort crops up in her tendency to name-drop; on “Embody,” from Frankie Cosmos’s cheekily named sophomore LP Next Thing, she references Jonah Furman from Krill, Emily Sprague of Florist, and Gabby Smith of Eskimeaux (who once played synths in Frankie Cosmos), ending with a frenzied, hopeful prophecy: “We’ll embody all the grace and lightness.”

Kline, Sprague, Furman, and Smith are both creating and responding to a scene that values their optimism and directness. Simple melodies once considered too twee for the mainstream now land solidly, and Kline and her friends have learned to twist seemingly obvious or overly sentimental nuggets into compositions that use space and dissonance for heavier impact. Kline’s salient observations, tempered with a cautious optimism but devoid of sloganeering, is the closest thing to a brand that Frankie Cosmos has, flash-minted in the scant years between the release of their 2014 debut album Zentropy and Next Thing, which came out in April.

Kline’s homage doesn’t stop with the shout-outs. At the merch table Sunday, she offered a tour-only covers cassette, with songs by her boyfriend Aaron Maine (of Porches), Krill, Baby Mollusk, Rivergazer, and more. “Whenever I get really excited about a song I just want to play it, and it always affects my writing for a while, having figured out the chord progression or whatever,” Kline says. “I hope that everyone who sees the tracklist goes and checks out the originals; I wanted to tell people about these bands.” It’s not available for download, though — the cassette format was deployed to make the release feel like a special, secret artifact, passed between friends.

Her songs, so often devoted to musing on friendship and youth, can sound deceptively starry-eyed, but close listens to her carefully considered lyrics reveal discontent. Her self-deprecating streak runs deep, but there’s a confidence to her vision that sustains her work. “I recently realized, like in the last few days, that confidence almost goes hand in hand with having no self-esteem at all,” Kline jokes. “I can do whatever I want [because] nothing matters, and in a way that’s where the confidence comes from.”

Despite having toured the better part of this year, Frankie Cosmos have half of their next album arranged already, because Kline is constantly writing. “I’m really young and my ideas are changing all the time. I want to document the way that I’ve written about the same things over the last few years and how it’s changed for me,” she says. Her rawness, and resulting openness, have been the driving factors in those changes — the ones that ultimately brought her success. “I’m really guided by interacting with people,” she says. “I feel so new to the world.”

 

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Kim Gordon on Her New Project With Bill Nace: ‘It’s About Fucking With People’s Heads’

During their earliest shows as Body/Head, Kim Gordon and Bill Nace would open each of their improvised sets by playing the same menacing, dissonant chords, the reverb thrumming between them until Gordon called out in a strained, sudden voice: “The show…is…over!” The phrase was borrowed from a Christopher Wool painting; Gordon would repeat this mantra as the ragged interplay of Body/Head’s dual guitars contradicted her words, the sound building into an improvisational melee. To begin a show by sounding its death knell is exactly the kind of irony that’s marked much of Gordon’s output, but Body/Head specifically upend rock performance, taking the typical cacophonous spectacle and turning it inside out.

“I just like the idea that people don’t expect to see a show start that way,” Gordon tells the Voice. “[It’s about] fucking with people’s expectations.” A version of “The Show Is Over” appears on the duo’s latest record, No Waves, out on Matador on November 11 with a release show at National Sawdust the following day.

Unlike their studio-improvised debut album, 2013’s Coming Apart, No Waves is a recording of a 2014 live performance at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee. “Kim Gordon’s been pushing the boundaries of music, performance, art, and politics for many years now, and Bill Nace has been pushing the limits of guitar sounds for years, too,” says the festival’s founder, Ashley Capps. “[Our goal is] crossing, blending, and ignoring traditional genre boundaries, so they were an obvious choice for us. It was a scorching performance, too.”

The recording of that performance merges and builds on the songs from Coming Apart, unleashing the band’s propulsive arc. On No Waves, Gordon’s familiar wails complement guitars that splinter off on jagged tangents, morph, and meet back up; the music is challenging but meditative. It’s a portrait of Body/Head that feels more viscerally accurate to the spirit of the project; as Gordon explains, “The heart of the band is playing live.”

Other than the band members themselves, no one has heard Body/Head play live as much as Aaron Mullan, of the New York neo-folk outfit Tall Firs. Nace says Mullan has seen almost all their shows; he’s now their main sound engineer. “They are both just such killer players — it’s a two-person all-star band,” Mullan says. “For improvising musicians, you can’t really rely on muscle memory and fake your way through the show. [With Body/Head] the walls melt, the floor implodes, and Bill and Kim appear to be floating in a sea of liquid metal.”

Nace, whose own career has focused on experimental guitar work, says he and Gordon had “zero goals” when they began to play as Body/Head but quickly established an easy give-and-take. “We really were just playing in the basement for ourselves, but we hit the ground running,” he says.

Since 2010 Gordon had been recording their jam sessions on a slimline cassette deck; at one point, her then-husband, Thurston Moore, discovered the tapes and mistook them for demos from another band working with his Ecstatic Peace label. By the time Body/Head had scheduled their first European tour, in 2012, Gordon and Moore were involved in a messy divorce that included negotiating the dissolution of Sonic Youth, one of the most respected and beloved alt-rock acts in the genre’s history.

“I feel like [Coming Apart] is such a heavy, dark record in a lot of ways, but it was actually a fun process to make that record,” Nace says. “We were a new band, just learning to play with each other. I had my own stuff going on, and I was really close with [Gordon’s] family, so that happening was a big deal, but of course it’s not all of it.”

For her part, Gordon was relieved that no one expected Body/Head to be a Sonic Youth redux. “It was kind of freeing and fun to play with Bill in this way,” she says. “I didn’t want people to yell out ‘Sonic Youth!’ or [ask for] the songs. In fact, before we played New York for the first time, I tweeted, ‘Lower your expectations.’ ” If anything, No Waves raises the bar again and finds the band hitting its stride.

It’s the ephemeral nature of Body/Head’s music that makes No Waves so compelling; there’s space in the music not only to interpret where the duo has been, but also to imagine where they’re going. “[Our sound has] congealed a bit, [but] it’s still this living thing that’s changing and going through different configurations,” says Gordon. “There’s no way we can repeat [what we’ve done].”

Body/Head play National Sawdust on November 12 at 10 p.m.

 

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Picking Favorites: The Players Who Keep Banjo Moving Forward

No player in the history of the banjo has done more to free the instrument from the confines of bluegrass than New York native Béla Fleck. His innovative playing has melded the banjo with pop, classical, and folk; he’s collaborated with Dave Matthews Band, Phish, and fusion legend Chick Corea, among others. His solo work and long-running progressive bluegrass project the Flecktones have earned him Grammy nominations in more categories than any other instrumentalist. Now he’s brought his wide-ranging practice to Symphony Space for a series of live banjo performances that culminate in a roundtable with four other players on October 23. All of them came to the instrument in roundabout, surprising ways.

Fleck received his first banjo at the age of fifteen, his interest in its sound piqued by Appalachian banjo legend Earl Scruggs’s performance of the Beverly Hillbillies theme song. “It was an existential crisis for me, being an Upper West Side New York kid learning to play the banjo, because it didn’t make sense to anybody around me,” Fleck says with a laugh. “It didn’t even make sense to me!” As a teenager, he sought the expertise of fellow Tri-Stater Tony Trischka, who had just released an influential solo debut, Bluegrass Light, after years of playing in country music ensembles.

“Béla was pretty unforgettable,” Trischka says. “He was sixteen and could already play bluegrass and fiddle tunes. He was interested in some of the weirder stuff I was doing,” which included introducing Middle Eastern–inspired modes and jazz improvisation to traditional bluegrass. Trischka had begun playing banjo in 1963, quickly becoming accustomed to the mocking cries of “Yee-haw!” that followed him whenever he carried his instrument around New York. He’d been honing his craft for nearly a decade when he took Fleck on as a student. “I would jam out on a traditional tune, and he would come back the next week having learned every note. After a few months, it was obvious that he didn’t need lessons.”

Abigail Washburn, another of the panelists, had a very different introduction. In the late Nineties, she was studying Chinese culture at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. “I was obsessed with China, and in that angsty, know-it-all kind of phase you get into in college, I felt America, culturally, had so little to show in comparison,” she remembers. Her friends played casually in a bluegrass band, but she had never heard the instrument until, at a party, someone put on a recording of “Shady Grove” by Doc Watson. “When I heard the sound of the banjo as Doc Watson was playing it, I heard something ancient.” Washburn plays an open-backed five-string banjo, down-picking a melody with her fingers while up-picking a fifth, shorter string with her thumb. The technique, called clawhammer, was Watson’s specialty.

The old-time style encapsulates the complicated, difficult history of the instrument itself: the merging of Irish and Scottish immigrant cultures with the American slave trade, whose victims brought banjo-like instruments, played for centuries prior across Africa, onto plantations across the South. Blackface minstrels popularized the five-string banjo in the 1830s; a century later, Scruggs would play his three-finger up-picking style at the Grand Ole Opry, defining the sound of bluegrass. “The way [all these things] fused together is incredibly powerful — that’s the center of what made blues, jazz, and rock ‘n’ roll,” says Washburn.

Five years after first hearing Doc Watson, Washburn ditched plans to study law in China and secured a record deal to instead tour the country as a musician, including a trip along the Silk Road with her band, the Village, in 2011. She’d married Fleck two years earlier, after meeting him in 2003 at a square dance in Nashville. Their three-year-old son, Juno, already plays a toddler-sized banjo.

In addition to Washburn and Trischka, Fleck has invited Don Vappie and Seamus Egan to the roundtable; Vappie’s jazz- and Creole-style banjo speak to his New Orleans roots, while Egan has been a champion of traditional Irish music. In showcasing a mixture of backgrounds and styles, Fleck hopes to foster respect and understanding for an oft-pigeonholed instrument.

Things have already changed a bit, as Trischka points out: The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons have put banjos near the top of the Billboard 200, while indie fans hear the instrument on records by Sufjan Stevens and Iron & Wine. This innovation is key to the banjo’s survival, says Fleck. “If people are trying to imitate things that have happened in the past, then it’s gonna become a museum piece. The future of it lies in people learning to be themselves on the banjo.”

 

Banjo Roundtable takes place at Symphony Space on October 23.

 

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Best Dance Party to Go Brick and Mortar

From semi-private lofts to verdant groves along the toxin-laden Gowanus Canal, Mister Saturday Night’s Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin have reimagined the dance party with one tenet in mind: Don’t just DJ. Instead, create an atmosphere, an experience, and a community by hosting one-of-a-kind events that feel intimate, not exclusive. When they kicked things off at Santos Party House back in 2009, no one could have predicted that Mister Saturday Night would become such a vital nightlife institution; the duo doggedly sought out venues off the beaten path, like 12-Turn-13 (a former dairy in Clinton Hill that became an artists’ collective), and sold tickets via a loyal mailing list. That made it easy to branch out into a second, family-and-dog-friendly daytime dance party, Mister Sunday. But after years of migrating, it was time to settle down, so Carter and Harkin opened up their bar Nowadays in Ridgewood in the summer of 2015. Now that the pair have fought off rumors that the lush, tree-lined backyard was literally radioactive (which a representative of the EPA quickly debunked), the beat goes on, with a weekly ping-pong tournament, a lecture series, and movie screenings, in addition to the expertly curated house music that has made Mister Saturday Night one of the hottest events in town.

56-06 Cooper Avenue, Ridgewood, Queens

718-386-0111

nowadays.nyc

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Best Pinball Speakeasy Located in the Back of a Laundromat

Though very few New Yorkers look forward to laundry day, Greenpoint’s Sunshine Laundromat provides an escape from the drudgery — in the form of more than twenty vintage pinball machines, a selection of wine and craft beer, prime dog-petting, and a whimsical approach to décor. The coin-op wonderland is presided over by Peter Rose and the laundromat’s de facto mascots — his chocolate labs, Chai and Coco — and even before renovations were complete last January was renowned as one of the city’s best cures for silverball fever, with a carefully curated collection of aficionado favorites. When it reopened on New Year’s Eve, longtime patrons were stunned by the transformation: Gone was the kitschy tiki hut, but through a speakeasy-style door resembling the façade of a typical washer-dryer, a new bar, exposed brick, and sunroof with dramatic views of neighboring St. Anthony–St. Alphonsus Church’s steeple made for a classy update (not to mention room for more pinball). The renovated place is not without its quirks: You’ll still find pregnancy tests and fake mustaches in the vending machines up front, tongue-in-cheek notices posted throughout (a recent one warns patrons of a 100 percent surcharge for service orders on pro-Trump garments), and mosaic tables paying homage to the proprietor’s beloved pups. Just don’t forget to save a few quarters for those stinky socks. 

860 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn

718-475-2055

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Best Boutique for Unique Bowie Gear

Though it stocks recycled-leather handbags, a carefully curated selection of stunning vintage numbers, and basically every accessory a hip rocker gal needs, it’s no secret that David Bowie is the unofficial muse of East Village boutique Love Gang. For those who want to wear their admiration of Bowie on their sleeves — literally — Love Gang goes beyond the basic tee, into territory populated by edgy designers and DIY upstarts. Acrylic cut-out jewelry by Leroy’s Place and one-of-a-kind airbrushed pieces (beach towels, tote bags, and T-shirts) by BlairWear make use of Bowie’s iconic Aladdin Sane look, as do the handmade soaps on offer from Dirty GRL. But diehard fans will want to get their hands on the store’s perennial bestseller: the G.Kero Spaceman button-up, which features an all-over print of kitschy illustrations depicting Bowie in his most fanciful stage wear. It’s also available as a reversible bomber jacket; inside, there’s a collar-to-hem portrait, again with the iconic lightning bolt makeup. Though David Bowie is gone, he lives on in his music — and, thanks to Love Gang, in these threads.

436 East 9th Street, Manhattan

646-489-5001

facebook.com/LoveGangNyc

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Best Feminist Bookstore Located Inside a Laundromat

Passionate about intersectionality, community healing, and sex positivity, Hayley Blatte, Justin Shock, and Monica Yi had been toying with the idea of a collectively-run feminist bookstore or pop-up when they came across the Mermaid Laundromat, which offered to lease them one hundred square feet of space, previously stocked with phone accessories, along the windows that face busy Bushwick thoroughfare Knickerbocker Avenue. The laundromat’s only stipulation was that no food be served, but its owners must have raised an eyebrow ever so slightly as their new tenants rolled out lavender Astroturf and began stocking the floating shelves with BDSM comics, zines depicting hirsute pin-ups — not to mention glow-in-the-dark lube and rose quartz Ben Wa Kegel balls. Blatte regularly attends zine fairs to better rotate the stock of DIY publications like Girl Crush, which features interviews (conducted by women) with a variety of female makers, artists, and musicians. Or Nancy — a fanzine about anxiety, nightmares, and love of Eighties slasher flicks, written by queer authors (a recent issue includes 3-D glasses; Nancy also produces a T-shirt line that Troll Hole stocks). Though its name is a flippant callout to any would-be haters, and its wares decidedly kitschy, Troll Hole takes its mission seriously: It’s dedicated to activism, safer spaces, solutions for self-care, and engagement with community via workshops and open discussions. (Plus free tampons and condoms.) Troll Hole provides a respite — not only from dirty laundry, but as an enclave of empowerment.

226 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn

312-613-5638

trollholenyc.com

 

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Best Rebirth of a DIY Venue

When Market Hotel closed after a police department raid in 2010, it was a wake-up call for renowned indie show promoter Todd P; though he had often been the first to book next-big-thing rock acts, Market Hotel’s demise was a harbinger of what was to come for other DIY spaces Todd had helped found, including Monster Island Basement (evicted in 2011) and 285 Kent (shuttered in 2014). So while the space at the intersection of Myrtle and Broadway sat vacant, Todd P hatched a plan to go legit — which meant scoring an authentic liquor license and widening the entry staircase so showgoers no longer felt like they were risking their lives every time they went to see a band play. After ten months of an abbreviated but spectacular show schedule (incuding Sleater-Kinney, Girlpool, James Chance and the Contortions, Deerhoof, and Parquet Courts), they went on hiatus in mid-October while awaiting a permanent liquor license, which they hope to have in place by year’s end. Let’s hope it’s approved soon, because a decent sound system and bona fide bathrooms make a nice addition to Todd P’s DIY spirit and the dramatic views of the J/M/Z trains as they rocket by through the Bushwick night.

1140 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn

markethotel.org