This week saw the grand opening of Brooklyn’s newest musical trinket, Rough Trade NYC. The record store-cum-café-cum-music hall is the youngest offspring of London-based record label, Rough Trade, a title synonymous with indie music since the late ‘70s.
In an ostensibly bold venture – or, perhaps even a statement of defiance amid the steady demise of the recording industry – Rough Trade NYC straddles some 15,000 square feet of warehouse space in Williamsburg, a neighborhood where square footage is now something a commodity. The record store boasts thousands of CDs and vinyl records, taking in the old, the new, the renowned and the obscure. Indeed, it’s a virtual Zion for the music nut. Then there’s the 250-person music venue, with the appearance of a classic, albeit boutique rock club, complete with low ceiling and industrial fixtures for optimal noise reflection.
Although the music fellowship of New York, and by extension the rest of the music world ought to be thrilled by the arrival of Rough Trade NYC, it does invite a couple of questions:
Firstly, is there anything even close to a demand for such a lavish supply of CDs and records? In a day and age where tangible music distribution is seemingly extinct, it’s difficult to imagine anything less than a bean-counter’s nightmare for the record store. Secondly, what sort of foot-response could the music venue expect to garner with the already pervasive Bowery Presents presiding over its roster? Will it be more of the same, or will Rough Trade NYC have a mantra all its own?
Make no mistake – the Rough Trade label is a storied one: From its humble, West-London beginnings in the late ‘70s, it went on and became home to The Smiths, Mazzy Star, Pulp, The Strokes and Arcade Fire. Perhaps its foray into New York is only natural, overdue even. Perhaps the Rough Trade name will itself restore a certain mystique to New York’s live music scene – a mystique it appears to have lacked since the turn of the century.
Only time will tell, of course. But, going famously, Rough Trade NYC will do all that and more.
Godspeed. . . .
Article by Francis Bell