SubculturePosted: June 11, 2013
“How’s everyone doing—is everyone holding their water? When there’s a long set, sometimes people need a pee break.” Ever the thoughtful one, bandleader Laila Biali surveyed the audience an hour into the last Friday night of her May residency at Subculture, a venue in its debut month. Pressing down on the piano pedals barefoot, she displayed equal freedom in her voice as she sang, joined by drummer Ben Wittman, electric bassist Chris Tarry and violinist Zach Brock.
Downstairs from the Culture Club, the new venue differs from most other jazz-presenting places in the city in that it appears spacious, clean and well-ventilated, despite its subterranean setting. The chairs set up in rows make Subculture feel like a casual small auditorium, laid-back with its industrial, urban interior design. Rather than showcase its name on the stage backdrop, the club drilled a huge sign onto the wall behind the bar, visible immediately upon entering the room.
I also noticed the name engraved into a tile lining the wall of the ladies room, along with tiles holding carefully considered images to match the overall design. The restroom is between the wheelchair accessible and men’s room in the back corner by the bar. Strangely, the door marked with a sign of a stick figure in a wheelchair had little behind it that made it distinctly accessible. It lacked the requisite grab bars, among other necessities. Essentially, it was a nice bathroom for one, instead of with two stalls and sinks like the shared women’s room.
Having just returned from a trip home to beautiful and comfortable Los Angeles, I was in a sulk about being back in this humid and congested city. Seeing that it was a pleasant night out, I decided to walk up a subway stop or two after Laila’s show. On my stroll through Greenwich Village, I ran into a couple guys who were headed to Blue Note to see one of our friends play. Another musician friend then ran into us, on his way to catch the train to Jazz Standard from the Bar Next Door. This happens in LA … never.
I’ll remember why I love New York on the days when I’m walking up to my tiny place, having to step skillfully between a giant cockroach and a condom on the stairs. Seydina from Senegal tells us how to say, “Where’s the restroom?” in his mother tongue, Wolof –