The original Luna Lounge on Ludlow was a mainstay of up-and-coming NYC bands, and for a while (mid-’90s) there was a real scene — back when Lotion and Nada Surf (the first time) were hot property — and it was a de facto record industry hangout where publicists, A&R types, journalists and bands co-mingled.
In some ways, it was just about perfect. They didn’t charge a cover (bad for bands, good for us), it was conveniently-located, and it always seemed there was someone you knew there. The bouncer treated everyone the same. (General disdain, but in a cool kind of way.) A lot of my friends’ bands played there — I must have seen Muckafurgason play there 30 times — so I was at Luna Lounge a lot. Even after Ludlow Street turned into the nightmare it currently is, it was still a decent place to hang out. When they announced it was closing, it was "there goes the neighborhood" for me.
Now Luna Lounge has reopened in Williamsburg, on a somewhat desolate/commercial block of Metropolitan Ave a couple doors down from Belgian beer emporium, Spuyten Duyvil. So last Friday, instead of going to see the Dears for the ninth time in two years, I checked out opening night — more to case the joint than to see bands Falcon or The Comas.
It is Luna Lounge in name (and owners) only. The original club was tiny, rundown and free — with a good jukebox. The new one is big, nice, charges a cover to see bands (though not always) and has a DJ booth. I mean it when I say big — official capacity is 350 but it looked much bigger than that to me. If the Bowery Ballroom didn’t have the downstairs, they would probably be equal in size. The Bowery is obviously the model for this space: big, dark wood, good sight-lines. There are three booths on either side of the stage at the front, with the sound booth in the middle of the floor at the dividing point the "performance area" and the "bar area." (My terms.) Standing tables are scattered along the periphery, with more in that bar area.
The only thing it is missing (a major minus if you ask me) is an area to escape the bands, if you so desire — something that was welcome at the old Luna Lounge. That and the foosball table. No ratty couches, though, which is a plus. Drink prices might actually be cheaper than the Ludlow location — $5 pints of beer, the same for rail mixed drinks. Both are served in actual glasses. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Luna Lounge’s fancy mixing board looks nice (I know almost nothing about that stuff) and I thought the sound was pretty good — a bit boomy, but you’re going to have that with a room that boxy and big. Vocals, however, sounded extremely tinny for both bands. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because they’re using SM58s for the vocal mikes, or maybe it was where I was sitting (we snagged one of those booths off to the side). The stage was painted flat black, almost looking like it had been covered in construction paper. You would’ve thought they might have put up a red velvet backdrop, as a tip-of-the-hat to the old space.
Friday was a weird scene, and probably not what you’re going to find at the Luna Lounge on a normal night. I’m guessing it was a mix of investors, friends of the owners, people who helped build the place and, probably to a lesser extent, fans of the bands and curious folk like me. As for the bands, I was unfamiliar with Falcon who were pleasant, if somewhat bland, indie rock. Headliners The Comas were better. I’m a fan of their 2004 album, Conductor, but hadn’t really followed them since. They played mostly new material (Conductor‘s follow-up is due in April) which I was unfamiliar with… but good show. My favorite part? The really tall superfan up front pumping his fist to every song.
I’m not sure why owner Rob Sacher felt a need to keep the Luna Lounge name, seeing how it bears no resemblance to the original other than they have live music and serve drinks. It must’ve been easer to secure funding with a "known brand"? Despite this, I’m really glad to have a serious venue so close to my apartment, and plan on going again just as soon as they have a band I want to see. (The Young Knives on March 3 is the likely candidate.) But I don’t see myself stopping in for a drink like I did on Ludlow.
361 Metropolitan Ave. (at Havermeyer)
Brooklyn, NY 11211