Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Greenpoint Duo Babetown Rock Reopening of Brooklyn Bazaar

Last Friday night, the Brooklyn Bazaar was reincarnated in the former wedding venue/event space Polonaise Terrace at 150 Greenpoint Avenue. The Bazaar was forced to abandon their former location at 165 Banker Street in June of 2015 after being financially outmuscled by BMW, who took over their 23,000 square-foot warehouse. After being forced out, Bazaar owners Belvy Klein and Aaron Broudo set up the Riis Park Beach Bazaar on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, and started searching for a new location for the Brooklyn Bazaar.

They settled on Polonaise Terrace near the intersection of Greenpoint and Manhattan Avenues. The location is drastically different from their last but it affords the Bazaar a funky, cool, and slightly creepy “The Shining meets labyrinthine Polish funhouse” vibe. There are lots of nooks and crannies in the venue, with ping pong, putt putt, and karaoke downstairs, vendors and food (courtesy of The Brooklyn Star’s Joaquin Baca) on the first floor, and music upstairs.

babetown-rocking
Leibowitz and Ross perform as Babetown.

To kick things off for the big reopening last Friday night, the Bazaar did not disappoint, with a musical bill that included local Greenpoint husband-and-wife duo Babetown, Rockaway Beach rockers The Skells, and established indie band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.Babetown consists of husband and wife Danny Ross and Jessica Leibowitz, who met while waiting for a train at the Bedford L stop in 2012.

“I positioned myself near her, hoping something eventful would happen when it did—a train came that was not in service,” Ross said. “So I said ‘Hey look, the train’s not here, probably another twenty minutes’. She turned to me and was not impressed but then we somehow started chatting. Then I literally said ‘Can I get yo digits?’, which I immediately regretted.”

Miraculously, Danny and Jess ended up meeting up that evening at the now defunct Greenpoint Heights and the rest is history. About a year after that, they started Babetown, and soon were married. Although their own original music is surf rock oriented, their first album, 1989 is Hell, is a clever concept piece turning Ryan Adams’ 1989 (Adams’ track-by-track cover of the Taylor Swift album) on its’ head. The record features songs from Ryan Adams’ 2004 album Love is Hell, but done in the style of Taylor Swift. The idea arose one day when the couple was strolling through Greenpoint’s McGolrick Park.

“We were walking through the park, just listening to Ryan’s 1989 when we jokingly said ‘somebody should record Ryan Adams songs in the style of Taylor Swift,’” said Ross. “And then a minute later we decided we were the ones that had to do it. So we did.”

babetown-2
Babetown covers Ryan Adams songs in the style of Taylor Swift.

The album was released August 31, and to Babetown’s delight, was officially approved by Ryan Adams himself with a tweet reading “I LOVE YOU! These covers are SO RAD!!” Friday night’s performance marked the first live show for Babetown, although they say they plan to perform more. Check out their Facebook, SoundCloud, or website for more information.

After a rocking performance from The Skells, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah came out and ran through an energetic set that included material from all four of their records. Some of the highlights included the ethereal and searching “Misspent Youth” and the catchy, danceable gems “Over and Over Again (Lost and Found)” and “Satan Said Dance”. The performance was well-received and had the mirror-lined walls of the former Polonaise Terrace event space reflecting many a hard-dancing soul. Greenpointers was fortunate enough to catch up with CYHSY lead singer Alec Ounsworth and get the scoop on everything from new material to meeting David Byrne.

Interview With Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Frontman Alec Ounsworth

GP: I was looking at your website earlier, you’re doing a ton of house shows right now. How do you find the house show as a venue? Do you find that brings you back to some of your older days, puts you in touch with why you started doing this in the first place?

AO: Yeah! That’s what I like about it. I think it’s amazing, you know, you get shuttled around from one place to another, which is great, but you don’t get that much of a feel for a lot of places if you’re just hitting clubs. When you go to people’s houses and talk to them directly, you get a sense of the community there, at least a glimpse. And I love that, it’s sort of a big part of the reason why I wanted to do this in the first place, to have that interaction.

GP: Have you had any particularly memorable experiences doing these house shows?

AO: It’s usually just the places. But now I have friends out on the West Coast, some people in Toledo, Cleveland, you know all over. And I actually have bonds with them. I feel like In this day and age a lot of people feel like they’re more connected but in fact aren’t. This is an actual connection, I’m a bit traditional in that sense.

alec-singing
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah singer Alec Ounsworth.

GP: What are you working on right now? Any new stuff coming out?

AO: Well, funny that you should ask, I’m going up on Sunday to Dave Fridmann’s place. This will be the third album we’ve produced with Dave. He also did Some Odd Thunder and Only Run. So I’m going up on Sunday and we’re going to release the fifth in February.

GP: Where does he live?

AO: He’s near Buffalo, in the woods.

GP: I’m a big Tom Waits fan and I was reading one of his interviews recently where he talks about recording Rain Dogs. 

AO: Ahhh I was just listening to that a couple days ago.

GP: Nice. Anyway, he talks about recording Rain Dogs and using all kinds of crazy things as instruments, like a chair for percussion, a police bull horn he got somewhere, whatever he could find and felt fit the mood of the songs. Yeah he’s got this animal instinct and he just uses whatever he feels fits. What’s your take on that as far as filling out the instrumentation, do you do some of that improvisational stuff in the studio?

AO: You know, I remember one of my album liner note glimpses when I was a kid was reading the liner notes of Swordfish Trombones and how he slid the chair on one of those songs. (Reeeehhhhh, reeehhhhh, laughs). But it was the perfect mood, it was the perfect feeling. So yeah. On the first album I definitely encourage lots of found instruments and just bringing in whatever might sound good. On the first album, I’m hitting a door where it’s like “clap your hands…bum bum bum”. That’s not a kick drum, it’s a door. It’s not even close to Waits’ chair but it was the same idea. You know Brian Eno uses a typewriter on Taking Tiger Mountain. Whatever works, whatever you hear, I’m definitely a fan of that.

cyhsy
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah rocks the opening night of the new Brooklyn Bazaar.

GP: I know early on in your career there was talk of David Bowie and David Byrne being spotted at your shows. Sadly, we lost Bowie this year. I was just wondering, did you ever get to meet him?

AO: No, I never met him. It would have been nice. I did meet some people he worked with—his guitarist Carlos Alomar, his pianist Mike Garson, who played on Hysterical. You hear him all over Aladdin Sane, really from Aladdin Sane on I think. He was a great avant garde pianist. So the influence is there and noticeable but no I never got to meet him. David Byrne I have. He was a cool guy, a very regular person.

GP: One more thing, I’d be really remiss to not ask you about this. When you guys were first starting, you were kind of one of the bands that really made the internet and self promotion work for you. Was that something you were trying to do? Or did it just happen?

AO: I created the internet. (laughs) No, it’s funny to talk about that now because I’m actually not a very internet or tech savvy guy. I’m a little wary of it frankly. But, it’s funny that people mention that a lot. Just like anyone else, we had a website, a Myspace page. The difference I think was that we played so many shows in NY, we were sort of able to develop a cult following from the beginning. We played for a year and a half to two years in small clubs before the first album even came out. I think that’s the point people miss sometimes—we put in the work. The internet was fairly secondary. That said, has it fueled worldwide attention? Yeah I mean it obviously wouldn’t have been as easy to have fans in Japan or Europe as soon as we began without it.

You can follow Erik on Instagram.

About Erik Keithley

Originally from just north of Baltimore, Erik became enchanted with the country-tinged outlaw folk of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and Guy Clark while studying journalism in North Carolina. As a direct result, he moved to Austin as soon as he could, where he saw a lot of music, recorded a little of his own, and honed a strong appreciation for brisket, New Orleans, and a generally slower and more inquisitive approach to life. Having just moved to Greenpoint from Austin, Erik aims to explore the mellow charms of his beloved new neighborhood with the same quietly searching eyes.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *