Splish splash, folks: McCarren Pool opens for the season tomorrow, Wednesday June 27th! Check this previous post for the pool rules and things you should know before you go.
If you are old enough and have lived in the ‘nabe long enough you might remember when McCarren Pool was a graffiti-ridden shell of its fully restored and aqueous splendor. From the 1980s through 2012 the pool sat vacant, unused with paint peeling. Those who lived in the neighborhood in the late 90s during the proto-hipster era might remember breaking into the pool to hang out and drink beers, light bottle rockets or do low-budget photo shoots. Then came the McCarren Pool Parties in the mid 2000s, presented by the now defunct party promotions company JellyNYC. The pool parties opened up the empty pool as a summertime venue, a low-budget outdoor hipster playground—complete with a slip n’ slide, ice cream man, dodgeball and a stage for bands to play.
Sitting down on the floor and walls of the pool, everyone wondered if the peeling paint had lead in it, but no one cared enough to thoroughly investigate because the shows there were poppin’. This was before the artisanal coffee shops, waterfront condos, fancy cocktail bars and hotels dotted the neighborhood. The most popular places for young people to hang besides McCarren Park were Union Pool, Matchless, Enid’s, Pete’s Candy Store, Iona, The Turkey’s Nest and a dance bar called Royal Oak where Casa Publica is now. And sometimes, if you went further south, you’d hang at Savalas or Bembe. The hot music at the time was electroclash or indie rock; hiphop and EDM were but a twinkle in the scene’s eye. And, the events at the pool were largely free.
By 2008, the promoters had the budget and the clout to book bigger bands, and the stage setup grew bigger and grander. MGMT played a free show that July, with crowds of trucker hat-donning hipsters lining up around the block to get in. This was the age of the band’s hit Time to Pretend, with the lyric, “This is our decision to live fast and die young. We’ve got the vision, now let’s have some fun,” that seem un-ironically of the time.
After that season, the city announced that the Pool would be refurbished, and the parties couldn’t be held there anymore. So the promoters moved the summertime shows to the Williamsburg waterfront that was a pre-pubescent version of the yupster it is today. In 2010, the waterfront shows abruptly ceased, with Jelly and partner OSA both claiming the other was at fault for mismanaging the event series.
The McCarren Pool Parties will be fondly remembered by those who can say, as LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy aptly croons, “I was there.”