Experimental music movements from No Wave to avant-garde jazz have historically flourished in New York City. While scores of people continue to create mind-expanding music here, the hubs for DIY spaces—critical to artists on the come-up, and to building scenes and communities—have increasingly become decentralized and tougher to find, making it a challenge for scenes to coalesce and gather.
The new venue and community space Public Records, opening this weekend, is poised to become a site for open-minded musicians, record heads, and experimental enthusiasts to revel and create together. The space, formerly Brooklyn’s ASPCA building in the early 1900s and the vintage guitar shop Retrofret, now features three separate rooms working together in tandem.
During the day, it’ll be a plant-covered vegan café, with food by Henry Rich, of Rucola and June Wine Bar acclaim. The adjoining sound room is a performance space for bands and DJs, replete with a slick sound system. “It’s really sort of a home audiophile approach in a commercial setting,” says Shane Davis, one of Public Records’ three partners (along with the longtime musician and label owner Francis Harris, and Erik Vanderwal, formerly of Pravda). Another room will house a hi-fi record bar where a different vinyl collector will spin from their stacks nightly.
The intention is for the venue to not just cater to nightlife denizens. It’s meant to be a community space, as well as a place where artists can play with their sound and approach. “We really want to push people to think of this is a canvas and a platform for experimentation,” Davis told Gothamist. “We want to create the culture for artists that come here: This is a place where you don’t have to play what you’re expected to play, and you could really get pretty weird with it.”
That means experimental jazz nights known as “Ears Open,” and venerable guest curators every season, including the likes of local reggae mainstay Queen Majesty. The music program, headed by Harris and booker Christine Renee, already has shows by beloved Detroit house staple Kyle Hall, the local fanzine and radio show Love Injection and the legendary Martin Rev, of Suicide, slated to perform so far.
Public Records is in the midst of a soft opening and officially kicks off its programming this weekend, with sets by Jamie Tiller, of Music from Memory (and a special guest from the label on Friday), Thomas Bullock (of A.R.E. Weapons) on Saturday, and dance innovator Darshan Jesrani on Sunday. It won’t be open during the day quite yet; Davis says that will come within the next couple of weeks. For now, head there at night to bust a move until the wee hours of the morning.
Public Records is located at 233 Butler Street, near Gowanus, Brooklyn. Check its website for hours.