This review is part of an ongoing series on electronic cigarettes and vaping. It rates how vape friendly a particular venue is. The views expressed are purely the opinion of the author, and do not represent those of Bedford Slims. Feedback is welcome. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an e-cigarette experience worth sharing.
At this point I've reviewed a few different Brooklyn venues for how friendly they are to vaping. The New York City Council banned all indoor vape use in 2013, so this has really come down to three questions: 1) Is there a backyard? 2) How easy is it to sneak a few pulls on an e-cig during a show? and 3) Do the employees even give a shit what the law says?
But of all the venues I've been to, none has felt like a more unfit place for vaping than the Jalopy Theater in Red Hook - for none of the reasons listed above. Rather, the place is a portal to a different era. The stage has like an old-timey feel, with a single microphone and a red curtain backdrop. The seats are mostly pews, and the music is mostly folk and bluegrass. Whipping out an electronic cigarette in that environment would feel completely out of place. The overt display of technology would clash with the show, like Hamlet checking his watch onstage in the middle of a Shakespeare play. Sure he might be able to tell if his time really was out of joint, but the spell of the performance would be broken for all.
There are those who would find the Jalopy Theater's rustic atmosphere to be hipstery and annoying, but I found it endearing. Unlike, say, Skinny Dennis in Williamsburg, this isn't a profit-driven bar that's disguised as a honky-tonk dive in order to attract certain deep-pocketed patrons looking for a specific scene. The purveyors at Jalopy seem to be genuinely trying to create a space for Traditional American music in Brooklyn, which is no easy feat given that the genre has fallen a little out of fashion, and that NYC rents can be impossible for even the most successful venues to keep up with. Yet the show I went to had no cover at the door (on a Wednesday, but still). Instead they were running a "baskethouse" similar to the old Greenwich Village folk theaters, where a basket is passed around after each act, in the same spirit as busking.
I was there to see my friend Ian Link, who used to live in New York but is currently based out of Nashville. I've always really liked Ian's sound. He's got a woeful baritone matched with adroit guitar picking reminiscent of Doc Watson or Leo Kottke. This video is probably the best representation of what he sounds like live.
A fair number of my friends like to dabble in music, and Ian was always a guy I thought would go onto wider success. I find his music to be captivating. But he's also not particularly ambitious, which is an interesting and welcome quality nowadays. Pretty much anyone who makes music also has plan on how to market it. I'm not intimately familiar with everything that's happened in his career, but Ian has always struck me as a person who is reluctant to push himself out there on the market in any way. That isn't necessarily meant as praise, just an observation.
Because of this quality, Ian fits in well at the Jalopy. The venue has a lot of authenticity, and it's not trying to be what it's not. None of the performers there appeared to be putting on airs, they just loved folk. Acts like Lydia Sylvia Martin, Matt Foster, and Spirit Family Reunion played top notch sets that exuded a real passion. It felt like they cared more about the music's quality than its marketability.
So if you're looking for a high quality traditional / folk / bluegrass show in a time machine of a venue, I recommend Jalopy. The theater is one of the best of its kind I've seen in Brooklyn. But when it comes to vaping, you'd feel more at home there blacking out on moonshine than puffing on an e-cigarette. A show at Jalopy just isn't really the time or place to vape.
Rating for Vaping: (0/10)