Rockwood Music Hall: 15

Rockwood Music Hall highlights (photos by Gus Philippas for WFUV)
by Kara Manning | 02/06/2020 | 12:05am

Rockwood Music Hall highlights (photos by Gus Philippas for WFUV)

Rockwood Music Hall is one of New York's most treasured venues and its 15th anniversary, which kicked off on February 1, is cause for celebration. A valued partner and friend of this radio station, the independently-owned Rockwood Music Hall has been the home for scores of our FUV Live shows.

In fact, program director Rita Houston is so enamored of this three-stage, Lower East Side temple of live performance that she raved about this "cozy-but-cool" spot for a WFUV and NPR feature in 2019. "It's one of the best-sounding rooms in New York City," says Houston. "And [founder] Ken Rockwood and his team do so much to support the local music scene."

Located at 196 Allen Street, Rockwood Music Hall has had a proud history of performances since 2005, eventually expanding to three stages and hosting about 70,000 shows since its founding, an incredible 450 (or more) shows a month.

What inspired Rockwood, who had recorded as one half of the folk-leaning duo Professor and Maryanne with Danielle Brancaccio, to take the enormously risky step of opening his own club?

"I had spent 15 years in a band before getting a 'real job' at a large corporation," recalled Rockwood. "Every day I was trying to please my boss and my boss's boss. Then on September 11, 2001 I was in the building across the street from the World Trade Center when all hell broke loose. My experience that day, combined with a few other personal losses, started me thinking there has to be more meaning than this. I wanted a more simple life, perhaps sweeping the sidewalk in front of a small music venue, and that's how Rockwood Music Hall was born. I opened and closed the place nightly for years, and did sound all night. Surprisingly, within the first year Norah Jones, Brandon Flowers, Ryan Adams, Amos Lee, Lady Gaga, and more all came to play a small room that can barely hold 50 people. I'm very lucky indeed."

Throughout February, Rockwood Music Hall, will be hosting some very special sets, including FUV Live with The Lone Bellow and FUV's On Your Radar with John Platt. Other artists booked for the venue's anniversary month include James Maddock, Van Hunt, Wrabel, Elizabeth and the Catapult, Emily Wolf, Julian Velard, Mishti, Henry Hey, Sasha Dobson and many more.

"I'm not the type to celebrate milestones," explained Rockwood. "When Rockwood Music Hall was five years old, people said, 'Let's do something special,' and I said no. At 10 years people said, "Let's do something special," and I said no again. But at 15 years I thought we should thank the artists that have helped to build this place. All those artists that have played amazing shows here time and time again. Those artists who have grown up here, and those who have moved on to bigger things. This celebration is not so much about the venue, but rather about the amazing artists that have played on these stages. It's a 'thank you' to them."

FUV staffers have spent plenty of quality time at Rockwood Music Hall with Ken and his dedicated staff, and the week of February 23, we'll feature an FUV Live concert recorded at the club every night at 7 p.m, EST on 90.7 and streaming online. The shows will include three brand new sets (Nada Surf, Temples, and Madison Cunningham) and a pair of older favorites (The Lone Bellow, Brandi Carlile). In addition, below is Rita Houston's selection of some of the outstanding FUV Live shows that the station has hosted at Rockwood Music Hall — and you can find all of them on demand in the FUV Live Vault:

Brandi Carlile (December 5, 2017)

The Breeders (March 8, 2018)

Calexico (January 3, 2018)

Citizen Cope (February 26, 2019)

Shawn Colvin (September 23, 2015)

Father John Misty (May 8, 2017)

Amy Helm (October 1, 2018)

Jade Bird (July 31, 2019)

The Lone Bellow (February 2, 2015)

Low Cut Connie (June 26, 2018)

Laura Marling (March 1, 2017)

Natalie Prass (May 31, 2018)

The Record Company (May 18, 2016)

Seratones (October 17, 2016)

SOAK (June 20, 2019)

Lucinda Williams (October 1, 2014)

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