New York, 10003
Hours: 4p-4a Daily
Subway: F to 2nd Ave, 6 to Bleecker St or Astor Place
Written by: Emily Niewendorp
“New York’s in my blood,” says Jesse Malin. The owner of The Bowery Electric, Jesse supplies the rock ’n’ roll spirit that courses through the club. A big-hearted rocker in his own right, Jesse has toured as a musician since the age of thirteen, as a solo artist and in bands such as Generation D and Heart Attack.
An advocate of any downtown scene, Jesse emphasizes, “Wherever I go in the world I always look for the underground. Where are the artists?” In New York City, Jesse funnels his energy into building a supportive downtown community for rock, punk and indie artists. He owned hard-core, punk venue Coney Island High on St. Mark’s Place (a few blocks NE of The Bowery Electric) in the mid-’90s. Former Coney Island High patrons recall waiting in line outside the club conscious of nearby drug addicts.
The much-loved club closed during its fight for a dancing license under Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s ‘clean up New York’ campaign. Jesse went back to touring, still desiring a rock club.
When Jesse talks, his excitement about being back downtown is evident. NYC’s current popular and polished downtown appearance is a vast contrast from its unrefined condition in the ’90s. The grit and rawness that Jesse remembers remains close, he says—in the reformed CBGBs space down the block and the ever-present homeless population. Regardless of these environmental changes,
The Bowery Electric attracts rock ’n’ roll artists and enthusiasts of all ages, their ‘attitudes’ and big hearts included. Jesse hopes to provide a place where young kids can grow musically, and learn from their elders how to blow off steam in a positive way: “Meeting a guy, meeting a girl—being social impacts people’s lives.”
The building The Bowery Electric occupies supplied electrical parts for many years, followed by the short-lived Remote Lounge. Partnering with one of the lounge’s owners, Jesse and some investors turned the space into a rock ’n’ roll club and kept some of the building’s history in its name. The coolest aspect of The Bowery Electric is the sunken stage and floor. Stone walls and a 19th century vaulted ceiling add to the venue’s old-NY vibe, while the finished wood floors and clean space identify with the neighborhood’s reformation. The smaller room-size limits capacity, but there is no lack of rocking-out under the sidewalk of New York City. Behind the stage, a proper green room and dressing rooms accommodate the bands. In addition, a private space called the Vault Room that features cavernous walls, can be reservered for private parties. The venue’s two floors allow people to wander and not get bored. The chic upstairs bar is lined with mirrors, musicians’ artwork and photographs.
Music at The Bowery Electric focuses loosely around rock ’n’ roll. Jesse encourages bands to play set lengths determined upon the amount of material in their repertoire, rather than squeeze another band into the evening’s line-up. Celebrities, as performers and spectators, pass through The Bowery Electric often. Patti Smith has read poetry and played. Secret shows of well-known artists are common and draw lines of waiting fans, amping up the energy on the block. One hot surprise was a two-hour show by Foxboro Hot Tub, Green Day’s side project. Bill Murray and Joan Jett both attended that event. Frequently, Jesse will perform on his own stage, where his energetic spirit projects throughout the room.
On the weekends, DJs host dance parties that are strictly rock ’n’ roll—no rap or house music. People surprisingly find themselves loosening up on the dance floor, having a great time. The venue attracts patrons of all financial levels and cultures—men in suits, goth chicks, etc.—and features special nights for ages 18 – 21 on occasion.