The Local 269
269 E. Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
269 E. Houston Street
Dimly-lit, intimate and friendly, The Local 269 is owned by Sasha King, Bill Snodgrass and Jools King, who are suitably artistic types, possessing great sympathy for the out-there sounds of jazz at their most freely adventurous. “When we bought the bar our intention was to have great musicians of all genres playing on a regular basis,” says King. “We were already attracted to that style of music, but hosting the RUCMA series has exploded our appreciation for this kind of improv jazz.”
The trio opened their bar in February, but they're well aware of the joint's history. “The bar itself is over 70 years old and it was the infamous lesbian bar Meow Mix for a decade in the '90s. Meow Mix had bands play regularly and we would play and visit often. We work hard to have a high quality of music back at the bar. We'd started those bookings and nights but when Patricia [Nicholson Parker] approached us to host the RUCMA series we were delighted. It's an amazing situation to be able to have such talented jazz artists play your venue on a regular basis.”
Parker is a principal force behind the Vision Festival. Parker and co-programmer Brad Farberman were literally wandering around the Lower East Side, looking for a new home for the RUCMA series.
”We were looking to move the series from the Yippie Cafe,” Farberman recalls. “The Local 269 had opened just a few days earlier. We showed Bill some pamphlets from the Vision Festival and he pointed to one picture and said something like 'Oh, that's William Parker! I'm into that music!' So we knew it was the perfect place right then.”
Now, Parker and Farberman have decided to rename the RUCMA night as Evolving Music. “We've been making an effort to have the booking be as thoughtful as the music,” says Farberman. “But let it be known that the success of the series at this time is also due in large part to the vibe of The 269. The place is alive, electric and welcoming. People are sometimes hollering and glasses are clinking: that's live music. Good music is never sterile, so why have it in a sterile environment?”
An even more recent arrival at The 269 is drummer Dee Pop, bringing his Freestyle Music sessions, which have now been running in various NY locations for a decade. What's his manifesto? “To create a pan-stylistic musical environment that frees the walls between genres and pre-conditioned separatism and that's fun for people of all ages,” says Pop, succinctly. His discovery of the bar actually came via a RUCMA gig. “I performed there with Radio I-Ching and was completely overwhelmed by the owners' open and hospitable attitude towards the actual music itself.” His plan is to continue with a formula that's enjoyed its own kind of underground success over the last decade. “ I just put on these cool little bills of somehow relevant and worthwhile music made by persons that require making music in order to function through life. And hope people show up to listen. The musicians get any money that comes through the door. It's a very idealistic notion. The segment at Local 269 is just starting, really. Hopefully, people will catch on that Local 269 is a pretty hip deal. It's got a bar, tables, sight lines, a little stage, an easy going and friendly approach. It's a great size. It's affordable.” Indeed, what more could a music enthusiast desire?
~ Martin Longley
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