Bowery Ballroom: NYC Venues Broken Down

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As a part of our Concert Photography series, we’ve previously listed all the New York City concert venues categorizing them based on whether or not those venues had photo pits. Now for this next installment, we’ll be breaking down specific venues and including our personal experiences.

Bowery Ballroom may quite possibly be my favorite venue to shoot in New York City. There’s no photo pit but depending on the act, getting front stage access can be easy. (That is, if you don’t mind getting an hour early to the venue.) When you get to Bowery, you’ll be asked for i.d. outside. You’ll then go down stairs to their bar area where you’ll scan your ticket. The stair case next to the women’s bathroom leads right next to the stage area. However be warned because sometimes the venue will let fans go through the back stair case first, before the closer stair case. This has only happened to me once though and it was because fans had been lining up hours before the show, making the downstairs area packed.

At Bowery, the stage is low enough for you to rest your arms on and if you want, your camera as well—which the stage hands will usually allow. (Better a camera than beer!) The lighting isn’t the best but I’ve dealt with worse in New York City. Then again, when is the lighting really ever ideal? If you’re close enough to the stage, the lighting should be fine, though it really depends on the act themselves and whether or not they decide to saturate themselves in red light. Since there’s no photo pit, for packed shows expect to be stuck where you are, so choose wisely. If people are spread out and there’s walking room, perhaps you can move around to get different angles. But if you choose to do so, there’s always the chance that you’ll lose your original spot.

Because there’s a bar downstairs with couches and (duh) alcohol, some people will choose to hang out down there before the show starts, leaving more room upstairs where the stage is. So get to Bowery earlier to guarantee your spot front and center! There is also seating on the balcony so don’t fret about not being in the front if you’re shooting at Bowery. However it’s important to gauge the level of fan loyalty depending on the act. Different artists naturally attract different types of fans. Someone like San Cisco or Yoko Ono will have fans waiting hours before the show, so getting in front will be hard, versus a band with a hipster crowd who aren’t into waiting next to the stage.

Security at this venue tends to be lax. No one will check your bags upon entrance and the only time you may have a problem with bringing in a DSLR into Bowery Ballroom is if the artist specifically tells the venue not to allow them. The only time that’s ever been an issue for me has been Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band, but in that situation, it was simply no flash allowed. (And if you’re a decent human being, you would never fire any form of flash from a camera at a concert, ever.) People could still take photos of course, but there were security guards standing next to the stage to prevent people from using a flash.

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Nancy Hoang created Hopeless Thunder in 2007. She conducts the interviews, writes the articles, photographs the concerts, and handles the site's coding & design. (She's basically a control freak.) Her work can also be seen on music publication, CMJ. Contact Nancy for image licensing, assignments, or just to say hi.

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