Where We Live: Irving Plaza – New York City, NY

The venue located at 17 Irving Place in New York City has been named many things, including a short stint as The Filmore East at Irving Plaza, but now it’s once again graced with the name that the venue is synonymous with: Irving Plaza.

Officially, the venue is only allowed to house 999 people due to fire code regulations, but anybody that has attended a show there knows the truth of the matter: If you stuck the extra person in there for the even 1,000, the walls would fall off the place.

A rectangular building which seems too short and thus a bit unusual for a place of its stature, Irving Plaza is the place for an artist to be seen. At the beginning of their career, it’s the first sign that maybe things are going their way.  It’s bigger than a club, but just a wee bit too small to be a theater. In the middle of an artist’s career, it’s a way to show to some love to their long-term fans. At their peak, the tickets to a band’s Irving Plaza show can easily go for thousands of dollars. While on the decline, it can be the place of a modern day Custard’s glorious last stand.

The lobby is rich with 1920s art deco features, actual crushed velvet overstuffed couches that are most likely older than your grandmother, organically shabby and presently too chic oriental rugs, marble stall dividers, and a bar with a brass rail. At the top of the first towering set of black metal stairs is the main floor of the venue, a wide open space where the crowd naturally divides itself: the trouble-makers right up front against the rail by the stage, with the mellow kids hanging out in the back. If you’re standing under the overhang of the upstairs balcony, be careful. Beer, or at least one hopes it’s only beer, has been known to seep through the floorboards from above.

Up the second set of towering steel black stairs is the balcony, a somewhat more rarefied and refined take on the chaos below on the ballroom floor. Up here is another full bar, this time with the welcome addition of a few booths and closed circuit TVs should you end up stuck in line for a while.

Up here, where there’s a little less fuss, the walls are lined with pictures of everybody from The Ramones to Patti Smith to U2 to Red Hot Chili Peppers — the shows that even though you would have sold your kidney along with your soul, you still couldn’t manage to get a ticket for. Away from the bar, the prime spot to watch a show (other than the VIP section off to the left), is the center balcony, right behind the mixing board. Fitting so much equipment into such a cramped space is a feat of engineering. If you lean forward over the Plexiglas barrier between yourself and the guys manning the boards, you can see the whole set list and times as clear as day.

If you’re on the floor, at the height of a good show — think Rancid’s residency — things can get a little dangerous. It’s something wonderful and unfortunately missing these days from rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the type of danger that makes you feel glad to be alive.

If you’re in the balcony, you’re aware that the floor below your feet is vibrating at an almost alarming timbre, but you’re transfixed by the show on stage, as the room happens to be the perfect size to make any regular performer seem like a star and any star seem like a legend.

Irving Plaza
17 Irving Pl
NYC, NY 10003
(212) 777-6800

To get a complete listing of the upcoming shows, click here.


Follow Consequence