Closing time for bars in New York City is 4 AM. In the United States, only a handful of states or municipalities offer later closings. In those cases, there are typically no statewide mandated closing times at all, like in Nevada, where bars may remain open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But the majority of bars in the United States close between 12-2 AM.
For many, party = alcohol and bars, so, the later the bars stay open, the better the party. For those where 4 AM is still too early, there are after hours clubs. For many, this is the biggest attraction of New York - at any moment, somewhere, it's party time.
A small band that I saw perform recently in the Village announced that they would be performing at Shrine NYC. I had heard of this bar/club, and in conversation with one of the musicians, he said that Shrine had some of the best music in the entire city. It is located in Harlem, at 2271 Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard near 134th Street. Visiting Shrine Bar & Restaurant sounded like a good way to broaden my horizons - for most Manhattan residents, Harlem is a remote outpost they will never visit. I asked two friends to accompany me on Saturday night for music.
The club serves food, and we had decided to eat there as well as go for the music. Hunger called and we arrived at 7PM - very early for a Saturday night bar scene, but already nearly every table was taken and a performance was in progress. Our waitresses were disarmingly friendly. I am not sure if this is typical at Shrine or not, but it was not the perfunctory type of service one might expect in a place so boisterous and busy.
A number of bands were booked there - soon the place was packed and we no longer had a line of sight to the music. I suggested moving into the throngs for a full immersion experience when the Body Electric Afrofunk Band* was on. From the Body Electric website:
We are a group of Students, 9 strong, with a shared passion for playing music. Like Fela Kuti, we believe music can invoke a trancelike state and convey meaning and emotion to the listener through the sheer auditory quality of the sound. One of the most important things about seeing live music is the interplay that takes place between audience and artist; we strive to break down the barrier created by "the stage" at every performance we can.
This was certainly true. We had moved forward towards the group until we were inches from the keyboard player. We were IN the band. Women nearby were dancing or writhing.
After their performance, I spoke with the trumpet player Will Healy (see story Deaf Jam here). I told him how I would never seek out any music described as funk. However, I absolutely loved Body Electric. They were superb technicians with entrancing music. When I told Will how much I enjoyed their set unexpectedly, he smiled and suggested "You got caught." Well put I thought, and with no resistance or regrets. Yes, I Got Caught. :)
*The band members are students at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY. See their website here, Facebook page here and Myspace page here.