Q&A with BROOKLYN BOWL Co-Owner – Charley Ryan Talks About The Cool Williamsburg Music Venue, Being an Entertainment Entrepreneur and More!
Posted On 09 Oct 2015
Tag: Alabama Shakes, Battle Creek, Bowlive series, Brooklyn Bowl, Chris Whitley, Dap Kings, Del Shannon, Detroit, East West, Forum, Fox Theater, HAIM, Handyman, Hecla Iron Works, Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Libertines, Little Town Flirt, Maxwell's, Michigan, Motown, Paul Butterfield, Peter Shapiro, Phantogram, Phil Woods, Polica, Robert Plant, Runaway, San Francisco, Sarah Vaughn, Sex Pistols, Sharon Jones, Snoop Dogg, Soulive, Soundcloud, Spotfiy, St. Paul And The Broken Bones, The Who, Up the Bracket, Wetlands Preserve, White Denim, Woodstock
All Access Music writer, Nicole DeRosa catches up with Brooklyn Bowl co-owner Charley Ryan about the 600-capacity music venue located at 61 Wythe Ave. in Williamsburg, behind Brooklyn Brewery, and two blocks from The Gutter, in an 1880s ironworks foundry. The venue books nationally recognized bands to play at one of the most interesting venues to take in a live show.
Read more below as Nicole and Charley talk music, being an entertainment entrepreneur and much more!
Hi Charley! How are you today? What’s on the agenda today besides our interview?
I’m great, Nicole. It’s Sunday and I’m thinking outside of my appointment book about the things upcoming this week, this month, and beyond that in the future. It’s a privilege to do what we do.
For those that, are not familiar with you and your background. How did you get your start in the music and entertainment business? Who or what was the catalyst for you?
I was in the business briefly when I was very young. I loved it, but decided to go into commodities trading. Despite successes there, I ached to get back to live entertainment, which is how I characterize everything we do at Brooklyn Bowl–the bowling and the food and drink, as well as our performances.
It was a chemical and physical imperative–I had to reinvent myself, or at least my career. I managed at Wetlands Preserve and when Peter Shapiro came along and bought it in 1996, he asked me to operate it with him. We had a great time renewing that wonderful place!
Have you always been in the music business?
As I said, I was in the financial realm for quite some time. I became a broker, trader and officer for several firms.
Please describe your venue, Brooklyn Bowl for those that have not had the pleasure of visiting this awesome venue. What attracted you most to the space?
It took Peter and I several years to find a home for our idea that became Brooklyn Bowl, in part because we didn’t settle for anything ordinary and partly because we got together only sporadically to look for our location. We were both busy with other projects.
When we found it, that was the first time we looked at each other and said, “I think this is the one!” And indeed, it was.The space was built as the Hecla Iron Works in 1881, but it had been in decline as a warehouse for many decades when we found it. The brick walls and wooden roof and beams had all been painted over a long time before; there were holes in the roof and the floor was broken concrete. But it had amazing bones and we shared a vision of wooden floors underfoot, brick walls, and natural wood tones in the beams and the roof–all lit in warm amber tones.
People often tell us the place looks great in photos, but not even close to walking into the Bowl and experiencing the sights and sight lines, the visuals onscreen, the smell of great food, and the music onstage. It truly is more than the sum of its parts!
Who were some of the bands that have been launched at Brooklyn Bowl?
I think more in terms of the bands who launched me and our crowd than the bands we might say we launched! This weekend we have had Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, which is simply phenomenal.
Our Bowlive series for 2 weeks each March has been great for us as well as for Soulive and all their guests.
My other favorite performers include White Denim, Snoop Dogg, Robert Plant, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and so many more. And it’s especially fun seeing Phantogram, Polica, Haim, Alabama Shakes or St Paul and the Broken Bones and feeling them lift off in their careers.
What was the first band you saw live?
The first show I remember was a Motown Review–actually I think they called it Motortown then! Some older kids drive me to the Fox Theater in Detroit for that one. Everyone on the Motown label was on for 15 minutes, but it was a thrill.
Okay, now Top 5 favorite concerts of all time (thus far)?
Top 5 concerts? That’s an impossible challenge. Hendrix at Cobo Hall, Detroit, for sure. At Woodstock the Who, finishing Tommy as the sun started to rise behind them. Led Zeppelin at the Forum in LA, 1975.
I also saw the Sex Pistols in San Francisco…their final show, very chaotic and unforgettable. Later that night I saw Sarah Vaughn in a small club. That was a one-two punch!
Chris Whitley at Maxwell’s in 1992–and Chris again, with a Zeppelin approach, at Brownie’s in 1995, that was insanely good. Bob Weir and Rob Wasserman and Warren Haynes at Wetlands–with Hanson, incredibly, and a set from Huun Hur Tu, the Mongolian throat singers…unforgettable. But Toots & the Maytals and Sharon and the Dap-Kings at Brooklyn Bowl in the first months after we opened showed how great our room is so those shows are # 1!
Nowadays everything is so instant ala Spotfiy and Soundcloud…you push a button and it’s yours. What was the first album you saved up your money and purchased for yourself?
I don’t remember the first album. The first singles I bought were by our hometown hero from Battle Creek, Michigan–Del Shannon. “Little Town Flirt”, “Hats off to Larry”, “Handyman” and “Runaway”. Del was the real deal!
Who is in your current playlist? What artists or bands are in current rotation for you?
Just lately I’ve been listening to the Libertines, “Up the Bracket”, “East West” by Paul Butterfield, and some Phil Woods.
What’s on tap next for you, Charley? What are you most excited about for this year?
I’m designing for two new Brooklyn Bowl projects and have another idea, really exciting to me, which is probably best unveiled someday without a lot of tiresome description in advance!
To check out the latest news, concerts and more at BROOKLYN BOWL , visit their website HERE