Neighborhood Highlights

Must-See Washington Square

by Jonathan Zeller, Christina Parrella and Jonathan Durbin, 10/02/2013

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  • Folk History
    Washington Square and its surrounding Greenwich Village streets were a breeding ground for Beat poets, abstract artists and pioneers of folk and rock music in the 1950s and '60s. During these years, Allen Ginsberg frequented Kettle of Fish; a 19-year-old Bob Dylan got his start at Café Wha?; and every star-bound musician, from Joan Baez to Carly Simon to Neil Young, played The Bitter End. The countercultural wave these venues crested still rolls today as a wide range of aspiring musicians and artists flock to the Washington Square area seeking a connection to its bohemian past. Beat hotspot Kettle of Fish has moved twice from its original MacDougal Street location (including a period in the late 1980s when it took over a West 3rd Street space previously occupied Gerde's Folk City, another illustrious spot) but is still a popular neighborhood watering hole. The Bitter End remains a springboard for up-and-coming artists, and Sullivan Hall, a remodeled midsize venue where the Lion's Den once was, offers a diverse lineup of acts performing everything from Southern rock to jazz. And we'd be remiss if we failed to mention a former neighborhood pillar, the 400-capacity, no-frills Bottom Line, where The Cars, Elvis Costello and Bruce Springsteen played early-career shows to packed audiences. Today the building is home to NYU classrooms—but, like many other ghosts of the Village's colorful music past, is not easily forgotten by generations of NYC live-music fans.

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