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Road Trip: Arlene's Grocery-Lower East Side of Manhattan

After the seven plus hour ride from Virginia to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, we got ourselves back together and searched for some live music. Several Yelps and a Google or two later, we stumbled upon the Friday night offering at Arlene's Grocery, located within a few blocks of our hotel. Our decision to go to that venue was made partially because of the good amount of info on their calendar page. It also didn't hurt that one of the bands was named, “Whiskey Bitches.”

Whiskey Bitches
Beth Austin

Arlene’s Grocery, a former Puerto Rican grocery store and neighborhood butcher shop, is a smallish club with two floors and the overall feel of a cozy dive, reminding me a bit of the places I frequent here in the 757. The upstairs is for hanging out and drinking, while downstairs is for catching live music most any night of the week. A nifty added bonus to the upstairs is a flat screen TV showing what’s going on downstairs. It’s a great way to see if anything is striking your fancy before making a move.

The night we were there, the clientele consisted of mostly 20-30 something hipsters as well as a smattering of old school rockers… Yeah, that would be us. The vibe was welcoming, and I was happy that we hadn’t walked into a “den of pretension.” Drink prices were reasonable, and on this particular night, there was no cover charge for the three bands we came to see. Say what?

Another thing needing a mention was the sound quality of the place. The sound in the downstairs performance area was fantastic, easily the best I’ve heard in a small room. They dropped a chunk of change into their sound system, and you could tell. The guy running sound was also on point. If a band had any issues or malfunctions, he was quick to hop onstage and get them back into the action quickly. Check the “band info” area on their website, if you want to geek out on the sound equipment.

THE BANDS

First up was the Brooklyn based band, Whiskey Bitches, consisting of Emily Madge (guitar / lead vocals), Kate Black (bass) and Eli Lopez (drums). This high energy trio served up a gritty, danceable set. It was a garage sound with a punk rock chaser. I could have watched them all night, and it was easy to see how they made it onto the Best NYC Emerging Artist List of 2014 in Deli Magazine. At number four, to be exact. Currently, they have a two track album, Wasted, available for your downloading pleasure. There’s also talk about a future release sometime this summer. If you want to have a good time, download the EP and have some whiskey, bitches.

Next up next were the Screamin’ Rebel Angels, also from Brooklyn. With the tatted 50’s pin-up good looks, fiery red hair and matching Gretsch guitar of front woman, Laura Rebel Angel, along with the overall look of her bandmates, my first thought was, “Rockabilly, cool.” But I would soon see that there were way more layers to this rock ’n’ roll onion. Rockabilly yes, but also early rock ’n’ roll, a smattering of country and a bit of blues. The kind of roots rock that makes you want to shake, rattle, roll, twist and swing - which many in the crowd did. And just when I thought I’d heard it all, they switched gears. Ms. Laura Rebel Angel laid down the Gretsch for a bit and just… sang. That’s when things got a little bit slower and a whole lot steamier. The woman has some amazing pipes and can belt it out with the best of them.

For a band that's only been playing together for a few years, they’ve accomplished a lot. This includes touring both coasts of the U.S and Northern Europe, releasing a few videos, an EP, a single, and most recently a full length album. The album, Hitch Hike, is available as a digital download, CD or on killer red vinyl for a limited time. Guess what I’m getting?

The night closed with the third Brooklyn band of the evening, The Bothers. During their first song, I wondered if it would be possible for this band to kick as much ass as the previous two. And by the second song, I got my answer - yes. Things once again shifted into high gear and they attacked the whole set. It was a perfect swirl of rockabilly and early rock ’n’ roll with a sweet Johnny Cash cherry on top. And like the two bands before them, they gave me something to watch as well as listen to. These guys, especially lead guitarist Keith Cayea, didn’t disappoint in that department. He was all over the place, including playing down in the crowd after jumping off the stage. Good times. They have a three song EP that can be downloaded from their website, with another one on the way sometime this summer.

If I lived in the area, these three bands, as well as Arlene’s Grocery, would be seeing my face often. You can check out the venue and all three bands by using the links below.

Arlene's Grocery

Whiskey Bitches

The Screamin' Rebel Angels

The Bothers