Saturday, January 5, 2013

Jared Saltiel/Jeremiah Birnbaum at the Living Room

When I was growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Ludlow Street was a quiet neighborhood street behind busy Orchard Street. The shops were Mom and Pop shops, but you could buy envelopes or a musical instrument. Look at that street now! Musicians carrying cases will often intersect on the corner of Ludlow and Stanton Streets as they move to or from the various music clubs in the area.

The Living Room on Ludlow Street has been a mecca for the New York-based singer songwriter since 1988. The club’s back room nightly presents several singer-songwriters. Norah Jones, Minnie Driver, Martha Wainwright and Colbie Caillat have been on the stage. Budding musicians shake hands, assemble mailing lists and exchange telephone numbers between performances. Sirius XM airs many of these musicians performing live in its “From the Living Room to the Loft” series.

Co-owners Steve Rosenthal and Jennifer Gilson will be closing the Living Room on January 31. Rent control does not exist for storefront establishments, and landlords take notice when what was once a quiet community becomes a bustling neighborhood. The Living Room may one day re-materialize where the rent is reasonable, but does such a neighborhood exist anymore?

I caught two of the evening’s five showcases tonight, and both were quite impressive. Jeremiah Birnbaum played solo on acoustic guitar, singing soulfully. He was followed by Jared Saltiel, pictured above, who played acoustic guitar and piano and was periodically accompanied by a pianist and violist. The club seldom charges admission, so the musicians passed a bucket soliciting donations.

Yes, a music mecca can be this simple. The local community will miss the Living Room.