NYC - East Village: Webster Hall

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    Webster Hall was originally built in 1886 by architect Charles Rentz and quickly became the country’s first modern nightclub. It was a place where one could witness figures such as Emma Goldman, the outspoken exponent of Anarchist philosophy, herald the cause of free love and birth control on one night and, on the next night, see the refined atmosphere and grace of a society function celebrating New York’s elite. Margaret Sanger led strikers to the building in 1912. Other patrons from the club's early years include painters Marcel Duchamp and Joseph Stella.

    During Prohibition, the theme of the balls held within the hall moved from the social and political trends to the hedonistic attitude of the speakeasy. Local politicians and police were said to turn a blind eye to the merrymakers who attended, despite, or perhaps because of, whispers that the venue was owned by the infamous mobster Al Capone. Appropriately, prohibition's repeal was the cause for one of Webster Hall's biggest celebrations, "The Return of John Barleycorn."

    In the 1950s, Webster Hall began featuring concerts from a diverse group of artists. Latin performers, such as Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez played at the club. So, too, did folk artists Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. Then, RCA Records recognized the extraordinary acoustical integrity of the building and converted it into their East Coast recording venue, Webster Hall Studios. Carol Channing recorded Hello, Dolly!, Harold Prince recorded Fiddler on the Roof and luminaries such as Julie Andrews, Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte, and Frank Sinatra all added to the list of stars that the venue had witnessed.

    On May 1st, 1980, The Ritz opened as the famous showcase venue for emerging rock acts. Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Prince, Sting, KISS, B.B. King, and Guns N' Roses all performed on what was routinely called, "the best stage in New York City." The Ritz was the first nightclub to feature a video component, which soon set the trend across America. When the Ritz relocated in 1986, it gave Webster Hall the opportunity to be reborn.

    In 1992 the Ballinger Brothers unveiled the restored Webster Hall. Now featuring state of the art audio, video, and lighting technology with the original color scheme recreated. A facility capable of catering to groups of 100 to 2,000, Madonna, Mick Jagger and Bill Clinton have had events there. In addition to its weekly club nights, Webster Hall is one of NYC’s premiere live music venues. Webster Hall is the exclusive live music venue for AOL’s New York Broadband Rocks series. In addition, Webster Hall recently entered into a partnership to present The Bowery Ballroom Presents at Webster Hall concert series.

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