Only 60 patrons can attend each monthly event at Envelope, a secret, 21-and-over venue in Bushwick. – Photo c/o Envelope
When it was announced that Marissa Nadler was playing in Bushwick last week, almost as much buzz surrounded the venue as the artist. It was the first time many of us had heard of Envelope, a space that had held its first and only show in October. What led to further chattering was that the address of Envelope was only given to those who purchased tickets, and that those tickets were $30 — considered steep by “Bushwick standards.”
In a neighborhood with more DIY than licensed music venues, Envelope presents a new approach to the homegrown experience. Envelope hosts only one show a month, with a capacity for only 60 guests. The rest of the time, it operates as a recording studio. Shows have been booked for the next 10 months, but at the moment there are no plans to expand performances beyond the once-monthly showcases.
“We’d really like to keep the programming very special and only host bands that we really love,” co-founder Chris Garneau told BushwickBK. “More than one show a month at this point could force us to step off of our initial path.”
For Nadler, who played solo on her acoustic guitar, it was a perfect setting. In such an intimate space with minimal amplification, all of the nuances of her recordings were maintained, showcasing her equally delicate vocals and finger picking. Despite the living-room sized set up, Nadler talked little to the crowd, though she acknowledged her timid nature. She played a varied set, everything from “Fifty Five Falls” from her debut album to a string of songs from her next album, due to be recorded in January.
Envelope was started by solo artist Garneau (who records for Absolutely Kosher), Caralee McElroy (formerly of Xiu Xiu and Cold Cave), and visual artist and fashion designer Joff Moolhuizen. In addition to the recording studio and the monthly shows, there are also plans to release performances as live EPs, with the possibility of other bands being released as well.
It’s the one gig-going experience where it’s worthwhile to get there when the doors open; between 8 and 9.30 when the Glass Ghost took the stage, trays of hors d’ouvres were brought around in quick succession. Food included crostini from Roberta’s topped with proscuitto, cheese from Bedford Cheese Shop sandwiched between bread and apple, and black bean and rice risotto featuring Brooklyn Salsa Company salsa.
The open bar served beer from Brooklyn Brewery, cocktails made with Tito’s Vodka (from Austin, the one non-local company they’re working with), and wine. Envelope hopes to have their wine supplied by Brooklyn Winery next year. The food and drink is included in the entry price.
“We wanted to create an intimate venue that is home-like in essence but also maintains this subtly elegant space where people will want to continue to return,” said Garneau.
“Subtly elegant” is certainly appropriate. The room is dimly lit with Edison bulbs and filled with tree-trunk benches and stools. A white owl statuette sits atop the grand piano on the postage stamp-sized stage. Unlike many of the other independent spaces in Bushwick, Envelope is 21+. This, combined with the ticket prices, may account for the fact that the crowd was on the older side. Music between sets is kept to a low but still reconizable level, allowing people to talk in conversational tones. It makes for a very mellow, very complete night out.
“We didn’t want to do a thing where we host free shows in a shitty Bushwick apartment. The idea is to really see and hear something special, to be in a small space and share a special evening, with good wine and beer and food,” said Garneau. “It’s maybe like a little dream.”