Written and Photographed By Evan Sung

Sprung from the husk of an old 99c Discount Store, Southpaw opened its doors on 5th Avenue in Brooklyn in June of 2002. Southpaw can seem a curiosity at first. Too big to be the local watering hole that its long, inviting, red-neon lit bar suggests, but surprisingly intimate for a venue that has welcomed acts like Supergrass, KRS-One, Slick Rick, the Cardigans and the Mooney Suzuki – Southpaw has struck a delicate balance, one that very few other venues have attempted, let alone succeeded at creating. The vibe when you walk in is local and welcoming, not unlike so many other Park Slope area bars. But when you get a look at the wall plastered with concert posters from performances over the last 2 years, you’ll see what sets Southpaw apart from the pack.

We sent Josh McLane and Kelly Alexander to investigate a recent hip-hop DJ party. They ended up grooving along with 300 other revelers to the parade of DJs on hand. A night at Southpaw is a real treat for fans of live performances – well-known bands playing in a venue that really puts the audience in touch with the music; you can hear and see the performance. If you’re lucky enough to see a favorite act perform at Southpaw, you’ll be thrilled by how close you are to the show (check out the website photos of Big Daddy Kane walking INTO the crowd). Southpaw makes no compromise on sound either, with a carefully tuned sound system that really puts you in the music. The sound is intense, but clear, enveloping and transporting. The recent Sahara Hotnights concert (see Josh Taylor’s review) was a great example of a hard-charging garage rock sound that tore into the space but never got muddy, and never became noise.

Kelly Alexander & Josh McLane

But its not just music acts you’ll find at Southpaw - people like the comic Dave Chappelle may drop by and do an impromptu set, the Stella comedy collective performs regularly (one story has it that one of the Stella guys came out and performed his bit completely naked!), or you may catch unclassifiables like astronaut blues rocker Bob Log III who, between tunes, invites willing young girls to come on stage, disrobe, and put a “boob in his scotch.” DJ nights and a standing hip-hop party called The Rub, are all part of the mix. And on those rare-nights when there isn’t some unbelievable show gracing the stage, Southpaw will screen free movies, or bring out their ping-pong (!) table for those just looking to hang with friends in a great environment. On any given night, you can be sure that Southpaw has got something good and unexpected waiting up its sleeve for you!

 Kelly, Doug DeFalco & Josh

Southpaw was begun by Matt Roff and Mikey Palms, two Park Slope natives, who had long dreamed of opening a bar. They quickly saw a neighborhood gap they could fill by providing a hangout and a performance space for friends and the young, creative and music-loving crowd that make up the Park Slope area. To complement their own hip-hop and industry connections, they quickly brought on their friend, Todd Abramson, owner of legendary Maxwell’s in Hoboken and booker extraordinaire, to help bring in the name acts that would in time make Southpaw such a destination. To round out the team, Roff and Palms grabbed another local friend, Doug DeFalco, assistant booker and self-admitted “certifiable music geek”, who plays a big part in finding local, smaller acts to take the stage at Southpaw, giving smaller bands a shot at the stage, and giving audiences a taste of new sounds and faces.

Doug DeFalco was kind of enough to share some of his thoughts on Southpaw, its rise and success, and some stories from its short but already illustrious history. Doug told New York Cool that a lot of the success of Southpaw has to be attributed to the locals. “ Once the venue opened…[Media and Industry] people really wanted to see us succeed. Once the word got out how nice it was and how we treated the acts, friends of artists just started coming in…and before you know it we were hosting Supergrass and KRS-One.”

Not only has the neighborhood embraced Southpaw, Southpaw embraces the neighborhood, and as Doug told us, The Rub hip-hop party on the first Saturday of every month regularly attracts no less than 250 revelers and hip-hop lovers. Southpaw also regularly welcomes local bartenders dropping by to unwind after their own shifts – always a hallmark of a bar that’s doing things right. After-show parties are a regular occurrence as well. Though it started as a place to catch live music, Southpaw now has a solid reputation as a great bar for just hanging out locally.

Doug says that everyone who works there has been there since the old Discount Store walls were knocked down. “We're very loyal to each other and we're all friends, so we'll tend to go the extra mile to make sure things are great. There is a strong sense of pride at what we are doing.” And that pride and sense of mission is evident any night of the week at Southpaw. Go any night you like, check out the calendar on the site or just drop in and see what’s up, you’ll be welcomed like a friend, you’ll hear music you like and some stuff you’ve never heard before, you’ll catch a great show, and you’ll find a place that you’ll keep returning to again and again. Our man Doug sums it up perfectly: “It feels like being part of a giant social experiment using music that is going right.”
Its going right, and its only getting better.

on the web |

Kelly Alexander & Josh McLane


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