We recently sat down with Webster Hall talent buyer Alex Rossiter to get the 411 on the legendary NYC venue as part of our Access Granted spotlight series. Since opening as a for-hire social space in 1886, Webster Hall has existed in various incarnations including a roaring ’20s masquerade hot spot, a mid-century recording venue for artists like Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan, and an uber-hip ’80s rock club that featured emerging acts like Prince, The Pretenders, and U2. Over the years the main ballroom has become a favorite among musicians for its acoustic integrity, and is often referred to by those in the know as “the best stage in New York”.
Today Webster Hall houses three distinct live music venues under one roof, meaning it offers a little something for everyone. As a talent buyer, Rossiter makes sure that the venue’s unique spaces consistently feature top-notch performers and DJs from across the musical spectrum. Check out the interview below to learn more about Webster Hall’s storied past as well as some not-to-be-missed upcoming concerts and events.
TM: What sets Webster Hall apart from other NYC venues?
AR: The fact that there is no other room in the city that has three different live music venues that can run simultaneously. Webster Hall is 40,000 square feet, we can have several shows happening on the same night or flip the whole thing over into one big club night, which we do every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
As far as the venues go, in the basement we have The Studio, which holds 400 people. Above it is the Marlin Room, which holds 600. And above that is the Grand Ballroom, which holds 1500.
TM: What’s unique about the NYC fans that go to the venue?
AR: Webster hall attracts all sorts of people from both NYC and the burbs around the city. We book all different styles of music — a lot of concerts are 16+ but, we also see a lot of people in their 40s and 50s+ coming out to shows and club nights. One of the cool things about Webster Hall is that anyone can come. We want you to come, we want you to have a good time — there’s something here for everyone.
TM: If you had to book a music show that represented Webster Hall’s ethos, which three artists would you choose and why?
AR: Hmm, that’s a tough one, we book all different genres here. In the ’80s Webster Hall was called The Ritz — Madonna, The Beastie Boys, Run DMC were here all the time. In the late ’80s it was known as The Rock and Roll Hotel — Slayer, Megadeath, all those heavyweights played here. So for the show I’d resurrect The Beastie Boys and have them play with a band like The Cramps, who played here all the time. And then have Slayer headline. And maybe throw in a cameo by Richard Hell, who also played here.
TM: Webster Hall is rented out as a private event space to companies, celebrities, etc. Any noteworthy, over-the-top event details you can share? Did Madonna fill a ballroom with 5000 white doves or something?
AR: About a year ago we did an event with MTV Tres, they made the entire grand ballroom look like a circus tent. I walked up there and couldn’t believe it — all this arched fabric, it was really beautiful.
Every year we also host the Village Voice’s annual Obie Awards and lots of celebs show up, Meryl Streep was here a year or two ago. We host a lot of charity events — there’s one coming up this week called the Gildie Awards, which is a cancer benefit named after Gilda Radner from SNL.
We’ve also done a lot of beer, whiskey, and wine tastings where the whole building on every floor is set up with tasting stations. Things usually start tame and then three hours later everyone is feeling pretty good.
TM: Webster Hall has some very popular weekly events and club nights — what’s your favorite recurring event at the venue and why?
AR: We just celebrated the1-year anniversary of a weekly Thursday night hip hop party called House Party — it’s garnered a lot of attention from hip hop labels and draws tons of talent. Our resident DJ Just Blaze is here every Thursday. For the1-year anniversary event we had Blaze along with rapper Fetty Wap. House Party has also hosted performers like Pusha T, Travis Scott, etc.
TM: What’s one insider tip everyone coming to a show at Webster Hall should know?
AR: Take a look at the calendar, there’s something for everyone here. You’re bound to find something that you’re familiar with or curious about. I recommend coming here on a Friday or Saturday night around midnight because in the Webster Hall Grand Ballroom during one of the weekend parties, you feel like you’re in the center of the universe
TM: What’s the most memorable moment you’ve personally experienced at Webster Hall?
AR: One night a few years ago Grouplove played down in The Studio, and immediately after they finished I went up to the grand ballroom and watched The Killers, who are one of my favorites.
A few years ago we threw Green Day’s Halloween party in the studio for a few hundred people, that was unbelievable. They were all dressed up as skeletons and they walked out on stage to the “Monster Mash” and played Misfits covers.
TM: Is Webster Hall involved with any charitable causes fans should know about?
AR: We’ve worked with the Gildies a few times to benefit cancer research, and we just had a sold-out Modest Mouse show that benefitted Safe Horizon, a non-profit that provides services to victims of domestic abuse, child abuse, and human trafficking. Various charity events happen throughout the year, so it’s definitely something that’s a part of Webster Hall’s culture.
With three rooms each featuring their own programming, Webster Hall has plenty of great events on deck in the coming weeks. For more intimate shows, head to The Studio to catch rising talent like Halfnoise, Brendan James, x, and Someone Still Loves Your Boris Yeltsin. For bigger shows head upstairs to the Marlin Room to rock out with bands like Catch 22 and Against the Current. And for the granddaddy experience, head to the Grand Ballroom for epic weekly events like House Party and indie favorites like Veruca Salt, Blonde Redhead, and Marina & the Diamonds.
As an official partner, Ticketmaster works with iconic stages and theaters across the country, and our appreciation for these majestic venues has only grown with time — subscribe to the Ticketmaster YouTube channel and stay tuned in the coming weeks for more of our Access Granted Series.