MacDougal Street at Night

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Many activities and events take place on MacDougal Street at night, and have done so for quite awhile.  Being that the street is lined with bars, it has a lively night atmosphere with lots of drinking and dancing.  However one particular activity I would like to focus on is the live music that is played at Café Wha?.  Café Wha? has been a popular venue for live music since the 1950s.  It has been known as a “sanctuary” for some of the greatest talents in music including, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Bruce Springsteen, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Kool and the Gang (Café Wha?).  Today, Café Wha? is host to live music every night, seven days a week.  The establishment claims to “hold tight” to the spirit of the Beat Generation and “entertains all walks of life” (Café Wha?).  Currently, Café Wha? is home to three different bands that play each week.  The first is a Brazilian Dance band that also embodies Jazz and Samba.  The second band is rooted in R&B, Funk, and Soul music.  Lastly, the third band, which is also the house band, plays all different types of music including Motown, Reggae, R&B, and Classic/ Alternative/ Modern Rock (Café Wha?).   Of course, today, it is not uncommon for Café Wha? to have famous musicians as guests.

As mentioned in previous posts, MacDougal Street has always been an area for artists to express themselves, a place where they can hang out, drink, and have philosophical discussions, a place where they can write, read poetry, play music, and sing.  MacDougal Street has readily stayed a place for live music, especially, ever since Café Wha? was established.  Café Wha? is in fact where Bob Dylan played his first “coffeehouse gig” when he arrived in New York (Sawyers, 1).

Another popular activity that took place in the past was poetry reading at the Gaslight Café.  As mentioned it was a favorite hangout for beats like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.  In recent years, due to the desire to revive the Gaslight Café, this activity once again takes place on MacDougal Street.  Today people are invited to sing, read, etc., at 116 MacDougal.

Many of the same activities that were popular on this street in the past are still quite popular today.  The street is still home to many bars, live music, and now even comedy clubs/cellars.  Today, this live music venue opens its doors every night at 8:30pm.  The live music is accompanied by alcohol and food (Café Wha?).

Overall, many of the activities that take place presently at night on MacDougal Street are similar to the ones that occurred in the past.  Presently, MacDougal Street at night, especially on weekends, can be seen filled with people.  It is usually quite crowded and loud and composed mostly of young people in their twenties.  Similarly to the crowd in the past, the street at night is composed of young people looking to let loose, drink, listen to music or comedy, and just have a good time.

It is interesting how the nightlife is still quite similar to how it was several decades ago.  In a previous post I presented newspaper articles that featured the closing of beat cafes simply because residents were fed up with the noise.  The residents in the fifties and sixties were annoyed with the loudness and late night partying.  Although this still seems to be the current situation today, it seems that the street now has a reputation and residents are aware of the situation they are getting into when they decide to live on the street.  Perhaps it can be considered that Beats paved the way for how this street is at night currently.  People now expect the chaos and commotion of MacDougal Street; they go there to experience it.  It seems as though if one wants to have the true experience of MacDougal Street and really get a feel for the social aspects and the people that frequent the area, they should visit the street at night, for that is when it is most “alive.”  Nighttime is when one can truly experience and really get a feel for MacDougal Street.

“History.” Cafe Wha? N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov 2012. <;.

Sawyers, June. “Bob Dylan’s New York.” Chicago Tribune [Chicago] 29 Mar 2011, n. pag. Web. 11 Nov. 2012. <;.


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