The Audiophile Bar Edition
On Tokyo, records, and Greenpoint's Eavesdrop
Colin here. One of my favorite things about Tokyo (and Japan for that matter) is the abundance of audiophile bars. Places like Bar Track in Ebisu—where you are surrounded by vinyl LPs and painstakingly assembled vintage hi-fi components and glowing McIntosh tube amps. There’s something about the ambiance that totally elevates the experience of going to a bar. Not surprisingly, the trend has jumped to North and South America, with many new entrants including a Tokyo-style record bar in Mexico City. The best ones are true labors of love: you get the sense that the proprietors needed a place to store their bulging record collections and have a place to hang out.
JBS in Tokyo is a good example. It is run by Kobayashi-san and is a perfect manifestation of what this type of bar can be. I’ve been there a few times, and it is a wonderful place to put yourself in the hands of a DJ slash curator over the drink of your choice.
The Vinyl Factory goes into detail:
Through conversation, Kobayashi Kazuhiro explains he opened JBS – which stands for ‘Jazz, Blues and Soul’ – 13 years ago as an extension of his home and personal record collection. An enthusiastic collector and connoisseur, he estimates the bar has over 10,000 vinyl records, sleeved and alphabetised by instrument. Unlike other vinyl bars in Tokyo there’s no cover charge at JBS. His dedication is remarkable, he opens 7 days a week from 2pm to 11pm. During the day he serves tea and coffee, in the evening beer and spirits. Kobayashi runs the entire operation: from welcoming guests, to serving their orders and playing records.
Kobayashi preserves the vibe of the place: he’s allergic to lookie-loos trying to find a great snap for the socials and the reviews of his bar are full of Westerners who are pissed off they couldn’t come in. He’s trying to keep the respect levels high and not turn it into a sports bar atmosphere, but rather a gentle listening vibe. Sometimes on popular nights, the bar is “closed” to keep the randoms away. But I have found him welcoming to the music heads and true appreciators, even if they are foreign. Although it helps to be introduced by an existing patron.
Why is this interesting?
Indeed, as they expand as entrepreneurs see the opportunity, these audiophile bars are hard to get right. It is tempting to hop on the bandwagon and the aesthetic, but it is another thing to get the true depth and the vibe perfectly dialed in, akin to JBS or some of these other labors of love. It is not one you can phone in. So, I am intrigued by the new listening bar in Greenpoint, Eavesdrop. The owners appear to have put a lot of thought into the concept and what it is meant to be in the community.
According to Grub Street:
The front of the space functions as a traditional cocktail bar, while the back works as the listening room. It features a pair of custom Tom Danley–designed SH60’s powered by mastering-studio-grade amps supported by custom Seaton Submersive subwoofers. Vinyl spins on a pair of Technics 1200 MK7’s with Pioneer CDJ-3000’s handling the all-digital sets. Guest DJs will drop in Thursdays through Sundays with Eavesdrop putting an emphasis on artists with New York ties. “The idea is to stick to local legends, Wissinger says, “I don’t expect to be bringing in touring DJs. It’s all about the people who have super-deep knowledge and record collections.”Your vinyl collection might get some play, too. “I absolutely want to do a ‘Bring Your Own Record’ night,” Wissinger says, when guests can bring a track they want to hear on Eavesdrop’s top-of-the-line sound system. “Open Decks Night” is also in the works, when less experienced enthusiasts can sign up to play a short set on the Eavesdrop decks.
I love the approach to the audio and the emphasis on amazing sound design and craft. But I do think that the musical direction of a place needs to be a bit of an autocracy, reflecting the tastes and preferences of the owners. A strong point of view and curation are the lifeblood. So no matter how interesting the sound is, the notion of an “open decks night” could be a very bad idea for the aforementioned reasons. There is such thing as too much democracy when it comes to these endeavors. I’m sure some trial and error and experimentation are due. But the bar in itself is an exciting development and a welcome one in Greenpoint. (CJN)
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
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