Q’s With The Bowery Presents’ Jim Glancy: With Webster Hall’s Reopening, Bowery Keeps Expanding

Courtesy of The Bowery Presents
– Now Presenting…
In his decade-plus with The Bowery Presents, Jim Glancy has helped turn the company into a nationwide force.

Once a ramshackle operation, Bowery Presents only continues to grow. The company, which operates 18 venues nationwide, including prominent New York City venues Terminal 5 and Brooklyn Steel, and books many more, added another room to its portfolio late last month when it reopened Manhattan institution Webster Hall in conjunction with BSE Global and AEG Live, which acquired Bowery Presents in 2016.

“Because of what Bowery and BSE have done with their other venues, people know it’s going to be great,” says Bowery Presents co-partner Jim Glancy, who has been with the company since 2006. “I say that with humility, but we believe it’s going to be great, and I think people are anxious to be a part of it.”

As for Bowery’s operations under AEG, Glancy only sings the live powerhouse’s praises. “It’s been fantastic,” he says. “They have been a terrific partner.”

Pollstar connected with Glancy to discuss reopening Webster Hall, the venue’s untouchable place in New York nightlife and other projects on Bowery’s robust horizon.

Pollstar: Bowery Presents booked Webster Hall from 2004 to 2014. To what extent has this been a homecoming for you?
Jim Glancy: That’s exactly how we would describe it. It’s really where Bowery Presents started. Any number of our colleagues had their first job there, so for a lot of people it’s pretty seismic. It’s just such an important part of Bowery. Frankly, it’s an important part of New York City. If you go along talking to different people, everyone gets that look in their eye like, “God, I had such a good time there,” and their mind kind of drifts away.

There’s such cool history there.
The history is mind-blowing. That part – who was there and who was recording – is one of the unsung things [about Webster Hall]. Even its legacy in the 1980s as The Ritz, with Tina Turner’s comeback and U2’s first show in America and Guns N’ Roses shooting that famous MTV [concert film in 1988]. It goes on and on and on. It’s just staggering.

Why was making these renovations imperative once BSE acquired Webster Hall?
Just to bring it up to 2019 standards. There was never a freight elevator at Webster Hall. It was a notoriously horrible load-in in the industry. Those stairs, that’s how people would load in gear. The fact that we have an elevator in there now, maybe by 2019 standards, people go, “No shit you’ve got an elevator in there.” For Webster, that’s a massive improvement. Putting in more dressing rooms below the grand ballroom for bands so they’re not on top of each other. More showers, more everything.  “What can we do for the artist who is making it their home for a night or two nights or three nights?” Those were really the key things.

Have Webster Hall’s renovations already impacted booking?
The bookings [so far] are a result of pent-up demand for Webster Hall, curiosity about Webster Hall. [Because of] what Bowery and BSE have done with their other venues, people know it’s going to be great. People are anxious to be a part of it.

Theo Wargo / Getty Images
– Webster Reborn
Jay-Z performs at Webster Hall’s reopening on April 26, 2019.

What went into booking Jay-Z for opening night?
Over the last 18 months, we floated, “Who should reopen Webster?” There are enough iconic artists that in a perfect world you’d have someone who normally wouldn’t be playing [a venue of Webster’s size] and is a New York artist and, hopefully, an iconic artist. Our partners at BSE have an incredible relationship with Jay – he opened Barclays Center years ago. BSE floated Jay-Z and we just kind of looked, like, “Well, yeah, but can that happen?” It’s massive.

Do you have a direction in mind for booking at the new Webster Hall?
We want a DJ in there one night, we want an emo band in there the next night, we want a pop act, we want a classic rock artist, we want hip-hop. It’s not going to have a personality in the sense of, “Hey, that’s where you wanna go if you wanna see hardcore.” We want it to be, “That’s where you go to see the best of everything.” The “best” could be a band on its way up who may play only to 900 or 1,000 and then, 10 months later, everyone’s saying, “Can you believe they played Webster Hall less than a year ago and now they’re playing Radio City Music Hall?” Or it could be Green Day or Metallica or someone saying, “Hey, we have a new record. We want to come into New York and we haven’t played the room in 25 years.” We want it to be as broad as possible.

With Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Steel and the East Village’s Webster Hall, Bowery Presents now operates two venues shy of 2,000 capacity right off New York’s L train. Why is that the right business move?
We opened Brooklyn Steel in 2017. Our first meeting out there was, I think, in 2013. It took us four years to go from, “Hey, this looks like a cool idea” to opening. When we entered into a lease at Brooklyn Steel, we were still booking Webster Hall. As far as we knew we might be booking it for another 10 years. One might say they could be competition; we really looked at those two venues as complementing one another. We’re really confident these two are really going to anchor the business in New York. In its short life, Brooklyn Steel has become a must play; Webster Hall continues that as well.

As someone who lives deep off the L, Brooklyn Steel was a godsend for my own concertgoing.
It’s pretty funny because for a while everyone was [going], “The L train is closing! The L train is closing! What’s that going to mean?” We had lunch with an agent when the L train was still closing [completely, versus the new plan of closures on nights and weekends]. That was three or four months ago. He said, “Do you worry about the L train?” I said, “Well, with Uber and Lyft … People find a way to get around New York. I think [Bowery Presents venues] Brooklyn Steel and Music Hall of Williamsburg and Rough Trade will be fine.” He was 100 percent serious, he looked at me and said, “No, I was wondering if you were worried about Webster Hall.” I was like, “Oh my god.” In the last decade, so much has shifted for culture and youth and partying and food to Brooklyn. Someone legitimately was like, “No, I’m worried, will people from Brooklyn come into Manhattan?” I’m like, “That’s amazing, but no, we think we’ll be fine.”

Dave Kotinsky / Getty Images
– Steel Strong
Brooklyn Steel hosts Pandora Sounds Like You NYC on July 19, 2017. In just two years, the Williamsburg venue has become a staple of Brooklyn nightlife.

The New York club scene is rapidly evolving, even since Webster Hall’s August 2017 closure. How do you see Webster Hall’s role in the New York City market going forward?
It’s the anchor. Not an anchor – the anchor. It’s an aspirational room. Whether they’re a New York-based band or they’re from Kansas or they’re from Tokyo, they want to get to Webster Hall. Webster was opened four or five years before Carnegie Hall. That’s mind-blowing! That’s where Webster Hall’s place has been in New York and where it will continue to be in New York. 

How has life at Bowery Presents changed since AEG’s acquisition in 2016?
It’s great and we continue to love working with them. We just announced a new project in Boston with AEG. We bought Electric Factory in Philadelphia with AEG. In terms of expansion and what we can do, they’ve given us the resources. They’ve continued to let us do what we do and hopefully we do it well. We are two and a half years into it and, if it keeps going like this, we’ll want to be there for as long as we can.

How does the partnership manifest itself on a day-to-day basis?
On the one hand it’s collaborative, but in terms of the day-to-day running of Bowery Presents, we’re running it similar to how we’ve always run it. It’s not as though we wake up and call them, “Hey partner, guess what? We just bought a new 20,000-square-foot warehouse in Albany, we think you’re really gonna love it!” It’s not that kind of way. It’s very much, “Hey, this is what we’re doing, this is why it’s strategically important. What do you think?” In terms of Terminal 5 or Brooklyn Steel, we’re booking it, ticketing, marketing, going after sponsorships. We’re doing all of that. There’s a monthly report, there’s a quarterly report – that’s it. We want to be a good partner to them, it’s not like we just want them to be a good partner to us.

You referenced Electric Factory and the newly announced 3,500-cap Boston venue. Can you talk about your continued expansion and strategy outside of New York?
The Boston venue is going to open fall of ‘21. Franklin Music Hall, which is the Electric Factory, we’re working on doing some updating and renovations there. Bowery has never stopped moving so I’m sure there will be other projects, but our focus right now is on those, making them the best in each of their markets.

What’s next in New York City?
It’s all Webster all the time. We’ve gotta run it, and it’s gotta be great. We’ve gotta be there onsite, tweaking it, what’s working and what’s not. … The next six to eight months is making Webster as great as it deserves to be. Hopefully the dust settles in the summertime and we catch our breath and then we’re back at it in the fall. 

For more about Webster Hall’s reopening, revisit Pollstar‘s recent story.