“Then I proceeded to brush some stranger’s teeth. But they were my teeth, and I was weightless,” Kurt Vile sang to a rapt crowd of soft-core hipsters at College Street Music Hall this February. With a full bottle of red wine at his feet and a head of auburn curls cascading down his flannel shirt, Vile wiggled and strummed on the massive and recently refurbished stage.
Since its grand reopening in May 2015, College Street Music Hall has attracted an eclectic mix of established artists. With prominent names like STRFKR, Dr. Dog, and The Neighbourhood on the docket for this year, CSMH is breaking into the local music scene boldly. Nestled between a tailor and Star Shoe Repair, half a block away from Phelps Gate, the hall has a rich history.
The façade of the building, complete with a ticket window, glass doors, and a white wraparound banner to list the upcoming shows, has the feel of a vintage movie theater. In fact, the space originally opened in 1926 as the Roger Sherman Theater, where New Haven’s first ever movie premiere was held. Then from the 1980s to the early 2000s, the theater morphed into the Palace Theater music venue.
The multi-configuration venue opens up its balcony for certain shows, and its broad dance floor for most. With a bar on each floor, the crowds are generally lively. The first show I saw there was Ratatat, whose pulsing beats energized the crowd of 20- and 30-something locals. Then the dance floor at Wilco, the next show I saw there, lulled as a mass of dads swayed. The space is porous, able to hold and reflect the vibe of the crowd there. Although it has the feel of a theater, with an elevated stage, full and professional lighting, and wings, the space manages to maintain a chill bar vibe.
Located so conveniently close to Yale, but attracting a range of people from New Haven and the surrounding area, College Street Music Hall is a welcome presence just off campus.