Hammerstein Ballroom is located on 311 West 34th Street, Manhattan, between Eighth and Ninth Avenue. It forms, along with upstairs Grand Ballroom, Manhattan Center Studios. It is a venerable venue, having been constructed in 1906 by opera promoter Oscar Hammerstein as an alternative to the more expensive Metropolitan Opera. It changed hands and uses many times since then, serving as a trade union headquarters, Freemason’s temple and more before falling into disrepair in the seventies, only to be reopened in 1986, with Hammerstein renovated in 1997.
Located on the north end of Chelsea, Hammerstein is much more of an ‘theater’ than the venues to the south of it, closer to Union Square, such as Gramercy Theatre, Highline Ballroom, Irving Plaza, and Webster Hall. It is also far larger, with three floors, double that of the next biggest near Union Square (Webster), with a capacity equal to that of the also three-floor Terminal 5 to the north in Midtown. There is a large stage floor, as the stage area for music concerts is generally smaller than that of the opera productions it was designed for. There are two balconies, relatively close to the ground and sloped for better view, though they make low ceilngs for the lower balcony and stage floor beneath balconies. In addition, there are six mini-balconies/‘opera boxes’, three on each side, which are generally reserved for special guests. While previously the bar was located at the back of the stage floor, house-right, that created a major logjam, and a second one has been set up downstairs, beneath the stage floor (where the bathrooms are also located).
Given the venue’s history, it is no surprise that it usually plays host to the more ‘artsy’ of popular acts. This does drive up the price of tickets somewhat. Moreover, since the openings of Highline Ballroom and Gramercy Theatre, Hammerstein has held fewer and fewer ‘alternative music acts’, or even popular music acts in general. While just a few years ago it held bands like The Flaming Lips and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (and was the setting for VH-1’s Storytellers concert with R.E.M. in 1998), these days, it is only the rare indie act also acclaimed by Manhattan cultural intelligentsia, like Morrissey or Feist, who play there. The one exception are the holiday concerts held there by radio station 101.9 RXP and DJ Matt Pinfeld. The ‘pushed back’ nature of the stage, along with the high rafters, can also lead to a band’s sound being somewhat swallowed up (though a band can be inventive with the huge wall behind them, displaying all sorts of screen imagery). However, it is a place one can catch your favorite big-name act without being shackled to a chair or having to fight tooth & nail to make your way to the front.
311 West 34th Street (Between Eighth and Ninth Avenue)
-The Naked and Famous, November 12th, 2016 – photos
-Lindsey Stirling, October 21st, 2016 – photos
-Perfume, September 4th, 2016 – photos
-St. Germain, April 2nd, 2016 – photos
-Of Monsters and Men, May 7th, 2015 – photos
-Ben Howard, January 30th, 2015 – photos
-Ryan Adams, November 22nd, 2014 – photos
-First Aid Kit, October 24th, 2014 (CMJ) – photos
-Various artists, including Ad Rock, Billy Joe Armstrong, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, Kathleen Hanna, Tommy James, Joan Jett, Darlene Love, Jesse Malin, Mike Ness & more, October 21st, 2014 (Little Kids Rock) – photos
-Chaka Khan, August 24th, 2014 – photos
-Soundgarden, January 22nd, 2013 – photos
-Amon Tobin, September 14th, 2012 – photos