"There isn’t anywhere else to get fucking drink in this neighborhood,” my friend Patrick said sadly as the two of us walked out of Mona’s onto Avenue B. It was 10 on a Saturday night and Pat—who has lived on East 11th Street since leaving Williamsburg after the crash—had just voiced a well-founded realization. The East Village’s 200 or so bars—teeming with screaming college kids, suburbanites or both—all suck on the weekends. So you lay low until Sunday, or only haunt the two dives empty enough to play Bowie’s “Always Crashing the Same Car” three times in one night.
But every few weeks you need to try something new, if only to remind yourself why you hardly leave the house in the first place anymore. This night, “the new place” was just across Avenue B from Mona’s, a blacked-out wisp of an upstairs room, which after serving as numerous other spots (Uncle Ming’s, The Hose), has reopened as White Noise. Back in August, the owners spelled out grand goals for their nascent establishment. “We feel like the city’s over-saturated with a lot of commercial stuff,” one of them told a local news website, adding that White Noise would offer patrons a down and dirty rock ‘n’ roll vibe along with a “weirdo room.”
For décor, the owners have crossed a 1980s Sunset Strip vibe with boom-era New York speakeasy—so you get the Viper Room as imagined after five drinks at PDT. If it sounds satisfying, it’s not: a lot of cases filled with gilded bones and other junk surrounded by black walls and blood-red banquettes. The DJ booth, which sits above the entranceway, is a cool touch: You might even feel sorry for the scraggly-haired, aging guy spinning, nodding his way through “Cherry Bomb” like he’s excited. His balding pate was all the more conspicuous, as the average age in the room seemed to hover at 23. The style of the crowd was a mix of jockish preppy, not to be confused with its more urbane cousin, and modern emo: hairdos and tattoos for the guys, short, colorful dresses or skinny jeans for the girls. Call it Real World-chic maybe. And despite his best efforts creating a sleazy vibe with Motley Cre—and that night’s 4-to-1 female-to-male ratio—stripper poles on the bars remained untouched. (As did the “weirdo room,” reportedly in reality a broom closet.)
Having gleaned all their moves from The Hills, the girls were more interested in giving out air-kisses and texting. You could practically feel them insulting each other through the high decibel Hair Metal. After a while, even the DJ lost interest and just gazed ahead coolly from his perch. Beers, at least, were somewhat rock ‘n’ roll: $6 for a bottle of Red Stripe or Stella.
The whole set-up confused me, but Pat, younger than I am, put his finger on the pulse. “These are like the ‘cool’ NYU kids,” he said, tossing up air quotes. “And the thing about cool NYU kids is they aren’t that cool.” We never should have left Mona’s.
White Noise, 225 Ave. B (at E. 13th St.), 212- 539-0925.