The Art of Compression

There is an art to compression, one that is on display for all who take notice and experience SubCulture. The performing arts space is everything a larger, above-ground venue would be but reduced to a bite-sized morsel and sequestered under the streets of NoHo in Manhattan. This streamlining is part of the venue’s indelible charm and also separates it from similar destinations.

“We realized,” said Mark Kaplan, who founded SubCulture with his brother Steven, “that the space could be an artistic statement unto itself, rather than a simple black box.”

The fact that many shows and events are all-ages is a huge plus as well—there is intrinsic value in intergenerational immersion in the arts. When we view and experience the arts together, we learn to be more compassionate towards each other.

Then there’s also the world-class programming. Whether it’s a recent visit from Teitur, an award-winning songwriter from the Faroe Islands, or a local orchestral group diving into eclectic and avant-garde compositions, the programming is unlike anything else in the city. “We truly are a hybrid of the arts and nightlife worlds, rather than a traditional club,” said Mark. “SubCulture is a dynamic, curatorial space and the flexibility (no tables, etc.) affords us the opportunity to cater to lots of different needs.”

SubCulture welcomes the best-of-the-best off the beaten path because, well, with the beaten path comes the inevitable price of travel—the slick pirates who steal your time and your money. “We are not a food-and-beverage-driven model like the majority of venues in the city,” Mark added. “In other words, our priority is the stage, not the bar.” SubCulture is very much its own thing. And artists and audiences alike seem to prefer it that way.

The truth is that even though SubCulture compresses the ballroom/theater experience, there’s plenty of room to breathe in its design. Down this rabbit hole, an immaculate sound system ensures no seat is a bad one—even if you do head off for a drink at the bar. The proprietors have shaped a subterranean den of bliss, a gorgeous respite from the madness of whatever lurks above.

Songwriter Jeffrey Gaines visits SubCulture on July 18 and NYU Steinhardt’s International Double Reed Society Conference has its annual residency Aug 5-9.

alan semerdjian

Alan Semerdjian is a writer, musician, English teacher, and occasional visual artist. Besides LI Pulse, his work has appeared in Newsday, Adbusters, Chain, The Lyric Review and numerous other print and online publications, anthologies, and chapbooks. His first full-length book of poetry is In the Architecture of Bone (Genpop Books 2009). You can visit him digitally at and find out about his music at