Concert venue bathrooms are a lot like crème brûlée. Stay with me here. Crème brûlée, despite all the fuss, is a pretty simple thing. Generally, you don’t go to a restaurant just to partake in it, but it always stands out in your memory after the experience. While every place does it slightly differently, the overall concept is still the same – and kind of gross, in theory. (I recently tried to explain the appeal of burnt pudding to a 7-year-old, and his reaction said it all). But when done well, crème brûlée can be an amazing experience.
Writing about music has brought me to some very cool NYC venues this year. Incidentally, I was also pulled into the strange world of Manhattan bathrooms, where everyone does it differently and candy, incense, and black lights are all fair game. Here’s what my year looked like from the other side of the stage.
Webster Hall, the venue that inspired this whole thing, has the most unique bathroom I have ever seen. The aesthetic is somewhere between Steak & Shake and The Shining, with a black and white checkered floor and bright red, arched stalls. Located next to the bar and right on the GA floor, it’s unisex and spacious, with two open walls that serve as the main doors. This is great from a security standpoint, as it probably prevents a lot of icky venue bathroom antics. Not only that, but there is a big bar full of candy, some super chill incense, and a friendly attendant or two. Not going to lie, when the Wiz Khalifa concert nearly scorched our lungs with weed fumes, this restroom was literally a rest room for our photographer and I.
While most venues would probably be terrified to subject their bathroom to a blacklight, Terminal 5 has nothing to hide. Bathed in that otherworldly blue glow, these bathrooms nod to the dayglo trend and almost flaunt how impeccably clean they are. Like Webster, the Terminal 5 bathrooms are unisex and staffed with nice attendants. There are also free goodies to freshen up with on the way out, like cologne, breath mints, and candies.
With any major event, the security is going to be pretty intense. So when we got our press packets for the Rockefeller Tree Lighting this year, we couldn’t help but giggle at some of the regulations, which made us sound like ferocious little lion cubs (“Media will be located in pre-assigned press pens and not permitted to roam.”). I figured this would be a bit of an inconvenience when it came to bathroom breaks, but it was actually excellent. Rubenstein Communications handled the event beautifully, providing us personal escorts whenever we needed to go somewhere. This is especially helpful if you’re a bit directionally challenged like I am. The winding depths of Rockefeller Center felt so labyrinthine to me that I half expected to find David Bowie down there. The bathrooms were very clean, and massive enough that there was never a line. They were also right next to a Starbucks. Score.
Unfortunately, some of the other venue bathrooms were a little less lovely. We’ll go ahead and rule out any porta-potty experiences, though. With Central Park events like the Global Citizen Festival and SummerStage, the outdoor facilities are just part of the deal, and easily forgiven when you experience the nice New York weather set to music.
Gramercy Theatre’s bathroom is quite small, which created an interminable line during the Aaron Carter concert. I was amazed to find that someone had been drunk enough to not only bring two beers into the bathroom, but leave them both on the toilet seat. I also remember that a substantial amount of puke had somehow gone unnoticed. Irving Plaza, on the other hand, had very clean bathrooms. Unfortunately, theirs are located downstairs and far from the stage area, which can cause you to lose your spot or miss a song.
The most gorgeous venue I discovered this year was the United Palace Theatre, a gilded, golden, architectural masterpiece situated in Washington Heights. The bathrooms were just as impressive, with a militant team of attendants who could politely push a line through in minutes. It may sound a little brusque, but they know what they’re doing. When it comes down to it, getting back out to the show sooner is probably the best feature a venue bathroom can have.