Roulette starts spinning! Opening weekend festivities for new arts space

Roulette starts spinning! Opening weekend festivities for new arts space
Photo by Tom Callan

The legendary Lou Reed, string quartets with hip-hop beats and a film-noir guitarist will play Roulette this weekend — ushering in the grand opening of Brooklyn’s newest experimental music hall.

Located in the YMCA’s old theater on Third and Atlantic avenues, Roulette joins Fort Greene’s BAM and Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO as a premier venue for avant-garde performance.

“We’re bringing people to artists they don’t know,” said Director Jim Staley, who founded Roulette in a Manhattan loft in 1978. “Sometimes you brush off music when you hear it, but when you see it live, it’s very engaging — you understand it much better.”

Reed, Laurie Anderson, and John Zorn will storm the stage on Saturday, following Friday’s performances by improvising quartet Ethel and offbeat guitarist Marc Ribot. Cosa Brava, a rock-based world-music quartet, will appear on Sunday.

The season will also feature Australian cult band The Necks; four nights of saxophonist Anthony Braxton; an All Saints’ Day choir; and an accordion-infused orchestra.

Staley said Roulette spent about $1.5 million to transform the YMCA’s dilapidated Art Deco theater into a revolutionary stage. The venue features massive projection screens, high-end lighting, and a lobby that will soon become an art installation itself.

It’s a far cry from Roulette’s former home in a modest SoHo gallery, and Staley plans to bring dance troupes, multimedia projects, other adventurous art to the community.

“It’s meant to be accessible to a lot of people,” Staley said. “If you don’t like one thing, you can come back again and it will be completely different.”

Tickets start at $35 for opening weekend, but most shows will $15 or less, providing an inexpensive dose of high-art to Boerum Hill — a community on the edge of the $1-billion Barclays Center, which will serve up performances of a slightly different dimension.

Indeed, Community Board 2 denied Roulette a liquor license in August — citing residents’ fears that the theater could be a rowdy bar in disguise.

Roulette staff secured a temporary permit to serve booze during opening weekend, but until they get a liquor license, the remainder of the season will be alcohol-free.

“We understood we may not get the license on time,” said Sarah Scandiffio, director of special events. “We’re just excited to be in the Brooklyn community first and foremost.”

Roulette [509 Atlantic Ave. between Third Avenue and Nevins Street in Boerum Hill, (212) 219-8242]. For info, visit www.roulette.org.

And Lou Reed will be there.