photos by Amanda Hatfield; words by Bill Pearis

Nico Muhly / Philip Glass / Tanya Tagaq @ National Sawdust 10/1/2015
National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1
National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1
National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1
National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1
National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Years in the planning, new not-for-profit, artist-led venue National Sawdust finally opened its doors on Thursday night with two disparate "discover the space" inaugural shows. A former actual Williamsburg sawdust factory, the space has been radically tranformed into a very unique space. The entrance and bar occupy a narrow, but tall space with shiny black walls jutting at odd angles. When the door to the main space opened, it revealed a chamber hall, all white with geometric pattern on the walls which can be used as a movie screen (or to project names of the performers). It looks kind of like the Death Star.

It's also smaller than I was expecting. (Official capacity is less than 200.) There's no stage and it feels a bit like a recording studio (which it will double as). The early show, featuring Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Chis Thile, Nels Cline, Canadian inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, NS artist in residence Glen Kotchke, and NS curator Jeffrey Zeigler, was seated. But the late show -- Cibo Matto (with Nels Cline and Sean Lennon), a collaboration between steel drum composer Andy Akiho, Zeigler, and poet Roger Bonair-Agard, and a DJ set from James Muphy -- was standing room only and felt more like a DIY show where bands play on the floor. (Albeit a DIY show where people were dressed to the nines and tickets were $100.) There's a balcony across the back of the chamber hall as well. Sound was great and both the Roger Bonair-Agard and Cibo Matto sets were really fun.

A show like that, for me, is where this space's potential really becomes evident. You get intimacy as well as acoustics. While watching Roger Bonair-Agard my mind immediately went to Kate Tempest and thinking how incredible it would be to see her at National Sawdust. Something like Majical Cloudz, who play the venue on October 21 (tickets only $15 for that one), should be interesting too. Most of the programming is of the BAM/Ecstatic Music Festival variety, definitely something Williamsburg hasn't had too much of before. It will be interesting to see how programming goes forward -- but if there's a performer you like playing here, it will mostly likely be a unique experience.

Tonight at National Sawdust, Tanya Tagaq will perform her score to silent documentary Nanook of the North at 8 PM (tickets), and then at 10 PM pianist and keyboardist Leo Genovese will present Legal Aliens, "a new set of compositions for a large ensemble comprised of musicians from around the world" (tickets).

Other shows of note:  MatmosJohn ZornRoomful of Teeth, and more on Saturday (10/3) as part of the Terry Riley festival (tickets); Pitchfork/Blackened Music's Tinnitus Music Series with Sunn O)))'s Stephen O'Malley, Glenn Branca Ensemble guitarist Reg Bloor and Psalm Zero's Andrew Hock on October 25 (tickets); and Real Estate's Martin Courtney on November 20 (tickets).

More pictures from National Sawdust's opening night, below...

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National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

pianist Stephen Gosling

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Chris Thile of Punch Brothers

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

mezzo-soprano Eve Gigliotti, guitarist Gyan Riley, and curator and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

John Schaefer with creative and executive director Paola Prestini

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Nico Muhly and violist Nadia Sirota

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Philip Glass, Foday Musa Suso, and Jeffrey Zeigler

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Theo Blackmann with ACME and Jacob Cooper

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Glenn Kotche of Wilco and Dave Rife

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

Tanya Tagaq with Glenn Kotche and Nels Cline of Wilco and Jeffrey Zeigler

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

National Sawdust Opening Night: Volume 1

A photo posted by @soundbitesnyc on

Cibo Matto at the late show

A photo posted by @soundbitesnyc on

NATIONAL SAWDUST OPENING NIGHT: DISCOVER THE SPACE VOL. 1 program:

NS Film by Brigitte Lacombe

pianist Stephen Gosling - Paola Prestini's "Limpopo Songs"

Chris Thile of Punch Brothers - solo set, acoustic mandolin

mezzo-soprano Eve Gioliotti, guitarist Gyan Riley, and curator and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler - Prestini and Royce Vavrek's "Olivia" from Yoani Songs

Nico Muhly & violist Nadia Sirota - new piece

Philip Glass, Foday Musa Suso, and Jeffrey Zeigler - except from "The Orchard"

Theo Blackmann with ACME and Jacob Cooper - Handel "Laschia ch'io pianga"

Glenn Kotche and Dave Rife - Stagger On. Projections of What Might?

Tanya Tagaq with Glenn Kotche, Nels Kline, and Jeffrey Zeigler - selections from Animism