Culture & Entertainment
The Ol’ Jalopy Trucks Along
Shining like a bright beacon on a non-descript side street in Red Hook, Brooklyn, the Jalopy Theater and School of Music (www.jalopy.biz) beckoned me in on a recent evening. Built in 1860, the venue has been used variously as a grain storage facility, tap dance studio, radio repair shop, garage, and flop house. Its most recent incarnation is as a temple for authentic live music with an old time twist.
Faithfully restored by husband and wife team Geoff and Lynette Wiley, the Jalopy – now in its 4th year of operation — is firing on all cylinders. But the Wiley’s restoration didn’t come easy. For Lynette, “The most difficult part was putting the hammer into the plaster, starting to remove it, and realizing that it would be a grueling month before we pulled it all off, hauled it out, ground the remaining plaster off and sealed the walls.” Even after the restoration was complete, year one did not come without challenges. “The first year or so was basically just chaos,” says Geoff. “Now, with our feet under us, I’ve been able to hire more help and actually start to focus on the things I really want to do.”
The Jalopy’s offerings are three-fold: live music most nights of the week ranging from bluesgrass to delta blues to Eastern European acapella; adult music classes for mandolin, fiddle, banjo, guitar, and ukulele; and musical instrument repair. The last offering has been in particular demand – Geoff recently hired 3 people to do the job he had been doing since opening – and he hopes the recent help will allow him to devote time to his next goal: making banjos.
Inspired by the Dada movement that began in a Paris café, where local artists could gather, discuss, and share their work, Geoff – struck by artist friends working alone in tiny spaces — imagined a space where creative people could come together to collaborate: artists painting and sculpting, musicians playing and practicing, and adults learning new skills. Judging by the provocative art on the walls, the lively chatter of musicians preparing for the night’s first set, and neighborhood folks sharing stories from recent music classics, the Jalopy is succeeding fabulously and Mr. Wiley’s vision has become reality. May the current incarnation of the ol’ Jalopy keep on truckin’!