Friday, February 27, 2009

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in Soho

Last night I attended a party at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex in Soho. It was my first chance to get a look at the space, and I had been looking forward to it. I wasn't disappointed.

The Rock Annex is a much smaller space than the Hall of Fame in Cleveland, but they pack a lot into what they have. Entrance is staggered, so only so many people are walking through a given exhibit at a time. While I haven't seen this at work with large crowds of tourists, it worked really well at last night's party. Everybody had time and space to explore the exhibits without any crowding issues.

The exhibits blend hi-tech, interactive media with memorabilia throughout rock history. Guests wear headphones throughout the Annex, and as they approach an exhibit, the corresponding music tracks begin to play. This lets you wander in any direction you like, making it a big difference from traditional audio tours. My personal favorite example of the blend of interactive media and traditional exhibits is the Jimmy Hendrix section of the Guitar Heroes gallery. Concert footage of Hendrix wailing away at "Purple Haze" plays on a massive screen. As the music fades, the image vanishes to reveal a display case behind the performance. Included in the display, amidst guitar straps and other minutiae, are the original lyrics for "Purple Haze".

New York Rocks is an exhibit close to home. NYC rock history is explored here with the Talking Heads, Blondie, the Ramones, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, John Lennon, and of course, CBGB. That they've replicated as many elements of the club here as they have is fairly impressive. Graffiti and sticker-encrusted walls are preserved under glass. It's a look back at an old New York that would almost feel too sterile, too museum quality, if not for Joey Ramone shouting in your ears. For a split second you're there.

The last exhibit hall currently houses The Clash (the exhibit runs until sometime this Spring). It was remarkably well done. As a Clash fan, it was magic. This is a massive gallery to devote to a single band. I think this is probably the best thing about the Rock Annex. A few times a year, they'll rotate this exhibit, and focus on something new. It gives a reason to return.

Overall, it was a really fun way to spend an evening. There is definitely something there for any rock fan.

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