What do Lady Gaga, Woody Allen, Jon Stewart and Stevie Wonder all have in common? At various points in their careers, they have all performed at The Bitter End, New York City’s oldest rock ‘n roll club.

That list of stars above is a very short one; the full list ranges from Tori Amos to Neil Young and includes thousands of artists between them. Spanning multiple decades, multiple musical trends and multiple genres, The Bitter End has been there to welcome them all. Some of the artists who play there may indeed become the next Lady Gaga; others will enjoy a cult following for a while and then quietly disappear. It’s that kind of place. As one reviewer of The Bitter End puts it on Yelp, “it’s everything about NYC I love.”

The Dream of Larry Oakes

In 2003, Larry Oakes started the NY Singer/Songwriter Sessions at The Bitter End to showcase up-and-coming talent. In Larry’s own words, “There is a tremendous amount of talent out there with very little opportunity to get that sound heard in a live performance theatre”.

Larry wanted to be the one to start that organization because he knows what it’s like to be a young musician in New York City struggling to be heard. Now, years later, he’s a fixture of the New York City music scene. Over the years, Larry has played with a number of well-known bands, including Bad Company, Foreigner, The Derek Trucks Band and Lou Gramm. A keyboardist and guitarist, Larry’s passion for music has since expanded into the world of producing and promoting other musicians in the studio, on the stage and as a Counselor at the infamous “Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp”. The NY Singer Songwriter Sessions encapsulate Larry’s wish to help new, talented voices find a way to be heard.

How It All Works

The Bitter End isn’t just anywhere, and Larry won’t just let anyone grace the venue’s stage. After a successful audition, artists take the Singer Songwriter Sessions stage on Sunday nights starting at 7pm to perform. The audience comes in for just $5, a price that’s hard to beat in the pricey city of New York (another Yelp reviewer said “talk about getting a bang for your buck.”). Some of the audience members are friends or fans of the musicians who are performing; others are music connoisseurs hoping to discover the next hot act.

Each artist has 15 minutes to impress the audience with their original music. As a blogger at Go, Do, NYC wrote, “The Bitter End is the kind of place where the next person that takes the stage could be the next Joni Mitchell and I will get to say I saw them when.” It is exactly that sentiment that brings both audience members and artists alike to one of New York’s most famous live music venues.