New Cabaret Bar The Bricks Jazzes Up Sanlitun's Live Music Scene
The trumpet blared, the piano dazzled, and the bass throbbed as the crowd looked on. The Alley Cats were clearly pleased to be performing outside of the fancier hotel bars that are their norm, in a more intimate venue called The Bricks in Sanlitun's Shoukaibojun complex. And the 50 or so smartly dressed attendees that filled the cozy joint to capacity on its Wednesday evening opening night seemed just as keen to live out their bebop fantasies and hear some jazzy rhythms in Sanlitun, a neighborhood known for its nightlife but often void of decent live music.
The Bricks is designed to fill that entertainment gap by enlisting both local talent for residencies, and touring acts that typically perform at classy hotel bars like Centro and Atmosphere. The owners have spent years booking such bands at those hotels as part of their work at the Segrace International culture and communications organization, and The Bricks is a passion project, branching off from that prior work, giving these musicians a place to flex more muscle and not be reduced to background noise, while also offering attendees a time warp of sorts back to the 1950s.
That vintage atmosphere is furthered by the venue's leather chairs, the fedora and suspenders sporting staff, and the – aptly enough – bricks lining the walls. The owners are also aiming to make The Bricks known for its wine list, selling dozens of mid-range reds and whites by the glass.
Jazz fans are sure to enjoy the venue's classy-yet-casual atmosphere. Don't turn your noses up, music snobs; the talent may be hotel bands, but in a more snug environment like this they were visibly liberated, soloing with vigor and touching on both smooth jazz and bepop. Sure, no talent of Blue Note's caliber is likely to stop by anytime soon, the absence of a cover charge means The Bricks is far more affordable and finds it more on par with a night at Modernista, albeit with less dancing and a snugger, more relaxed ambiance.
Another bonus is the bar's convenient location compared to the Blue Note's Qianmen spot, making The Bricks a sturdy addition for Sanlitun regulars looking to bar hop between other speakeasies like Mokihi No: 3, Moonshine Whiskey and Craft Cocktails, BBC, and the new kid on the block, Toy Box. But gig enthusiasts will be equally inclined to spend their entire evening at this nookish new venue. To paraphrase the great John Coltrane – whose timeless riffs were covered and referenced by the amiable performers on the bar's opening night – The Bricks is helping Sanlitun's live music scene take some giant steps.
It should be noted that The Bricks' location in Shoukaibojun complex's basement makes it a little tricky to find – head down the stairs from the street, then enter the basement level doors adjacent to a hair salon, before turning left/walking north. You should then see the bar's brightly lit entryway. It's open everyday, but on Mondays and Tuesdays there's only a piano player; bands perform Wed-Sat; and there's no entertainment on Sundays. Wednesdays are ladies' nights, where all women in attendance get two free cocktails.
Daily 7pm-2am (Mon-Tue piano only; Bands perform Wed-Sat; Open Sunday but no entertainment). B1-007, North Area of Shoukaibojun, Sanlitun, Xindong Lu, Chaoyang District (6465 6692)
Photos: Kyle Mullin