When I asked around about the Down & Out, never having been there myself, more than one person used the phrase “dive bar” to describe it. Recently, however, I had the privilege of visiting the DnO on S. Spring St. and as I came through the door I was pleasantly surprised to find that it actually has much more to offer than what one might expect from a typical dive bar.
The space itself is airy and sizable with high ceilings and plenty of bar, booth and table seating. The walls are decorated with celebrity mug shots and there is a pool table and several TVs surrounding the room for game nights. The General Manager, Chris, warmly welcomed me to the bar and discussed all the renovations that the DnO just underwent this past December. Chris has been the manager since they opened in 2009 and he said that since the bar reopened with it’s new look business has been steadily on the rise.
I came in on a Tuesday, which is a great weeknight to get a feel for the place as well as to experience the bar’s Tuesday night Rock-a-Roke. Rock-a-Roke is the DnO’s version of karaoke but their weekly event is unlike any other karaoke I’ve seen before. The bar has a full stage setup where the band
“Tres Aliens” plays live alongside the singers. In order to sing all you need to do is choose a song from their extensive selection, by which I mean roughly 300 songs all of which “Tres Aliens” can impressively play on command. Then sign up with the DnO’s wonderful hostess, Gypsy.
The band consists of Eric on guitar, John on drums and Justin on bass. I was able to speak with Eric, who has been a musician for over twenty years, about the band as well as what it’s like playing at the DnO. Between the three of them they each have ample professional histories as musicians but Eric said that what’s great about Rock-a-Roke is that it’s not about them, it’s about giving the average bar-goer a chance to perform with a real band, which for some is a completely new opportunity.
When I asked about how the group got started Eric said that I can either use the fictional back story of the band, which is that they are a “team of intergalactic travelers who’ve come to planet Earth to blow minds,” or I can mention the real story, which is that they were previously part of a group called “Astral Aliens.” That group eventually broke up and with only three band members remaining, and continuing gigs to play, they needed a name fast and “Tres Aliens” stuck.
I talked with Gypsy about how Rock-a-Roke usually goes on Tuesday nights and she said what’s interesting about the live band factor is that some people come just for the karaoke experience while others come to utilize the stage as a kind of theatrical practice space. Along with the obvious talent that the band exudes I was also very impressed at the skill level of most of the singers. These are not just drunk people reading off a lyric screen, they’re people who are proud to be up on the mic in front of an actual band and the whole setup makes for a great show. Gypsy also introduced me to one of the DnO’s regular singers, Andre, who describes himself as a “residentially challenged” downtown local who sings for tips and receives a lot of support from the bar and the bar-goers with his crowd-pleasing performances. Unlike most karaoke venues, Rock-a-Roke is as exciting as seeing a live show and since the stage is graced with new singers every week the experience is always something different (plus if you stick around until the end of the night you can catch Chris and Gypsy get up on stage and sing an awesome cover of “Possum Kingdom”).
I also spoke with Sean, one of the bartenders at DnO, who previously tended bar in several establishments in New York. He was there having a drink on his night off and claimed that it is the “best bar to work in” because the staff is like a family and it’s not uncommon for there to be a line outside to get in from Spring to Broadway.
Tuesday night, however, is not the only night the DnO has a lot to offer. Mondays are known as Metal Mondays where you can find DJs playing punk and metal or a live metal band once a month. Wednesday night is Industry night when service professionals get half off drinks. Thursdays and Sundays feature live local bands on the DnO stage and Fridays and Saturdays typically feature DJs.
Chris says that the DnO has been and will always be evolving, upcoming changes to look forward to include a new patio space and a food menu. Also don’t forget on the way out to take a fun picture in the bar’s mug shot photo space!
To find out more about “Tres Aliens” you can contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or for bookings or other information regarding the Down & Out you can contact Chris at
BY ELENA NARDINI