Masons — a group long associated with opaque rituals, secretive vows of brotherhood, and, of course, the Founding Fathers — are now, at least in Brooklyn, becoming associated with something more modern: rock and roll.
The Brooklyn Masonic Temple, the 101-year-old, 12-story brick, marble and terra cotta cube of a building on the corner of Clermont and Lafayette avenues, has been hosting concerts promoted by boomBOOMpresents.
The promoter, Brice Rosenbloom is not a Mason, though his grandfather was. So when a concert organizer asked Rosenbloom to find a venue in Brooklyn in which Beirut, a popular klezmer-influenced rock band, could perform, the six-year Fort Greene resident thought the beautiful old temple might be just the place.
And Brother Frank Porter, the Grand Deputy Inspector General of the Empire State Grand Council, said the famously secretive society was open to the idea.
“I figured we’d give it a shot,” said Porter. “So far, so good.”
Beirut and the Bard String Quartet inaugurated the Temple as a music venue on Sept. 20. The concert sold out.
On Jan. 24 and 25, the Temple hosted two performances of Neurosis, a post-metal rock band.
While Rosenbloom and Porter said the temple–cum–rock-temple arrangement was working out well, one inside source said the Masons were less than pleased with some of the Neurosis concert-goers.
“They thought that the crowd was completely disrespectful,” said the source, who didn’t want his name used so as not to anger Rosenbloom.
“It was like a frat party. There was spilled beer everywhere. Everyone was smoking weed and cigarettes. People were pissing in the hallway.”
Be that as it may, the concerts will continue for the foreseeable future. On Thursday, the Temple will host Balkan Beat Box. Rosenbloom said there would be two or three concerts a month.
And even if Rosenbloom’s clients have little regard for the space, Rosenbloom, for one, recognizes its “special” character.
On a recent weekday, he met visitors inside the temple’s tall, arched foyer, which is hung with faded banners, one celebrating the 100th anniversary of the temple.
The auditorium itself, off the foyer, was set up for an event, with 30 long tables, covered in white tablecloths, red chairs arranged in long, neat rows.
Rock concerts are new to the building, but the Brooklyn Masonic Temple has a long tradition of hosting public events.
“We have wedding receptions and Clinton Hill co-op meetings,” said Porter.
Indeed, a handwritten schedule hung next to auditorium listed a “Housing Authority First Annual Dance” and an event for “King Solomon Lodge.”
Porter has been a “brother” since 1967, he’s worked for the Masons since 1977, and he’s served as the Grand Deputy Inspector General of the Empire State Grand Council since 1993. His temple is multi-ethnic, multi-denominational, and counts about 550 men, mostly middle-aged, as members.
Mysterious rituals aside, Porter said the whole point of the Masons is “to make you a better man.”
(Women, of course, cannot be Masons — though they can join a sisterhood called the “Order of the Eastern Star.”)
But there’s no avoiding the esoterica.
Downstairs, between the restrooms, visitors will find a brightly painted mural, complete with the symbols one normally associates with the Freemasons: a compass, globes, and an eye.
Next to it hangs a faded coat of arms, reading “Amour, fait, beaucoup.”
“You see how special it is,” said Rosenbloom, of the temple. “We hope it’s not just another club, that it will be more thoughtfully booked.”
Correction: The Brooklyn Beat Box concert was previously described as a Saturday event. The concert is on Thursday, February 28.
For information on concerts at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple, visit www.brooklynmasonictemple.com.