Tall Black Girls’ Julie Black Encourages You to Buy Her Shots at Motor City


Drummer Julie Black is one of three members of the quartet Tall Black Girls who shares the last name Black. (The wordplay makes people think outside of the box a little bit, she says.) Black spends her Thursdays and Saturdays at Motor City, where musicians come to guest-D.J. and the bar draws an international crowd. We asked her about how to wrangle fans from behind the bar and what happens to bartenders in a recession.

Does working at the bar help your music career?
Working at a bar certainly helps the band, and being in a band certainly helps the bar. When [we] have a new record coming out, I can sell the record at the bar and I can put posters up for our release-party show. We get a lot of people from other countries at the bar.

Do international tourists come into Motor City?
Ive met a lot of people from Spain and Argentina and Sweden. We have a bartender whos from Finland, so we get several people coming in from Finland. Its just one of those bars that people tend to go to when they come to New York and theyre looking for, whats a late night, good rock and roll, dirty New York bar that I can go to?

Does it bother you when people come in for that faux-gritty Lower East Side experience?
Theres been so much change in that neighborhood, and its disappointing in a lot of ways. The weekends are just atrocious like that, where its like Lets go down to the Lower East Side and live like the other half. During the week its not so like that.

What other musicians come in?
The guys from Valiant Thor theyre in there whenever they come up. I remember seeing Queens of the Stone Age. We have D.J.'s every night of the week and its pretty common that a [member] of some band, if they play at Bowery, will do guest-D.J. spots at Motor City.

What kind of stuff do the D.J.'s play?
I love that Ill hear songs I havent heard in so long. Its like a combination of really old, almost like fifties garage and then something really modern with a fun soul track in the middle, and Im really into that. Theres a song called Hucklebuck 65. Its been in my brain for a while now.

How do you hear orders over the music?
Ive gotten really good at reading lips. There are certain things that can be confused, like Bass and Pabst, so I prefer people call it a PBR.

Do you let customers buy you shots?
Absolutely. I encourage it. I had a guy one night who was away from Jersey. It was close to the end of the night. I think it was his one night out and he was trying so hard to, like, Hey, babe me and buy me a shot, but he was awkward about it. I remember seeing his I.D., and I think hed been 21 for like a week. Eventually I had to kick him out because his friend was falling asleep on the bar.

How is the recession affecting sales?
I think I have one of the safest jobs, because no matter if people are happy or sad or depressed or angry, theyre usually still going to have a drink somewhere. I see fewer tips, but I still see about as much alcohol.