NOHO — When brothers and lifelong music fans Marc and Steven Kaplan first viewed the basement of 45 Bleecker St., they saw a spacious but stark black box theater.
Through an intensive yearlong redesign, they've transformed the 3,000-square-foot lower-level space into a stylized performance venue packed with tributes to the history of the neighborhood.
The Kaplan brothers opened the "listening room" SubCulture in early May and said, while showing DNAinfo New York the space, they want to offer music lovers a creative spot to hear soulful, genre-defying artists.
"SubCulture is a brand of sound," co-owner Steven Kaplan said, noting the venue showcases musicians who play their own original compositions, artfully rearrange standards and have varied influences.
The summer lineup for the space includes the David Murray Infinity Quartet featuring Macy Gray, vocalist Ramin Karimloo and jazz musician Rob Mosher.
The 150-seat performance space just east of Lafayette Street boasts arched ceilings, natural brick and a unique concrete floor finished with marbleized, copper-colored epoxy.
Metal panels featuring historic maps of the area hang on back walls of the space, and small surprises in the design abound. The bar was made to resemble a piece of sidewalk and is embedded in one spot with old keyboard keys that spell out "SubCulture."
"The space was designed as an art installation itself, not as just a black box venue," said co-owner Marc Kaplan, a 35-year-old Dumbo resident who also works as a music educator to teens.
To make it to the basement space, visitors pass through a hallway lined with old photographs and newspaper clippings about the Bowery and downtown Manhattan. The Lower East Side History Project contributed to the space, which the Kaplans call the "time tunnel."
A sculpture made from packed-together license plates and old electronics looms over the staircase.
"If you were able to open up a crack in New York, this is what you would find," Marc Kaplan said.
SubCulture is located under the space used by the social justice-oriented theater group The Culture Project, which previously used the lower-level space.
In addition to holding concerts, SubCulture will be available for fashion, design and corporate events. One day in mid-May, a design group held a conference at the space. By nightfall, the venue's staff was preparing for a concert.
Steven Kaplan, a 32-year-old Boerum Hill resident who has worked in finance and real estate, said he and his brother, who both grew up in West Hartford, Conn., would like to provide a meeting place for all kinds of creative people.
"If you start to unify different disciplines, really unique things can emerge," he said.