Taavo Somer, the Man Behind the Music at the Rusty Knot

Taavo Somer

Taavo Somer of Freemans and the Rusty Knot.Photo: Chris Buck


In this week’s issue, David Amsden steps into the world of Taavo Somer, the designer and — dare we say it — tastemaker behind Freemans, Gemma, and the Rusty Knot. We hear about his inspirations (the ice machine at Joe’s Bar and the electric oven at Café Gitane, for starters), but more important, we find out who’s responsible for the music at the Knot! It’s not Ken Friedman, but rather the man that Sean MacPherson calls the “the patron saint of hipsters.”

At Freemans, for instance, there’s a ban on anything he deems “pussy rock.” “Anyway, I picked the music,” [Somer] says, referring to the jukebox at the Rusty Knot. “I’ve always been into kind of alternative rock, but that didn’t really fit the mood, so I looked for, like, weird classic rock. Bob Seger. Christopher Cross. Jimmy Buffett. And it’s funny, because now I’m kind of into it. Like those guys are actually good, you know?”

One person who seems a little iffy on that is Jay-Z, if this story from Ken Friedman is any indicator:

“Anyway, so the other night we had a birthday party for the girlfriend of Jay-Z’s manager. Jay and Beyoncé were here. I love Jay — he’s one of the partners at the Spotted Pig. So at one point Jay turns to me and he says, ‘Ken, I love this place. Very cool. Nice work. But what’s up with the music?’ So I say to Jay, ‘You know, Taavo is a very visual person. He creates worlds. The music is all part of his thing.’ Jay kind of took that in. Then he says, ‘I respect that. I was gonna hook up my iPod, but now I won’t.’ ”

And with that, Billy Joel’s “Big Shot” prevailed over “Big Pimpin’.”

Coolhunted [NYM]

Related: At the Rusty Knot, There's a Bass on the Wall and ‘Barracuda’ on the Jukebox