Salon: Juke Joint

Join us for a two-day event spotlighting the history of the juke joint in Black American social history and its legacy in music and culture. Emerging during a time when Black Americans were barred from and unsafe in white establishments, juke joints offered a gathering place and secular cultural arena while building community around versatile and innovative Black musicians that ultimately serving as the fertile ground for the birth and spread of blues and rock and roll. Today, the juke joint is not only a location, but a cultural symbol that continues to inspire artists across media.

Poet, writer, performer, and activist Pamela Sneed (Funeral Diva) celebrates the role of women and femme artists in the evolution and cultivation of blues and rock with her band through a tribute cabaret to the legendary female blues artist Big Mama Thornton on Friday evening. The first artist to record “Hound Dog” and composer of “Ball and Chain” later made famous by Janis Joplin, Big Mama Thornton got her start performing on the concert circuit in the segregated South and went on to become a Black feminist blues icon.

On Saturday afternoon, singer-songwriter and playwright Stew (Passing Strange, Notes of a Native Song) premieres a new cabaret piece inspired by the symbiotic relationship with audience and performer that developed in the juke joint and is displayed in the call-and-response nature of Black music. Featuring new songs and texts drawn from his experiences as a Black artist in the punk clubs of his youth, on Broadway, and now in Ivy league universities, this happening puts the audience in the role of collaborator to the storyteller and explores the effect of race and class dynamic on that relationship.

Following this performance, Stew and Sneed discuss the significance and legacy of the Juke Joint and how the rebel spirit of Black and female innovators lives on today at the intersection of political commentary, music, and cabaret culture in a conversation introduced by Curator of Public Programming Tavia Nyong’o.

Presented in celebration of Women’s Music Month as part of the Carnegie Hall Women in Music Festival.


Making Space at the Armory is supported, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional public support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.

Photos: courtesy of the artists

Return to the 2023 Making Space at the Armory Listing


March 31–April 1, 2023

Pamela Sneed: Friday, March 31, 2023 at 8:00pm
Stew & Panel: Saturday, April 1, 2023 at 3:00pm

Tickets: $35 (plus fees) for individual dates; $50 (plus fees) for both

Veterans Room

Health and Safety Protocols
Masks are optional. To view additional COVID-19 Policies, please visit our FAQs page.

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