For as long as gay bars have existed in New York, they have lived under threat of extinction. The police brutality of the Stonewall era led to the religious right moralizing of the Reagan ascent, then the mass death and social ostracization of the AIDS catastrophe. In the current decade, iconic spaces like Therapy and Henrietta Hudson have either shuttered or had to resort to GoFundMe to survive the pandemic. Those that endure are not just drinking establishments but crucial lifelines for queer community and activism.

Macri Park may not carry the historic weight of the Stonewall Inn, but for a newer generation of queer Brooklynites, its barstools and drag nights feel like home. One of those patrons is Seán Barna, a drummer-turned-singer-songwriter with an irrepressible literary bent and a knack for fusing together queer New York’s past and present. His second album, An Evening at Macri Park, is a song cycle set in and around the Williamsburg bar, exploring what it means to find family amid “these queens and freaks I didn’t know I needed,” as he sings on “Be a Man.” It’s the kind of concept album that buzzes with a sense of place and character, rendering the United States’ most populous city as a vibrant small town.

Barna named his first album Pictures of an Exhibitionist, introducing listeners to his autobiographical storytelling and the defiantly queer characters who populate his songwriting. His extroversion and fierce need for connection remain hallmarks of his songs. On the rollicking glam standout “Sleeping With Strangers,” Barna seeks refuge in casual sex during a traumatic year, taking stock of a near-death experience with defiance and sass: “I looked death in the face/That bitch gave me a scar.” He sings in an affected croon that shares DNA with Rufus Wainwright’s, though he’s not shy about summoning the ghosts of an earlier milieu of NYC outsiders. On “Sleeping With Strangers,” he namechecks a problematic fave, trying to reconcile Lou Reed’s art with Reed’s treatment of his trans partner. On the downtown fever dream “Benjamin Whishaw Smiled,” he strides through the West Village and eyes the apartment where Bob Dylan once lived. That affordable, artist-friendly Manhattan no longer exists, but Barna is doing his best to keep the city’s bohemian underbelly alive.

Neighborhood bars can be party spots, but they’re also spaces to commiserate and share your sorrows. An Evening at Macri Park inhabits both modes, grief and joy mingled together. On “Disco Nap,” Barna finds solace in dancing, but he also alludes to the pain lurking beneath these nightlife thrills: “I will always hide my bruises with my best pearls,” he wails over Spectorian waves of orchestral grandeur. “The Lonely,” a keening ballad shorn of the album’s boisterous arrangements, is more like the tearful origin story that tumbles out as the bar empties out at last call. It’s about Barna’s memories of his early 20s, a period of mourning his brother’s death and coming to terms with his queerness: sadness and self-acceptance, never too far apart throughout the album.

This is raucous, messy, and emotionally rich music, as any art about queer nightlife ought to be. There are regrettable hook-ups (the darkwave-infused “Erotic Deficiencies” doesn’t quite land), the requisite drunken singalongs (“Thinking of You”), and weirdly triumphant run-ins with the most unexpected people (notably Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz, whose heart-on-sleeve vocals fit nicely with Barna’s aesthetic on “Be a Man” and “Sparkle When You Speak”). Its boozy atmosphere and glam-rock textures sometimes call to mind those great, mid-’70s records of exhausted debauchery, like Harry Nilsson’s Pussy Cats or Leonard Cohen’s Death of a Ladies’ Man. As on those albums, there’s a sense of a songwriter both galvanized and drained by the drunken revelry all around him. But Macri Park’s tone is more celebratory, the work of a queer man carving out community at a watering hole where everyone else is a little bit damaged, too.

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Seán Barna: An Evening at Macri Park