I was talking with a friend recently about some great shows we had seen here in the past twenty years, and it was remarkable how many of them took place at clubs that simply no longer exist -- either due to encroaching gentrification or one mad mayor or another's fascist tendencies. So, anyway, in very loose order here comes...
Alex in NYC's Top Eleven Favorite Since-Closed Live Music Venues/Clubs
(11) The Limelight - (47 West 20th Street) - The notorious converted church on Sixth Avenue between 20th and 21st streets may be more renowned for Peter Gatien's Disco 2000 parties and the murderous hijinx of self-proclaimed "Party Monster," Michael Alig, but the venue also played host to a number of live acts in its troubled day. I remember seeing bands like New Model Army, Vent 414, Foetus, the Lords of Acid, Front 242, Cop Shoot Cop, Shrinkwrapped-era Gang of Four and -- wait for it -- Killing Joke play in its once-hallowed apse. The place indeed reeked of sleaze, but it was also pretty damn cool. For a little while, at least.
(10) The Palladium - (126 East 14th Street) - It started out as a concert hall (the front cover of London Calling by the Clash was shot there). I saw Devo play there on their Oh No! It's Devo tour there in 1982 and Judas Priest there a year later. Shortly after that, they ripped the seats out and transformed the place into a then-state-of-the-art nightclub (as immortalized in "Bright Lights Big City"). However, when not playing host to coke-crazed club kids dancing to bad house music (the club's interior was used for the abortive program, "Club MTV"), the Palladium still hosted live music. I remember seeing Public Image Ltd. there on the tour for Album. In later years, I saw Fishbone, the Dead Milkmen, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 2 Live Crew and Digital Underground there. The last show I caught there was The Unsane and Cop Shoot Cop opening for Foetus (see poster). Sometime after that, not only did the Palladium close (ringing the death knell on the era of big clubs), but they tore the whole damn thing down to build a NYU dormitory.
(9) Woody's - (somewhere on E.4th Street, just west of 2nd Avenue) So short-lived that it's not even listed in Muprh's NY Bar Graveyard, much less easily Googlable, Woody's was a rock club owned by Rolling Stone guitarist, Ron Wood. As such, the interior was decorated with the large shnozed string-bender's illustrations of various celebs. It felt a bit out of place in the East Village, but I saw a few up and coming bands there like the Blood Oranges, Eleventh Dream Day and grunge also-rans, The Fluid. My friend, the excellently named Brent Butterworth, and I actually made our way into a photograph on the front page of the New York Times' Arts section of the crowd at that Fluid show....and we weren't we even huge fans of the band. It wasn't a crucial place, but I missed it when they closed it down.
(8) Sin-e (124 St.Mark's Place) - Made somewhat famous by the live Jeff Buckley e.p., the tiny little hole-in-the-wall with a hearty Irish vibe used to be a very cool place for intimate, live performances. The most memorable for me was a robust performance by Gavin Friday. I also interviewed John S. Hall of King Missile here once, and he spent the entirety of the interview complaining about his cold and the fact that his record company was screwing him. Boo hoo. One stood a very great chance of seeing various luminaries simply hanging out here. I once spotted Iggy Pop (who used to live across the park) and Sinead O'Connor here (though not together). The bar closed due to some unfortunate circumstances, but relocated to a much bigger space on Attorney Street.
(7) Coney Island High - (15 St. Mark's Place) - I believe it was the first place owned by ex-Heart Attack/DGeneration singer, Jesse Malin (prior to opening Niagra and the Black'n'White bars). It started off in this incarnation as the locale of GREEN DOOR NYC a weekly party that played cool Punk Rock and danceable Metal for patrons keen on after hours, pharmaceutically-assisted overstimulation. Once it morphed into Coney Island High, it became the Punk Rock venue of the mid-to-late `90's. I saw a number of bands here, notably the L.E.S. Stiches, DGeneration, the Pleasure Fuckers, the Candy Snatchers, the Dickies, the Pristeeens, the Damned, a cool invite-only gig by Firewater and a coupleof the Joey Ramone birthday shows. They closed the place down due to "quality of life" complaints. The tore the place down to build a condominium.
(6) The Grand - (76 East 13th Street) - To my knowledge, first it was the Cat Club, specializing in Heavy Metal circa the dawn of Grunge. Then it became the more versatile Grand. Then it gets confusing. From The Grand, it became System. After System it became the Key Club. After the Key Club, it became Spa. After Spa, it became Plaid. In any case, it hasn't been anything worth going to since it was the Grand. As the Grand, it was a nice little venue wherein I was fortunate enough to see bands like the Primitives, Redd Kross, Ethyl Meatplow, Motherhead Bug, Big Country, Cop Shoot Cop and Killing Joke (the latter when it was still called The Cat Club). But, as with seemingly every other great rock club in this city, they changed into a dance club. As Plaid, I believe they still had the odd live performance (it was the spot where Courtney Love supposedly brained a heckler with a mic stand a couple of years back). I believe it has since closed its doors and is currently inactive now.
(5) Wetlands Preserve - ( 161 Hudson Streett) - For twelve long years, this club on the corner of Laight and Hudson in Tribeca was an amazing venue for live music in the 1990s. Initially a hotbed of eco-conscious hippiedom (and the spawning ground for many a jam bands like Blues Traveller and the Spin Doctors), Wetlands later boasted a hugely inclusive booking policy, hosting everyone from Agnostic Front through Hot Tuna. Despite its hippy cache, it swiftly became a favorite spot for me, and I was lucky enough to see bands like The Royal Crescent Mob, Fishbone, Mansun, Echobelly, the Damage Manual, Dread Zeppelin, the Machine and Ari Up of the Slits on its low stage. Today, it's an expensive imported furniture emporium.
(4) Brownie's - (169 Avenue A) - The loss of this club was a huge blow to the local indie rock scene, as it was a regular stop for up and coming new underground bands with an accomodating floor and a surprisingly great sound system. Over the years, I was lucky enough to catch bands like Spoon, Firewater (a few times), the Upper Crust, Barkmarket, Blonde Redhead, the Unband, the Geraldine Fibbers, Emma Peel and the excellently named Candygram for Mongo. It also had a nice, unpretentious vibe. But, now it's gone -- replaced by a similarly-incllined yet nowhere-near-as-cool bar (without a stage) called Hi-Fi. There's actually a an official website devoted to archiving the club's greatness. Check it out, do.
(3) The Marquee - (547 West 21st Street) - Named after the landmark London club, the NYC Marquee accordingly featured the latest up and coming British bands in the early 90s, along with a hefty roster of American "alternative" bands. Far flung on the way West Side, the Marquee was a bit of a walk to get to, but it was always well worth the trip. Just prior to being re-christened "The Marquee," I saw a youthful Nine Inch Nails here (when the club was painted like a moonscape in the interior and called Sonic's). After the switch, I saw the House of Love, the Kitchens of Distinction, the Wedding Present, Lush, Ride, Curve, Chapterhouse, 24-7 Spyz, Primus, the Limbomaniacs, the Butthole Surfers, the Rollins Band, Pigface, Birdland, Too Much Joy, Pylon, the Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, Swervedriver, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, the Fatima Mansions, Blur, the Senseless Things and a rare appearance by Julian Cope here. It was also amusingly. across the street from Zone DK, a seedy bondage/s&m bar. Typically, the closed the Marquee down to turn into a Latino dance club called El Flamingo. These days, it's the home of "The Donkey Show," a burlesque disco revue loosely based on Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Yeah, thank god for that.
(2) The Ritz (125 East 11th Street, then 254. West 54th Street) - Formerly the downtown venue, the Ritz was seemingly the epicenter of live music in the 1980s. An expansive, high ceilinged, two-tiered theatre, it was relatively perfect in every way. In its 11th Street incarnation, I saw Fishbone, the Dead Boys, Murphy's Law, the Circle Jerks, Redd Kross, D.O.A., the Toasters, the Ramones, the Mission UK, Urban Blight, Squeeze, the Dictators and a slew of bands I'm forgetting. They closed the 11th Street Ritz at the dawn of the 90's and moved it to the space formerly occupied by disco Mecca, Studio 54. In this space, I was able to see KMFDM, Cop Shoot Cop, FEAR, Skinny Puppy, Danzig, Killing Joke, Siouxsie & the Banshees, the Wonder Stuff, the Mission, the Sisters of Mercy, the Revolting Cocks, Ministry, Kraut, GBH, Bad Brains, Soundgarden, Faith No More, Voi Vod, Big Audio Dynamite, Public Image Ltd., Blind Mellon, GWAR, Motorhead, Public Enemy, Ice-T, Onyx, House of Pain, the Wedding Present, the Buzzcocks, the Dwarves, and a riotously loud performance by Guns'n'Roses (while they filmed the video for "You Could Be Mine"). For some reason, the Ritz vacated this locale as well, and the space became host to various Broadway shows. The Old Ritz became Webster Hall, a disco which occasionaly hosts live music.
(1) Tramp's - (51 West 21st Street) - Riddle me this, Batman. They close this great music venue on 21st Street due to "quality of life" complaints, only to open it back up as an equally loud Hip Hop lounge. I don't get it, but in any case, Tramp's was a great room (with the odd annoying, vision-blocking column). Saw some great bands here, notably Matthew Sweet, Prong, The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Barkmarket, Cop Shoot Cop, the Wedding Present, Gutterball, the Stiff Little Fingers, Nashville Pussy, the Hellacopters and Robyn Hitchcock & the Eyptians. It's closing was a crushing loss for New York City, if anyone asks me.