From the tail end of 1989 until about 1994 or so, I was actively involved with this little start-up music `zine called The New York Review of Records. I’ve mentioned it here a few times. Don’t bother looking for it now, as it’s long gone (although, amusingly enough, someone was selling ancient issues on eBay, not too long back, for an arguably presumptuous sum). Despite its lofty title, ambition and our best efforts, it never really got off the ground, although, on a personal level, I made a wide array of friends and truly valuable contacts through my involvement with the endeavor. It may have been a frequently frenetic project to be a part of, but I’m forever grateful to it for opening up so many doors.
Along with it being an opportunity to cobble together some nascent experience as a more or less actual “music journalist,” my tenure at the NYROR forcibly yanked me out of my post-collegiate doldrums by the scruff of my neck and dropped me into the roiling morass of NYC’s live music scene. While I’d already been a regular gig-goer and club-attender, being a payless-but-hopeful staffer at the New York Review of Records suddenly had me regularly fraternizing with a nation of product-pushing publicists. As such, what the gig lacked in salary was more than compensated for, to my mind, by having my name added to any number of record company press-contact lists. That was a privilege that routinely filled my mailbox with promo albums and put my name on crucial guest lists, giving me entrée into a dizzying host of venues all across the city. That did not suck.
Given the pervasive strain of guilt and obligation that comes with my fourteen years of Catholic education, anytime a publicist added me to a guest list, I ridiculously felt that it was basically my duty to attend whatever the event was … whether I had any intention of writing about it or not. I mean, they were nice enough to add me,…the least I could do was show up, right? Little did I know that they usually weren’t doing it out of the goodness of their heart or any genuine regard for me, but whatever. It got me out of the house a lot.
As such, I suddenly found myself darkening the doors of any number of establishments and experiencing all sorts of nightlife. From the bowels of Brownie’s to the catwalks of the Limelight to the cramped claustrophobia of the Cooler and the smoky opium den of Wetlands Preserve, I found myself rubbing shoulders and clinking glasses with rockers and rappers of all description.
But for every storied venue like The Palladium, the Ritz (by that point on West 54th) and the Knitting Factory, there were scores of fleeting, ill-fated spots that history has either reduced to blips on the radar or erased entirely. Who, for example, remembers Woody’s on Second Avenue (which I wrote about here), Skep on Broome Street, or –- once again -– Downtown on Bond Street?
One club that I vividly remember but have had a devil of a time finding any info on was a place in Chelsea called, as I recalled, the Building. Try Googling that, right? Impossible.
I visited the Building just a few times. Once was invariably for some CMJ New Music Marathon event, featuring a spoken-word performance/rant by Jello Biafra, former lead singer and primary troublemaker for Dead Kennedys. I remember the main floor (only floor?) of the club being this giant room with a very high ceiling, with brick face on all sides. There was a second tier in the form of a balcony, which held the DJ booth, if memory serves. I remember Jello perched on that balcony with a long, leather coat and striking pair of glacier glasses, exhorting to a largely disinterested flock of CMJ badge-wielders and industry schmoozers down below. This photo at right by one Rune Hellestad may even have been from that very evening.
I remember Jello being immediately followed by the scratchy intro to “Beers, Steers + Queers” by the Revolting Cocks (below), kicking off an evening of industrial music by similarly inclined acts like Lead Into Gold, Consolidated, Acid Horse, Meat Beat Manifesto et al. I remember having fun.
I do remember going a second time and it being a good deal more difficult to get in, but I can’t remember if it was for a specific event or not. I remember going a third time with some friends from out-of-town, and ended up taking them on a somewhat circuitous route to the venue. By the time we got there, one member of our party was so exhausted from walking that she may have slapped me. I believe she hadn’t worn the correct shoes for such an expedition.
Anyway, after that, like so many other venues, the Building just seemed to quietly drop off the menu, so to speak. I remember trying to remember its address a few years back, but coming up entirely empty. With the exception of my club-savvy comrade Willy (not his real name, but the nom-de-guerre I assigned him on this post), no one I’ve spoken with since those days has ever seemed to remember the Building. Nor, for that matter, could I find the actual ….er…building.
Imagine my glee, then, upon spotting an article today, by way of the otherwise unlikely source of StandardHotels.com. It’s essentially an oral history of Building (not the Building, evidently … simply Building), that portrays it as a groundbreaking Hip-Hop club! Who knew? I don’t remember it being exclusively a Hip-Hop establishment, but hey … maybe I just went on the wrong nights. I do remember a Beastie Boys function there, come to think of it (and I want to say I remember a video the Beasties shot there, but I’ll be damned if I can find any evidence of same).
Anyway, check out the full story here. Evidently, Building's building is no longer standing.