Burning Flags Press The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
Robert Otter Photographs Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
oboylephoto Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
The Weblog of Spumco's John K. The weblog of cartoonist John Kricfalusi, crazed mind and frantic pencil behind the original "Ren & Stimpy," as well as "The Goddamn George Liquor Show." Surreal, unapologetic, uncompromising genius.
Regular readers might remember a couple of posts from 2013 and 2015 wherein I sought out the location of the photograph that graces the cover of one of my favorite albums of all time, that being Each Man Kills The Thing He Loves by Gavin Friday & the Man Seezer. You can find the original post in all its shaggy, lengthy glory here, but — in a nutshell — the image — snapped by noted rock photographer Anton Corbijn — depicts our Gav and Maurice Seezer posing in what was, at the time, the elegantly decrepit back room of a restaurant here in downtown Manhattan called the Blue Willow, on the northeast corner of Broadway at Bleecker Street. One assumes they chose it for its atmosphere of furtive, carnal noir.
As detailed in that original post, the Blue Willow was an short-lived concern, and shuttered in 1990, shortly after this album was released. In all my travels around NYC, I’m relatively certain I’d have walked by the Blue Willow while it was in operation, but I have no recollection of it. Nor do I know what businesses followed in its space at 644 Broadway in the immediate wake of the Blue Willow.
By the time I became interested in it, the Blue Willow had already been gone for over 23 years. By the same token, when I walked into 644 Broadway in November of 2013, I was thrilled to find certain key elements of the original interior decor captured in Corbijn’s original shoot for the album cover still evident. At the time, the space was occupied by a nondescript men’s clothier called Atrium, with the rear space devoted to a pricey sneaker concern called KITH. Despite this, I was still able to stroll into and fully experience the space of that rear chamber, the very same room Gavin Friday and Maurice Seezer had posed in — now filled with pricey footwear for insufferable hipster douchebags.
Two years later, I reported that KITH had modified its hold on the rear of the room, covering up many of the elements of the original room’s baroque interior design with douchey contemporary elements. That made me frown. Some time after that, KITH expanded its operation and took over the entire space, giving Atrium the keys to the street.
Most recently, however, KITH decamped entirely from 644 Broadway, relocating to a massive space one block to the east on Lafayette Street, essentially taking over what had been that two story building that formerly played host to Marty’s Cool Stuff and activist hive, Paper Tiger Television. Some folks used to call this space the Peace Pentagon. Now, people line up behind velvet ropes to get in to buy KITH’s douchey duds. Knock yourselves out, millennials.
So, why is any of this notable? Well, it means that 644 Broadway is vacant again. It’s a safe bet that whatever business next occupies it (or not … the sheer amount of empty retail spaces around downtown Manhattan that have been dormant for over a decade is staggering) won’t be that different from Atrium or KITH, but maybe the stately marble portals and high-ceilings evident on the cover of Each Man Kills… will be back in full view again.
We’ll see. I shot the below over the entrance to alley behind the building. On the original sleeve, the window behind Maurice Seezer's piano looks out onto it.
Hey gang. It’s time for a post that has nothing to do with NYC photography, record stores, politics or punk rock. Settle in.
You may be a pet person. I’m not. Never have been. Never will be. It’s just not in my DNA. My kids fleetingly wanted pets. My wife got them fish. It didn’t end well. Or at least not for the fish. We didn’t eat them, or anything, they just died. And that was that.
We have a nextdoor neighbor, however, that is a pet person. For the sake of this narrative, I’ll call her Gwen, although that is not her actual name.
Gwen is a grad student of some variety who moved in a year or two ago. Her predecessor was a bug-eyed, boozey, chainsmoking lunatic who was evicted after being derelict with his rent too often. It’s a co-op. That apartment used to be a sublet. Being that Gwen’s a student, I don’t know how she manages to pay her rent or her maintenance, but that’s not my business, and I ultimately don’t care.
We barely see Gwen. We periodically detect what Don Henley once cryptically referred to as “the sweet smell of Colitas rising up through the air” from under her front door, but I honestly don’t give a damn about that either. For all intents and purposes, Gwen was, to my mind, an inoffensive neighbor.
Then, … she got a dog.
I couldn’t tell you what type of dog it is. Suffice to say, it’s small, excitable and shrill. It’s essentially a yappy accessory of the type preferred by folks like Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Reese Witherspoon’s character Elle in “Legally Blonde.” I can’t see the appeal, myself. But, y’know, whatever.
No, the problem is that as this is still a relatively new pet, when Gwen leaves her apartment, the animal goes into something of a panic, seemingly standing in a state of unallayable consternation behind Gwen’s front door (just across the echoey hallway from our front door), barking … and barking, and barking, and barking, and barking.
It’s loud. And it’s irritating. And it happens too often.
Personally speaking, I don’t see the need to complain in the moment. It won’t solve anything. My wife does not share this perspective.
“Can you ring down to Steve and complain about that dog?” she’ll ask.
Steve is the doorman.
I ask her what Steve is expected to do about it. There’s not much he can do beyond alerting Gwen upon her return of the complaint, and maybe logging it in his book. All that will probably result of that is intra-neighbor acrimony and maybe an awkwardly unpleasant elevator ride or two. But, it should be noted, it is the stardard protocol to alert the doorman of such things.
Last night was another one of these instances. Gwen’s dog was on a tireless barking tear, and my wife was slowly growing more and more irritated by it. For whatever reason, I’m largely capable of tuning Gwen’s dog out and ignoring it, but I’m assurely not able to tune out my wife’s percolating wrath.
I popped out to go buy some groceries, and on my way out, I mentioned to Steve that there was a strong likelihood of my wife calling down to complain about Gwen’s barking dog acorss the hall – not really expecting him to really be able do anything about it. I was essentially saving my wife the trouble of having to call down. He said he’d mention it to Gwen, although he wasn’t convined she was even out, … suggesting that she might well indeed be home and allowing her unpacified pet to bark incessantly. I sneered at the thought, shrugged and went out to buy my milk.
Upon returning, I noticed Gwen’s pooch was still barking its head off. This was not surprising. I should point out that there are other dogs on our floor, although we never hear them.
I went back inside and we got on with our evening.
As I was turning off the lights and getting ready for bed, I noticed a hand-scrawled note had been slipped under our front door. It read as follows…
Dear Neighbors, I would more than appreciate you complain about me and my dog to my face than to our doorman. If I leave my apartment for more than 2 hours, you complain. This happens maybe once a month. Yet you still complain. I don’t complain about your children. It would be neighborly to give me a night a month without complaints. Best, Gwen.
As expected, we’d touched off a spat. I began to positively vibrate with contempt, and started to scrawl a retort, one that my wife dissuaded me from putting under Gwen’s door. If anything, I just needed to write something, whether it was prudent to return fire or not. I went to bed positively seething.
With an arguably clearer head here in the clear light of day, let me re-state the facts.
Gwen’s dog barks. A lot. She knows it. We know it. The whole floor knows it. Gwen’s upstairs and downstairs neighbors know it. That’s just a fact that she needs to acknowledge and OWN.
And whether it happens once a month or 100 times a month (it’s assurely closer to the latter), as her neighbors, we are entirely entitled to complain about it, and alerting the doorman is, once again, the standard protocol in matters of this kind.
Moreover, as her neighbors, none of us are under any obligation to “give her a night without complaints.” I work. My wife works. Our other neighbors work. We all deserve the same consideration. Don’t create reasons for complaints and you won’t get any.
I can remain completely calm and collected about these assertions. Those are just the cold, hard facts, and they are indisputable.
No, the part of Gwen’s note that made me see red was her invocation of my children. Suffice to say, her statement that she doesn’t complain about my children makes the retort entirely personal and asserts a false equivalence that simply does not hold watter.
My children are aged 11 and 13. As such, they do not cry for hours on end, throw tantrums, stomp around or make a great deal of noise, and during the era in which they were that small and more succetible to those activities, Gwen didn’t even live in the building. I would also like to point out that no one complained about my kids then either. If they currently do make any noise – slam a door or shout, etc. – it is limited to a single and rare instance. It is not something that goes on for hours and hours on end like, say, Gwen’s dog’s clarion bark-a-thons.
But Gwen’s letter makes the thinly-veiled suggestion that there is something to complain about with regards to my children. And, let me inform any entitled millennials currently reading this out there who may not be versed in such matters, nothing is going to make you fall more strenuously afoul of one of your elders quicker and with more visceral ramifications than if you scrutinize their parenting or besmirch their children. Even if it’s founded -- which, in this instance, it most assureldy is not -- it is a perilously ill-advised tack to take, much less in a poorly scribbled note.
That brings us to where we are now.
As I was pointedly discouraged from slipping my decidedly less-carefully-worded missive from late last night under Gwen’s door, her word remains the last one … for now. I’m reasonably certain at least one member of my family is going to encounter Gwen and her dog in passing soon.
I think “we all” (i.e. blogs like mine, EV Grieve, Vanishng New York, Bowery Boogie, etc.) wrote about this when it came out ten years ago, but it seems to have dropped right off the radar since. Actually, I believe I neglected to post about it, being that I was either still working at MTV News Online at the time, or had just been freshly laid off from same, and thus did not want to further sully my blog with any needless invocations of the place.
But I was talking with a friend about it recently and decided to see if I could exhume any evidence of it. Sure enough, see the video below.
Ten years on, MTV’s “vLES” (short for “Virtual Lower East Side”) only seems that much more surreal, although I suppose I appreciate the attempt at architctural detail. If you missed the boat, the first time around, here’s the official description:
MTV's vLES was a virtual recreation of the Lower East Side of New York City, developed in collaboration with VICE. Through vLES, users could meet new people, hang out with friends and discover new music together. With vLES Kickstart they could even get their own band in vLES to play at the virtual downtown venues on through to the real life ones, with a chance to get on MTV. As a music fan, their input helped decide which bands rose up in Kickstart and got the recognition they deserved.
I don’t recall the specifics, but I’m reasonably certain it didn’t exactly take off. I’m sure a lot of creative work went into this, so I’ll keep my smart-alecky remarks to myself. Find out more here.
In 2017, the actual Lower East Side doesn't owe much to the digital dimension represented in 'vLes.' Ludlow Street certainly no longer owes much to the hipster hotbed you'd find here. As such, take a strange stroll back
Like many other nostalgia-crazed bloggy types, I tend to focus my weepy, sepia-toned ruminations on the eras of my particular youth, thus lionizing and pining for the Manhattan of the the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s -–the years wherein I was still young and spry, and not the grumpy curmudgeon I am today. I miss the days when SoHo’s walls were covered in eye-catching street art, record stores still lined West 8th Street and there were plentiful places to see live music and blah blah blah. That was my era, so to speak, so that’s what I’m often reminscing about.
By the same token, I’m also enchanted by invocations of an even grittier New York, that being the city I was born into a half-century ago in the late 60’s. And one of the single greatest windows onto that particular era of the city is the photography of storied Village Voice photojournalist, Fred McDarrah.
Prone to documenting the antics of period-specific iconoclasts like Susan Sontag, Normail Mailer, Andy Warhol, Abbie Hoffman and the like, when McDarrah wasn’t snapping portraits of beat poets, pop artsts, beatniks and yippies, he was effortlly capturing stunning and stark images of New York City.
McDarrah’s pics of Manhattan from the 60’s and into the early 70’s are predominantaly black and white, suggesting sooty, weathered facades and drab, empty streets. These are the same byways many of you might walk down today. You sometimes might have to look twice to even recognize the locations. It’s technically the very same city, but it feels lightyears and lifetimes away.
A simple Google search ought to summon up a selection of what I’m talking about, but you can find a nice collection by clicking right here. Step back into a time before the weekender bottomless-brunchers and the woo girls and explore the Manhattan of a different age and different sensiblity.
Nothing special, just the late, great Johnny Ramone standing manfully in front of the legendary downtown Manhattan literature stronghold, The Strand of "18 Miles of Books" fame. To be more precise, he's standing on the northeast corner of East 12th Street and Broadway, which I spoke about here and here.
I have no real reason for posting this, but I spotted it on the official Johnny Ramone Instagram page, and it made me chuckle. Being an ardent fan of b-movie horror, Johnny actually amassed a sizable library of appropriate texts, but this photo just begs for a caption contest...
"Now I Wanna Peruse Some Tomes" "Beat on the Bibliophile" "Sheena is a Punk Reader" "I'm Against Lit"...
Paul Raven of Killing Joke (and about six-dozen other bands, really) passed away ten years ago today. I was lucky to briefly count the man as a friend, and his sudden death was a tremendous shock at the time. In short order, he'd become this vocal, affable presence in my life, and was then strangely gone. Here's what I wrote, at the time.
A single video clip doesn't really do him justice, but here he was in Killing Joke's prime. He's the big gent in the flat cap. Also featuring a cameo by tv-presenter-turned-excellent-rock-journo, Tony Fletcher.
This is by no means going to be an authoritative list, and I welcome your additions, but in the wake of the news of the impending demise of HiFi, I got to thinking of all the other East Village/Lower East Side’s likely haunts, watering holes and live-music-venues we’ve lost in the past few years, and compiled the list below. Consider a sequel, of a sort, to this post from 2012.
If you were a geeky rock dork in the 80’s and 90’s (and into the 2000’s) and lived in New York City, you’ve probably gleaned by this point that HiFi, the music-themed watering hole on Avenue A between 11th and 12th streets that used to be Brownie’s, is shuttering. Here’s the official story from co-owner Mike Stuto, as posted on his Facebook page:
I (sorta) regret to inform you that my bar HiFi will be closing at the end of this calendar month, ending my 23 year tenure at 169 Avenue A. All parties booked before the end of the month will happen as planned. The story? Quite simply, the renovations we undertook a few years ago to reinvigorate the business were not successful in putting us back on a good financial footing.The generation of people who inhabit this neighborhood on weekends remain mostly indifferent to the place. HiFi seems to occupy a place square in the middle between “dive bar” and “mixologist paradise” — and while I hoped that would help us have a broad appeal to the newbies, it turns out that it translated as utilitarian (aka boring) to their tastes. Could we have pivoted again? Yeah I guess so, but it turns out that I only want to run a bar if its one that I would want to hang out in. Otherwise it’d just be a job I have no passion for. And I don’t want to live like that.
I want it to be clear that the building’s landlord is in no way to blame for this outcome. Yes, the commercial rents in this neighborhood are all over-the-top insane, but at every turn, throughout the roughly 20 years that Time Equities has managed the building they have been an ideal landlord in pretty much every sense of the word. I have been lucky and honored to work with them and to know that there are good honorable people everywhere, even in nyc commercial real estate. Who woulda thunk it?
For the past 18 months or so I have known this outcome was inevitable, and in that time I have passed through all of the “stages of grief” about this era of my life coming to an end. There is no shame in being a 50 year old who no longer knows how to appeal to 25 year olds. So while this is at best a bittersweet moment, I am happy with the end result and very excited about what the future may bring.
Honestly, I don’t think I’d set foot in the place since about 2015, and before that, I hadn’t been since it had still officially been Brownie’s.
In fact, that last time I went, I was essentially taken there by my oft-volatile friend Rob K. (longtime readers may remember him from this post). I’d gone off on a rant at some point about how shitty it was that Brownie’s had closed and been replaced by yet another bar, but he was keen on correcting me (he enjoys that) that it was essentially the same place, with the same owners — but without a performance space. I conceded that it was still a cool place as HiFi, and I believe we left it at that.
As much as I would have liked to have counted myself as a HiFi regular, that was just not the case. By the time the space was enjoying its second wind as HiFi, I’d already crossed the perilous Rubicon into parenthood, and was spending more time and money in baby-supply outlets and playgrounds than in the endearingly dank, smoky rock clubs of my 20’s and 30’s. That’s just the way it worked out.
But as Brownie’s, I still have myriad happy memories of seeing bands like Spoon, Bullet LaVolta, The Figgs, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Emma Peel, Girltoucher, The Gerladine Fibbers, Skeleton Key, The Unband, The Upper Crust and, of course, several performances by my beloved Firewater (that’s them up top circa 1997) in that great space. As Brownie’s, it was just a cool, easy, fun, intimate venue, and I don’t believe I ever had anything other than an excellent time there.
One can take a bit of solace in Stuto’s account above in that he’s leaving on his own terms, but the sting of his observation that the current denizens of the neighborhood are “indifferent” to the character and legacy of HiFi/Brownie’s remains. Much like the Joe Strummer mural a few blocks to the south and a few other other fleeting signifiers, HiFi is ultimately a fading vestige of the sensibility of a vanished East Village. Sure, Jesse Malin’s doing his best with his string of establishments, and The Pyramid is still operational, but — as observed — it’s really nothing like it used to be. It’s hard to find much of that incarnation of the East Village anymore.
And when HiFi shuts its doors at the end of this month, it’ll be even harder to recognize.
I wasn’t originally going to post these two contrasting pictures, as I have no idea what the circumstances of the gent in the top photo are today, and I know photographer Drew Carolan -- whose work I posted about again just recently -- has been reaching out to his old subjects of late (check out his Instagram page for those details). But, I just learned today is an anniversary of sorts, so sheerly for the sake of juxtaposing the scene as captured by Drew, circa 1983, and today, here’s that same spot in 2017, with my son Oliver sitting-in for the hardcore kid.
As my friend Joel Gausten pointed out, CBGB closed on this date in 2006. Hard to believe it’s been that long.