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.
I have a couple of posts in the works, notably yet another Flaming Pablum Interview, which I hope all will enjoy.
Unfortunately, the news events of the day (from the Brexit to the continued failure to enact meaningful gun control legislation to the ongoing, terrifying circus of abject idiocy that is Donald Trump), make it all feel more meaningless and trivial than can be quantified.
As such, consider this applicable tune a place-holder....
As detailed in Jeremiah’s post, the villain in this story is not the competition from big name chains like Barnes & Noble, nor the online bookseller juggernaut that is Amazon or even people forsaking actual books in favor of idiotic devices like Kindles and Nooks (do people still use those? I’m so behind the times). No, the culprit is our city’s spiraling rents, pure and simple.
Before you click your tongues, roll your eyes and dust off that weary adage that change is the only constant in an urban environment, please go fuck yourselves, and let me underscore, once again, that brick n’ mortar establishments of these kinds (both book shops and record/disc shops) are more than simply places wherein to purchase goods. They are places for like-minds to gather, connect and share. They are places wherein to learn and discover. They are places to find solace and kinship. Beyond all that, they’re also places simply to browse, something you can do in fewer and fewer places.
Support your local bookshop, goddammit.
This news found me looking up this video from 2013, which I wrote more extensively about here, wherein bespectacled indie dude Fred Nicolaus of Golden Suits circumnavigates Manhattan’s network of book shops for the purposes of buying up every single copy of “The Stories of John Cheever” he can get his hands on.
In the three years since this was filmed, about four of the shops Fred visits in the video have already vanished.
I am fully aware that I just spent the last month driving myself (and maybe a couple of others) to distraction with my search to pinpoint the location of Joe Dilworth’s 1990 shot of the Lunachicks, and that I should probably relax my sleuth capacities for a while, but y’know what? Fuck that. Life is short, and when something catches your eye, you should jump on it. So that’s what I’m doin’. Hop on board, or get outta the way, `cos this is happening.
Okay, so a little backtracking…
I finally got to swing back out to the Queens Museum, last weekend, to check out that celebrated Ramones exhibit. Incidentally, if you haven’t yet, you have until the end of July to get on it. And while, yes, the idea of anything to do with punk rock literally being in a museum is slightly off-putting (see this atrocity as a prime example), I have to say that the Queens Museum did a pretty great job.
The collection of Ramones artifacts -– from Johnny’s first Mosrite through to the “Gabba Gabba Hey” sign to the pinhead mask and all points in between -– is pretty unimpeachable. If you’re a fan of this stuff (and, if you’re not, why are you reading my blog?), you do owe it to yourself to check it all out, if you can.
In perusing through the three big rooms of stuff, however, I was immediately drawn to a foursome of photographic prints by the great Bob Gruen. Two of them were entirely familiar, but the other two… not so much.
One of the more striking things about this photo is just the sheer condition of depicted scene. I have a friend who’s always remarking when he sees footage of the East Village of the 1980’s, how “not-so-bad” it looks compared to legend and lore. Granted, the `80s were five years on from this shot, but the patch of NYC captured in this photograph truly looks like a city in steep decline. Here’s my attempt at a sharper image of it. Click to enlarge.
Anyway, I’m sure you know here this is going…
In noticing how distressed the surrounding cityscape looks, I started trying to picture what that same spot might look like today, and it occurred to me that I couldn’t immediately place it. Now, given that it was presumably snapped during the same session that resulted in those afore-cited subway shots (i.e. between CB’s and Second Avenue….i.e. pretty much the exact same area as the Lunachicks photo), it makes sense that it was taken in that same vicinity. But I can’t picture it’s current incarnation….
Alright, it was a great amount of time in coming, but here –- at long last –- is the denouement (I think) of the great Lunachicks search. But first, a quick recap for those who might have understandably skipped a few chapters….
The hunt started off pretty innocuously. Prompted by a fleeting mention in an earlier post about White Zombie playing at a short-lived club on Bond Street called Downtown, I did a quick image search and stumbled upon a fun shot of the lovely ladies in the the Lunachicks circa their first LP in 1990, Babysitters on Acid, posing irreverently on a particularly weathered slab of Manhattan concrete. I’d found the photo on a random fan site without any sourcing, credit or information of any discernible kind. Moreover, it seemed to exist only on that site. TinEye and a reversed Google Image Search came up with nothing to illuminate its origin. The intrigue started to build for me.
At first glance, I assumed the photograph was taken on Bleecker Street between Bowery and Lafayette, but that turned out not to be the case. There were elements in the photograph that indicated more gated lots, recessed areas and driveways than are on that particular strip. Moreover, the brickface behind the girls didn’t match up with anything on that block.
But under even closer inspection, I managed to convince myself that I’d walked past the very spot upon which they are pictured in the photo –- and recently! I KNEW I recognized the location, based on some entirely flimsy criteria like the texture of the wall behind them and the minute architectural flourishes featured around them. Given the amount of time I’d recently spent walking the streets of downtown Manhattan (having been out of work for most of 2015), I was positive I’d strolled past this tiny point on the map within the last several months.
But there was still something indefinable about it. The image was filled with light and space, leading me to assume it must have been taken along a wide avenue or multi-laned byway. As such, I criss-crossed likely strips like 14th Street, Houston, Delancey, Chrystie, Allen and Forsyth Streets and Avenues A through C, looking for a match. But a match never came.
I then became convinced that it had to be somewhere in NoLita. As such, I hit that neighborhood like a hammer, regularly circumnavigating, backtracking and slithering through, across and around it on my walks home from the office, often tacking way more time onto my commute home than my wife and kids were likely to understand, much less condone.
When that failed to pan out, my far-flung assumptions and ultimately illogical projections went even further afield. For a spell, I assumed the picture was captured somewhere on Carmine Street in Greenwich Village, then Mott Street in SoHo, then East 8th Street behind Tompkins Square Park, then Weehawken Street in the West Village, then on Gansevoort in the Meat Packing District, then on Vestry Street in TriBeCa … but no dice, no dice, no dice, no dice.
I took the family out for dim-sum down in Chinatown one Sunday, leading them on a semi-circuitous weave through needless backwater lanes on the fleeting chance I’d spot the spot somewhere down there. Again, `twas not to be.
My fixation with finding the photo’s location was becoming an obsession. I was haunted by the familiarity I thought it exuded, but my inability to replicate it was making me lose hope.
But, because the Internet has essentially shrank the world into a very small town where word gets around fast, it turns out that a British friend of mine I know from the ILX Music Discussion Boards — Susan C. (who I’ve never actually met in person) — is also friends with the photographer. Apparently, that photographer had gotten wind of my search, and posted something about it on his Facebook page, prompting Susan to say, “Oi, I actually know that guy — you two should talk!”
And that’s just what she did, introducing me to storied photographer/musician Joe Dilworth (pictured at right circa 1984). Along with having once taken pictures of the Lunachicks, Joe is also responsible for images that grace many a significant album cover, and has played in myriad great bands himself, including Th’Faith Healers, Stereolab and even P.J. Harvey. You can read all about the man via this great piece in The Quietus!
Joe turned out to be a truly excellent and mercifully patient guy, obviously somewhat amused by my bug-eyed fervor to divine the enigmatic location depicted in his portrait of the Lunachicks. Upon “friending” each other on Facebook, I pretty much immediately launched into my questioning, explaining my somewhat ridiculous quest and asking if he remembers tiny details of about a photo shoot with a band that went down 26 years ago.
As it turns out, Joe had grown up in and lived, at the time, in London, and was not a New Yorker. He’d been commissioned to shoot the Lunachicks — then still a relatively new and unknown quantity — so flew over from the UK. For this particular shoot, after “going awol” around the city for a bit, he met up with the Lunachicks prior to a gig at CBGB (of course). While the ladies were doing their soundcheck, Joe had about a few minutes to scout out a few potential locations.
Immersed in the lore of the first Ramones album cover (also taken in that neighborhood by the great Roberta Bayley), Joe envisioned a sort of “gloomy, osteuropäische vibe,” but the girls weren’t having it. Following their soundcheck, Joe and the band had only a few minutes to get the job done. As such, the location of that photograph is “about two minutes walk” from CBGB, as that’s all the time they had.
Okay, so two-minute walk from 315 Bowery, then. Fine, but in what direction? And, really, a “two-minute walk” for one person is conceivably a “five-minute walk” for another. It really depends on how fast you’re walking, where you’re headed, etc.
Joe then did me a true favor and offered to send me the contact sheets from the shoot. He was off on tour with his band, Cavern of Anti-Matter (for whom he plays drums), but promised to e-mail them to me upon his return home to his current digs in Berlin.
And this week, that’s exactly what he did.
The whole series of photographs from that day are, for me, a true revelation. Not only do they disclose the exact location of the shot in question, but they also really capture the essence of a neighborhood that is now virtually unrecognizable. The Lunachicks, meanwhile, are depicted like a madcap gaggle of comely, leather-clad hoods, like a hirsute hybrid of Josie & the Pussycats and the Warriors.
Sure enough, the pictures start off on the Bowery. Here they are posed on the center island between Bleecker and East 2nd Street. I took a shot in pretty much the same exact spot about five or six years later (see below). Today, it’s doesn’t quite exude the same atmosphere.
I also like this shot as it showcases the fact that bassist Squid Silver boasts a KISS badge on her leather lapel (cover of Rock'n'Roll Over)
Here's my little boy on the same spot earlier today...
From there, it looks like the Joe and the ladies literally just walked about a two-block radius, circling down to Second Avenue.
Eventually they paused at the spot from the original photo…
Here are some others frames from the same spot...
..and here's where my heart started to beat faster....watch as Joe steps back and the camera starts to reveal a bit more detail on the right...
HOLY CRAP, DO YOU SEE THAT??? BEHIND VOCALIST THEO KOGAN'S HEAD?
Should you not recognize the building behind her head, take a look at this Google Maps grab of East First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue....
Yes, we have a match. This also means that the original tenement building at the end of the block in the original photo is the building which featured the XOXO Gallery in its ground floor (which was demolished in 1997, seven years after the original Dilworth photo).
So, there you have it. Now, if you walk down East First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue today, pretty much everything that once made it distinctive is gone. The vacant lot on the western edge of the street (abutting Bowery)...
...is now a Chase Bank.
A little further in, fabled Extra Place (here back in the `90s)....
...is now an antiseptic outdoor mall (of a sort). Here it is looking south from within....
Essentially, in the original photo, the Lunachicks are pictured standing in front of a structure that no longer stands, and hasn't since about the dawn of the new millennium. So much for thinking I'd past it recently.
The reason there's so much light and space in the photo is because they would have been standing across the street from the wide open lot that was behind 295 Bowery (i.e. the rotting edifice of McGurk's Suicide Hall). Towards the eastern end of the block, of course, was the Mars Bar. That's gone, too. For a glimpse of the street as it was, enjoy this oddball snippet from age-old cable access show, The Church of Shooting Yourself (which I wrote about here)....
Just to finish the narrative, after the shoot, the Lunachicks sauntered menacingly back to CBGB's, plugged in and blew the roof off the place...
Today, guitarist Gina Volpe fronts the band Bantam, vocalist Theo Kogan is an actress/model/mom who heads-up the cosmetics company Armour, bassist Sidney "Squid" Silver is the proprietor of Williamsburg's Roebling Tea Room. Original drummer Becky Wreck was last heard of playing in a band called the Blair Bitch Project (oh, mirth) while second drummer, Chip English, currently plays with Suicide King. No word on the whereabouts or doings of second guitarist Sindi (below from the CB's gig above)....
So that's it, really. Mystery solved. I'd love to thank everyone who stuck with me, and Joe Dilworth for his humor and generosity.
Lastly, here's Oliver in (roughly) the same spot this morning....
Not to be that guy, but I remember when Rebel Rebel fucking opened! The promise of a crisply appointed, lovingly stocked record and disc shop, meticulously curated and named after a hallowed Bowie anthem? Fuckin’ SIGN ME UP! Given the shop's eye for fastidious presentation, a slight air of exclusivity and a reverent appreciation of the rarefied import, as a rampant Anglophile smitten with hard-to-acquire CD singles from esoteric British indie bands -– it swiftly became a regular stop.
My high school pal and fellow music geek Rob B. and I would routinely pile into Rebel Rebel to rifle through the bins and chat with the staff, giving each secret nicknames behind their backs. Slim and hirsute sales assistant Gary was swiftly re-christened “Boy Gary,” while Dave behind the counter became “French Dave.” If I’m not mistaken, he was thus dubbed because of a tiny replica of the Eiffel Tower behind the cash register, leading us to assume he was French. He wasn’t, of course, but given his somewhat endearingly snotty reputation (essentially “service with a sneer”), he certainly seemed French.
In relatively short order, however, French Dave stopped sneering at us, as he recognized us not only as loyal, regular and paying customers, but I’d like to think he applauded our appreciation for the minute details of music collecting. Once he became acquainted with our tastes, Dave would routinely set certain items aside for us, reserving limited edition copies of hotly-sought-after discs that he knew we’d be interested in. Dutifully, while it may have been more convenient to procure certain albums at places like Tower or some other outlet, we would reverently choose to shop at Rebel Rebel. More to the point, items sold at Rebel Rebel were immaculately presented, and handled with the utmost care.
Rebel Rebel also had things that NO ONE else in the city would ever begin to know about, be it the “Kennedy” single by The Wedding Present through Heaven Born and Ever Bright by far-flung British prog-punk quartet, Cardiacs. Dave knew.
In time, Rebel Rebel’s focus shifted a bit towards club music and, I guess, the proto-EDM one might hear at its neighborhood’s nightlife establishments (I’m talking about gay dance clubs, if you’re failing to decode that sentence). Given the shop’s placement just off Christopher Street, that made perfect sense, and Dave still stocked the good stuff for we rock dorks (like the Killing Joke singles collection, brandished here with red-faced aplomb by my daughter Charlotte).
Like so many other stores of its kind, however, Rebel Rebel started to struggle with spiraling rents and decreased demand for its once-exotic fare. As its peers like Bleecker Bob’s, Rocks in Your Head, Venus Records, Kim’s, Golden Disc, Route 66, Second Coming and more started to fold, Rebel Rebel defiantly (as it would) held strong. But it was looking like an arduous battle.
As the years went by, the store started to clog up a bit, with stock crammed untidily in browser-impeding boxes all over the place, making the shopping experience a bit less simple. I suppose they’d exhausted their storage facilities, but it began to look like a bit of an unwieldy fire hazard. I continued to regularly stop in, but the writing was soon on the wall.
News came down this morning via Jeremiah Moss that Rebel Rebel will shut its doors at the end of this month, effectively driving another nail into the coffin of the New York City of my youth, and the colorful character of downtown.
To borrow a line from Jello Biafra, let’s lynch the landlord.
As I mentioned back on this ancient post, a website named BlockAvenue.com once reached out to me to see if I wanted to contribute by writing up a little entry on "my favorite block in NYC." It sounded like a fun, curious little exercise, so I gamely obliged and wrote up an entry on Cortlandt Alley down off Canal Street. Evidently, they liked it so much — or they were entirely desperate for content — that they even wrote up a little shout-out about it on their accompanying blog. I thought that was jolly nice of them, although it seems that my reasons for liking that particular strip (ambiance, local history, atmosphere, aesthetic, cultural significance, etc.) had precious little in common with the reasons most of their other contributors cited for their favorite blocks (proximity to gyms and Starbucks), which I think was sadly symptomatic of this city’s self-awareness. Five years later, all evidence of that website is gone, including my little piece on Cortlandt Alley, regrettably.
Cortlandt Alley, of course, is still there, although I’ve been noticing an uptick in scaffolding up and down its narrow canyon, which makes me fear the worst.
A thin, arguably forbidding strip that extends between Canal and Franklin streets, with a slight misalignment at White Street that makes its trajectory essentially lightning-bolt-shaped, Cortlandt Alley remains my favorite street in Manhattan.
If you’re not immediately familiar with the name, you’d doubtlessly recognize it from its placement in countless films. Off the top of my head, Cortlandt Alley plays a defining role in the music videos for “Cousins” by Vampire Weekend and “Stiff Upper Lip” by AC/DC and probably about seven-dozen others. It’s probably most famous for being the “Hot Gates”-like entry to 77 White Street (at the center of the afore-cited lightning bolt), which used to be, of course, the Mudd Club.
I never made it to the Mudd Club (rhapsodized most famously in song by Talking Heads during “Life During Wartime”), as I was too young at the time, but I’m an ardent fan of the music and the scene it spawned, from the No Wave skronk of bands like Teenage Jesus and DNA through the mutated dance music of Konk and Liquid Liquid and all points in between. It closed in 1983 or so, I believe, and is now a very chic condo. I actually know a guy from my former building who lives in the building now. When he told me he was moving to a spacious apartment at 77 White Street, I immediately blurted out “THE MUDD CLUB!” and he showed no sign of recognition to what I was talking about. I know there’s a plaque on the building detailing same today, but I’m betting no one who lives in there today has any genuine idea of what the place was all about. Again, this city largely has no sense of its own myriad histories, which is sad.
Back in November, I landed a new job way downtown, one that now finds me regularly exploring various byways on my way to and from the office. On the days when I have to drop my kids off at their school in the Gramercy area, I usually hop on a downtown 6 train afterwards, and get off at Canal Street. From there, I take a leisurely, atmospheric stroll down Cortlandt Alley. Even this many years later, it still fires my imagination like nothing else. Frequently, I’m moved to take pictures.
Here are my shots from not only my commutes over the past six months, but also some shots from the past couple of years on Instagram (along with a couple of shots of my kids).
Not unlike countless other institutions of its kind, my kids’ grade school hosts an annual Spring Carnival, and for as long as my little two have been attending said school, we’ve always gone.
The school in question is pretty social. One of the reasons we were first attracted to the place was because of its warm, inclusive community. There’s a planning committee made up of parents (my wife served on it for two years) that regularly schedules school-wide events for kids and parents alike, ranging from annual walk-a-thons through boozy Christmas parties (well, boozy for the parents). It’s a close-knit group we’ve come to know and love.
The Spring Carnival, however, has always been something of a headache. Usually occurring on a sweltering, late spring day and featuring a needless disc-jockey with a big, booming sound-system playing contemporary (and frequently inappropriate) pop crap at a volume normally reserved for SWANS, the needle on the discomfort-o-meter is frequently buried solidly in the red. Add to that mix a teeming legion of screaming children, running frantically between bouncy castles, schlocky prize tables, a Silly String tent and a wide array of junk food stalls, and you’ve got pretty much all you need for a nervous breakdown. Every year, I dread it.
The kids have always loved it, though. The simple utterance of the very word, “carnival,” would get them excited. Despite repeatedly getting overwhelmed, overheated, overexcited and under-hydrated, they still equated the Spring Carnival with 100% fun. Regardless of all those times they ran out of prize tickets, or had to wait too long for the bouncy slide or how undercooked that hot dog was, the Spring Carnival was a great time, as far as Charlotte and Oliver were concerned.
Knowing my place in the food chain, I played along. I acted as de-facto security one year, standing guard (well…sitting, actually) at one end of the block to make sure no small people wandered off (or wandered off with someone other than their parent). I also sold raffle tickets one year (see picture above – yes, that’s me, the clichéd punk rock dad). You’d never think an antiquated bit of stereo equipment would be a hot raffle item, but go know. Most of the time, however, I would just buy fistfuls of ride and prize tickets and make sure the kids had fun and didn’t lose their minds. The day might usually end with a migraine and a sunburn, but as long as the kids had had fun, that’s what mattered. Their happy little smiles and cherubic little giggles forgave a multitude of petty annoyances.
This year’s Spring Carnival is this coming Sunday, and while I was preparing to roll my eyes and sigh, I learned that neither of my kids are harboring any great desire to attend. Charlotte’s well over it, and even not-so-little little Oliver doesn’t seem especially phased.
Time for another culling of JPEGs that, for one reason or another, landed on my desktop. These are invariably images I "set to one side" for the purposes of using in posts here on the blog, or simply pictures that caught my eye. Most of them were taken by other folks. The ones of my kids, of course, are mine. Most of these never turned into posts. Some might still. Some might not.
I started writing this as yet another requiem to Manhattan’s once-thriving network of amazing, independent record and disc shops, but I can only spin that sorry yarn so many times. Suffice to say, once they were plentiful, and then they became fewer and fewer. Then they became sparse. Now, they’re virtually extinct.
Those with too much time on their hands and a keen eye for minutia might glean that I’ve titled this post with the same wording as how I’ve dealt with this year’s unprecedentedly cruel culling of iconic musicians. That’s not an accident, as losing Other Music is just as heartbreaking as losing Lemmy, Bowie and Prince. That might sound histrionic to folks who are content with streaming the latest dribble of the tepid sonic diarrhea that passes itself off as pop music today, but for those of us who’ve spent most of their lives absolutely cherishing music in all its richly diverse permutations and physical manifestations, it’s the gospel. And if you can’t wrap your head around that, you should stop reading now, as I’ll probably shortly write something that’s going to offend you.
If you’re someone who gets excited about indefensibly inane bullshit like Beyonce, Justin Bieber or Drake, you’re not going to understand this, as you’re either too young, too cognitively challenged or music just doesn’t mean that much to you.
Shops like Other Music meant more than simply a place to purchase things. For a start, I don’t think there was ever a time I set foot in the place and didn’t learn about, see or hear something new that spoke directly to my interests. Other Music was a browser’s paradise, especially given its pointedly left-of-the-dial sensibilities. Looking for the new Mariah Carey single, Journey box set or Kesha disc? You were shit out of luck, jerk-off. Looking for an obscure collection of pre-punk pub/garage rock, limited edition Robyn Hitchcock re-issue on vinyl, collection of rarified D.C. hardcore 7”s or a used-albeit-pristine copy of a rare SWANS opus? Other Music had you covered, and would happily chat with you about those excellent selections.
Personally speaking, as the ice floe I’m precariously stranded on drifts further and further away from the continents of “Cool” and “Relevant,” I find myself clinging tenaciously to places where my antiquated language is still spoken. It’s become increasingly rarer to be able to walk into a place where names like, I dunno, Scratch Acid, The Pop Group, The Modern Lovers, The Wedding Present, The Birthday Party, The Screaming Blue Messiahs, Cop Shoot Cop and/or yes indeed…goddamn Killing Joke might actually resonate with the ears and sensibility of a fellow human being. There had been other places – shops like Mondo Kim’s, Rocks in Your Head, Pier Platters, Second Coming, Bleecker Bob’s, Lunch for Your Ears, Rockit Scientist, Subterranean Records, Venus Records – but ALL of those places -- fucking ALL OF THEM -- are gone.
Yes, we still have a not-quite-handful of shops left in Manhattan, like Rebel Rebel, Generation Records, Bleecker Street Records, Record Runner (when it’s open) and the super far-flung Downtown Music Gallery, but with all due respect to those great ventures, they don’t come close to Other Music. I do love Rough Trade across the river, but that's not Manhattan.
Pour one out for Other Music.
And while we’re on the subject, fuck Record Store Day -- stop streaming and show your appreciation for the artists and independent local businesses by procuring your music in physical formats at your local record/disc store all year round. It’s really not that complicated.
I don’t want to get too excited, but I’m of the opinion that we’re getting closer to verifying the existence of Downtown. Let’s review, shall we?
In the wake of my post on the early days of White Zombie on the East Village scene, a reader named Greg wrote in saying he’d seen the band play circa 1989, alongside the Lunachicks (above) and an unfortunately-monickered combo named the Bloody Stools at a basement-level venue on Great Jones Street or in the neighboring vicinity. I replied with my recollection of a similar, short-lived venue a block to the south of there, specifically on Bond Street, wherein Killing Joke were slated to play. That show never transpired, however, as the venue went out of business before the scheduled gig. Greg agreed that it sounded like the same place, to wit...
That is the place without a doubt.
I love the Lunachicks and saw them many times back then. This particular gig was the first time I saw them so I remember a lot about the night. Including that stairwell.I am 100% sure that's the place.
At some point a few years ago, I tried to list all the places I had seen the Lunachicks. Who knows why I did that but I did. There was only one place I couldn't remember/find the details on...this Downtown place!
Every once in a while the show pops in my head and I try again to find more info on it. Not only is the place impossible to google, but I've searched through gig histories,old flyer art…nothing.
I tried to find old Voice club listings and even looked through old issues of NY Magazine on Google Books. Just to try to find at least one mention of this club. Nothing!
I don't remember for sure but searching for this club might be how I found your site in the first place!
I am determined to beat Google and find evidence of this place and the shows that happened there. It has to be out there somewhere!
I’d also found that testimonial from the drummer of the Martha’s Vineyard Ferries (where are they today, one wonders) that he was at the same show that Greg attended (or the same line-up, at least). Things started to fall into place.
In the wake of that, a different reader — albeit one named Greg B. — chimed in, saying he’d seen the Cycle Sluts from Hell open for Gang Green at this place circa `87 or `88, and that “the place was empty.” Unfortunately, this unofficial Gang Green gigography doesn’t support that.
I searched online for ads of the kind one used to find in the back pages of the Village Voice, but came up empty, and evidently this venue was too small potatoes for it to earn any placement in the listings of New York Magazine (which you can search for in Google Books). I know I have stacks of an old periodical I used to write for in the early 90’s called New York Perspectives that also might feature ads from the place, but taking those down from the front hall closet is a massive, dusty task.
I decided to take another route. As I mentioned in the White Zombie post, in recent years I’ve become online friends with the band’s former guitarist Jay Yuenger. Despite not finding any invocation of the venue or corroboration of a gig with the Lunachicks and Bloody Stools on this White Zombie gigography, I reached out to Jay to see if he remembers anything at all about the place. Gamely, he got back to me with the quickness….
I remember that show, sure. It was one of my first gigs with the band. I couldn't tell you the exact date, but I remember that that venue wasn't there very long, and that I saw a few other shows there, including Celtic Frost, which their directory lists as having happened on March 23, 1989.
Ah-HA! So Celtic Frost played there, too!!! That’s at least something!
Sure enough, true to Jay’s recollection, this gigography DOES cite that show (with Cronos opening!!?!? Where was I? —oh wait, at school). I couldn’t find a poster or a ticket-stub or a flyer for that show, but we’re getting closer.
Incidentally, this would have been right during Celtic Frost’s abortive turn towards all things “glam" (see below) a detour out of their doomy comfort zone by which no one was well served, least of all them.
Then I got excited because I suddenly found a evidence of a bootleg recording by Cronos (then ex of my beloved Venom) recorded in NYC in 1989! COULD THIS BE THAT SAME SHOW at DOWNTOWN? Nope —turns out it was recorded a month earlier at the significantly larger Ritz, which, by then, would have already had moved from East 11th Street to West 54th Street.
Alright, by this point, I’m not really sure what I’m looking for. The existence of the place has been more or less substantially corroborated by several folks, but I feel like I won’t be satisfied until I find some sort of official documentation of it.
The spot in question on Bond Street at Broadway shows very little indication that Downtown ever existed there. The jiu-jitsu place that was there in has morphed into a crossfire gym (see pic from yesterday morning at the top of this post). I walked down the steps to ask a question or two, but there was no one around.