I started writing this over the weekend, but then abandoned it, as it was YET ANOTHER backwards-looking post that didn’t really have any particular current relevance. But then, EV Grieve serendipitously posted the news that the Pyramid Club on Avenue A is disseminating some confusing information regarding its current temporary closure.
The first time I stepped into the Pyramid Club on Avenue A, George H.W. Bush was still in the White House. I was there to see a triple bill of bands….namely Fractured Cylinder, Rats of Unusual Size and the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. I went with some friends from SPIN at the dawn of the `90s. At that point, I’d only known this venue to largely be a hotspot for drag queens, so I was quite curious to check the place out.
My then-colleague Charles’ slightly goofy industrial band, Fractured Cylinder came on first. All dreadlocks, space-goggles, mesh and other needless sci-fi-inspired sartorial finery, Fractured Cylinder arrived on stage steeped in the trappings of the day, and the comparatively tiny confines of the club were shortly flooded with their clangy caterwaul, punctuated by futuristic sound-effects and snippets of suitably silly cinema dialogue. Al Jourgensen and Trent Reznor weren’t about to lose any sleep, but Fractured Cylinder put on a fun show.
I don’t remember all that much about the Rats of Unusual Size, other than that they were named — of course — after a creature in “The Princess Bride,” which didn’t strike us as particularly punk rock, but y’know…whatever.
An early incarnation of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black came next, and I believe I’m still recovering from that experience. Honestly speaking, they deserve a post of their own. I’ve alluded to them several times here, but their inimitable collision of high-concept performance art, absurdist wit, prurient abandon, downmarket shock theatrics and high-voltage rock n’ roll are hard to fully encapsulate with any semblance of adequacy. Imagine early Alice Cooper in a sloppy clinch with Karen Finley with a cross-dressing, Asian Angus Young on guitar, and you’re sort of in the right ball park. Imagine the Plasmatics with fewer chainsaws and more arts & crafts.
I’d go onto to see them several more times after this night (especially after my friend Dean Rispler started playing bass for them … either dressed as a member of Star Fleet or Chef Boyardee), but at this early stage, The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black was an engaging, indelible mess. Their signature brand of weirdness felt entirely at home at The Pyramid Club, and it was endearing to know stuff like this had a firm homebase in the East Village.
I’d go onto to patronize the Pyramid on a semi-regular basis after that, as a wide host of bands played that stage. There were also theme nights and parties that exuded that same charm — a haven for the off-beat, a shelter for the weird, a celebration of that which isn’t necessarily “normal.” But it was always fun. It was a place you were as likely to run into, say, Tommy Victor from Prong or Tim Chunks from Token Entry as you were The Lady Bunny or RuPaul.
Years went by, and the East Village started to significantly transform, but the Pyramid held on. It seemed that fewer bands were playing, though (or at least bands I was into), so I kinda stopped going after a while. I think I even mistook the club for being closed for good at one point (see photo at top, snapped circa 2005) and asserted same here, but was swiftly corrected by a promoter who assured me that all was indeed well and operational therein.
I walk by the Pyramid fairly regularly these days, but — again — I can’t remember the last time I stepped inside (although I did fleetingly visit some friends-of-a-friend who rented the surprisingly swanky apartment upstairs from the club, although I doubt they still live there today). It still showcases theme-nights and parties in its window, and I’m encouraged that it’s still goin’, as my memories of the place are nothing but fond.
That all said, I spotted the promotional clip below on YouTube over the weekend, and found it sorta dispiriting. I’m not trying to begrudge anyone’s fun (let alone besmirch their business), but the video below — an official clip from the venue, no less — just makes the Pyramid look like a predominantly lillywhite 3-D beer commercial, rife with frat guys and whoo girls, showcasing very little of the diverse, colorful and vibrant character that used to define the club. I guess you could say the same thing about the whole neighborhood.
Granted, I’m now a 47-year-old oldster that enjoys the music of the `80’s without even the slightest shred of irony, so obviously — fuck do I know? But still, this isn't really the Pyramid I remember.
Post script: I’d go onto see Fractured Cylinder perform a couple of more times — notably alongside another friend’s band, the Bastards of Execution — in the incongruously hallowed apse of the Limelight. I still have a fairly hilarious flyer of theirs somewhere — Charles and co. brandishing blasters as if having just escaped from the Death Star’s trash compactor. But Charles abandoned all things “industrial” after a while and became sort of a mod singer/songwriter. I last saw him about two or three years ago, pushing his child in a swing in a Park Slope playground. Oh how things change.