A couple of days ago, I posted an entry about 99 Records over on MacDougal Street, and I concluded that the place was so cool that it’s now hard to conceive that it ever even existed here in Manhattan, given how utterly staid, characterless and thoroughly un-“cool” this city has become. Well, the Lismar Lounge at 41 First Avenue (pictured below, although I regrettably cannot cite a photographer) was a decidedly different affair than 99 Records, but the invocation of its name inspires the same sort of incredulous assertion. Given how boring and stuffy Manhattan is today, it’s hard to imagine how the Lismar Lounge ever existed here. Again, as with 99 Records, that Manhattan simply doesn’t exist anymore.
I’ve spoken about the Lismar Lounge a couple of times here (most recently here). In case you’re unfamiliar with the establishment in question, the Lismar Lounge opened at some point in the mid-to-late 80’s and only lasted into the mid-90’s. That it lasted as long as it did is something of an achievement in itself.
Let’s put it this way: For those who felt that the comparatively plush environs of places like CBGB were simply just too, I don’t know, formal, The Lismar Lounge was a venue that provided patrons of a certain sensibility a place to drink and hear live music in an environment that wasn’t quite so hung up on things like cleanliness, decorum, professional courtesy, security, decent human conduct, etc. In short, Lismar Lounge was kind of a scary dump, and that’s pretty much exactly how everyone liked it.
In retrospect, it’s surprising that the Lismar isn’t more celebrated today, given that it served to be as much of a cross-polinating launch pad for myriad bands as places like CBGB. Sure, you had a regular parade of slovenly “pigfuck” ensembles, hardcore punk outfits and slackjawed metal acts passing through its doors, but bands like White Zombie and Jane’s Addiction both played early gigs at the Lismar Lounge. Lesser-tiered acts like the Cycle Sluts from Hell, Raging Slab and Circus of Power were also regulars.
I can't call myself a regular at the Lismar Lounge, but I went a few times — more out of curiosity than to see any specific bands play. There was usually a lot of attitude, a lot of hair and a lot of volume, but it was assuredly never boring.
I’m not entirely sure when it closed, but close it did, only to re-open sometime towards the latter end of the 90’s as a bar called d.b.a., a perfectly inviting watering hole, although a harrowingly far cry from the comparatively lawless den of giddy rock sleazery that was the Lismar Lounge. I'm not entirely certain, but after many years in that spot on First Avenue, I suspect d.b.a. might have closed as well, following the tragic death of the bar's owner Ray Deter.
Speaking of sleazery, below is a clip that only surfaced on YouTube this past December of the late GG Allin performing at the Lismar Lounge in November of 1988 (see gig flyer at right). I’ve written about “The Geeg” a couple of times here (notably here and here). Given all that you know -- or should know-- about the artist in question, you would do well to watch the below clip with caution. Suffice to say, it’s not safe for work. Technically, it’s not safe for home either. Hell, it’s not safe at all, but that’s kinda what it was all about.
At the very least, it’s a tantalizing glimpse of life inside the Lismar Lounge and a New York City that just isn’t there anymore.
Incidentally, I believe the gent you see in the red bandana throughout is Bobby Ebz, the lead singer of Genocide, a band who originally counted drummer Brian "Damage" Keats (who I wrote about here) in its ranks.
Duck and cover…..