I spotted a news item I was unaware of via EV Grieve this week that, I figured, warranted a little extrapolation. Depending on how you look at it, news that they’re erecting a gigantic “luxury building” on the southwest corner of Houston and Essex doesn't have to be necessarily all bad. Obviously, it’s a deeply shitty development that this little plot of real estate is being blighted with yet another awful, pricey condo, but -- at the very least -- both the building that currently houses the Mercury Lounge and its neighbor to the east, the former Provident Loan Society building (pictured above in an earlier, arguably less “fabulous” decade) are being spared from the wrecking ball. The new structure will simply loom ominously above them both, like a giant boot forever poised to crush them.
If I’m being honest, I haven’t been to the Mercury Lounge since …. shit, I can’t even say. I did see some remarkable shows there in the (now very distant) past, among them House of Freaks (then still featuring the since senselessly murdered Bryan Harvey) and an intimate performance by once-feted Trip-Hop luminary, Tricky. As live venues go, it’s a nice, manageable room, and I’m damn glad it’s still there. For now, at least.
I can’t say I’ve darkened the doors to the building to the east, the afore-cited former Provident Load Society building, since well before my last trip to the Mercury Lounge. Back in my day, so to speak, I only knew that corner building as a somewhat unimaginatively named club called The Bank, which –- in its heyday many, many moons ago -– seemed to cater to the tastes of the gratuitously gothy. As such, I vividly remember assuming its dance floor, one evening, to the mellifluous strains of “This Corrosion” by the Sisters of Mercy.
I believe my first visit therein would have been to see a lethal triple bill of Barkmarket, Of Cabbages and Kings and – WAIT FOR IT – Cop Shoot Cop there in 1991 during the New Music Seminar (back when they still had those). Here is the flyer for same.
I don’t remember that much about the place, other than it being relatively obvious that -– despite earnest efforts to the contrary -– it was not a venue made for live music nor large crowds of patrons. I remember the sound being muddy and it being not especially well ventilated. I don’t know if Cop Shoot Cop even played a proper set. I seem to remember them invading Of Cabbages and Kings’ set (featuring erstwhile SWANS bassist Algis Kyzis) and it devolving into a sort of cacophonous jam session. I want to say a trombone might have even been involved.
Anyway, shortly after that, The Bank changed hands and became a number of other clubs (not unlike the fate that befell the old Cat Club), only to eventually close and become, well, nothing. Evidently, according to EV Grieve’s story, between its status as an actual bank and well prior to it becoming a nightclub, it served as an art studio for Jasper Johns. Who knew?
Not hugely significant, but The Bank also plays a minor, supporting role in the video of GG Allin’s last day alive. It looms in the background as GG gallumps messily into the early evening of his eventual, squalid demise.
We’ll see what happens next, I guess.
Just as a taste, meanwhile, here’s Oakland’s Neurosis making a big noise in the place in the summer of 1992.