A few months back, a good friend of mine and former colleague very gamely tried to throw me some freelance work, specifically writing for an outlet I used to work for (and that he was about to leave). I happily obliged and whipped up the piece below.
As fate had it, though, the piece in question kinda ended up dying on the vine, as my friend left the organization in question, and things sort of lost momentum. Beyond that, the piece itself ended up being sharply cut down, not because it was overwritten, necessarily (although you may think otherwise), but more because the most shared bits of content on the `Net these days are quick, impactful listicles with a pronounced accent on brevity. I totally get that and re-tailored the piece to fit that bill.
Purely for kicks, however, I thought I’d exhume the original piece — which owes very little to what became the finished product — and post it here. While no longer as pithy, quick and share-able as the revised version, I’d like to think it’s still impactful. I’ll let you be the judge.
Obviously, there a scores more venues that I could have cited, but it was supposed to be an article, ... not a book. Anyway, here ya go....
This past October marked the eight-year anniversary of the closing of fabled New York City club and storied Punk Rock epicenter, CBGB -- the grimy Bowery dive that first played host to luminaries like The Ramones, Television, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith, the Dead Boys, Bad Brains, Sonic Youth and countless others. The much-ballyhooed closing of CB's has since become a telling benchmark of the changing character NYC. Where once downtown Manhattan was a fertile urban frontier where artists and musicians could meet, develop and thrive, it's now a posh stretch of pricey, gentrified real estate.
But as seismic an impact CBGB had on music and culture, it wasn't the only venue that cultivated New York City's reputation as a hotbed of of live music. Here are just a handful of the other lost shrines to the Big Apple's once-thriving, high-decibel heritage.
1. A7 (132 East 7th Street)
A cramped, squalid hole in the wall on East 7th Street off Avenue A that made CBGB look like Madison Square Garden by comparison, A7 in the heart of the East Village became ground zero between 1981 and 1984 for the burgeoning hardcore scene, providing a rowdy launching pad for bands like Kraut, (pre-Hip Hop) Beastie Boys, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, and up'n'coming out-of-towners like Black Flag, Bad Brains and countless others. Prefiguring CBGB (which was initially reluctant to book hardcore shows), it is as close to a mecca for NYC hardcore as there is. The space is now the back room of a bar called Niagra, owned by scene veteran Jesse Malin (ex-Heart Attack, DGeneration). A plaque hangs on the wall in the back room, commemorating the scene it helped spawn.
2. The Bottom Line (15 West 4th Street)
For three decades, The Bottom Line on West 4th Street played host to a dizzying array of artists ranging from the folksy through the feral. Its humble stage was graced by everyone from Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen and Dolly Parton through The Police, Patti Smith and Prince. The space's fabled intimacy is handily captured on Lou Reed's notoriously provocative and profane live album, Take No Prisoners from 1978. Despite its legacy, the Bottom Line succumbed to stifling debts in 2004. Today, the space it once occupied is an unassuming academic facility for NYU. Read more about The Bottom Line here. Image above courtesy of Brownstoner.
3. Danceteria (30 West 21st Street)
Most renowned as the club that birthed the force of pop culture supernature that is Madonna, the sprawling playground that was Danceteria pretty much boasted something for everyone. On any given night, you might catch maverick street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat deejaying on one floor while the Butthole Surfers were subjecting unassuming patrons to their surrealist blend of acid-damaged shock rock on another. Punks, drag queens, rockers, rudeboys and hip-hoppers all co-mingled within its four, art-slathered floors. You can catch a fleeting glimpse of the interior in Madonna's big screen debut, "Desperately Seeking Susan" from 1985. Today, it's an exclusively pricey condominium. More about Danceteria here and here.
4. Great Gildersleeve's (331 Bowery)
Muscling in on CBGB's turf on lower Manhattan's (then) skid row, Great Gildersleeve's operated between approximately 1979 and 1984 and booked shows by thrashy bands like the Circle Jerks, Black Flag and Husker Du, as well as non-hardcore artists like Elvis Costello, Public Image Ltd. and even Cyndi Lauper's pre-solo career band, Blue Angel. Today, it's a fairly nondescript apartment building. More about Great Gildersleeve's here and here.
5. Hurrah (36 West 62nd Street)
Proof that downtown didn't have all the fun, Hurrah was a nightclub just a stone's throw from Central Park that brought a bit of punky new wave bite to the otherwise sleepy Upper West Side. Notable as the venue wherein New Order made their New York debut and featured in the video for "Fashion" by David Bowie, Hurrah was eventually upstaged by the similarly inclined Studio 54 and closed in 1981.
6. L'Amour (1548 62nd Street, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn)
As crucial a venue to the genres of hard rock and heavy metal as CBGB was to punk, L'Amour -- the self-proclaimed "rock capital of Brooklyn" in the suitably tough turf of Bay Ridge -- played host to a hirsute horde of bands ranging from the "Big Four" (Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer) to Guns N' Roses, Iron Maiden, Faith No More and many, many more. Despite its storied reputation and endearing outsider status, the club closed its doors in 2004. More about L'Amour here.
7. Luna Lounge (171 Ludlow Street)
Largely hailed as an instrumental venue for ushering in what became NYC's new millennial wave of guitar bands like The Strokes, Interpol and The National, Ludlow Street's late Luna Lounge also bolstered the careers of a new wave of stand-up comics, providing a platform for names like Patton Oswalt, Marc Maron and Sarah Silverman during its ten-year tenure on that beloved strip of the Lower East Side. As gentrification spread, however, the Luna Lounge lost a battle with its landlords and the building was razed in 2005 to accommodate an inevitable high rise. Owner Rob Sacher wrote a great book about the venue, go seek it out.
8. Maxwell's (1039 Washington Street, Hoboken, New Jersey)
Though technically an out-of-state journey for NYC music fans, the relatively simple train-ride from Manhattan to Hoboken's Maxwell's on the far end of Washington Street was a small price to pay for those hungry for less fussy performances by their favorite indie rock bands. As perfectly captured in the Jonathan Demme-directed video for "Away" by house favorites The Feelies, seeing a gig at Maxwell's was practically like watching a band perform your living room. While the club was a pivotal landmark in terms of independent, underground and alternative rock, it closed its doors in 2013, and is now just another bar.
9. Max's Kansas City (213 Park Avenue South)
Predating most of New York's more celebrated live music venues, Max's Kansas City on Park Avenue South just north of Union Square Park was the ultimate melting pot of New York City's bohemian cool from 1965 to 1981. Catering to Andy Warhol's Factory crowd and only the hippest actors, authors, musicians, scenesters and artists of the day, Max's served up everything from the trashy glam-rock stomp of the New York Dolls through to the gritty, avant-garde of nihilism early electronic duo Suicide on its legendary upstairs stage. Its significance to New York's musical heritage can barely be quantified. Today, it's a deli.
10. The Mudd Club (77 White Street)
Blazing a trail into the (then) dark and desolate alleys of TriBeCa (now a rigorously posh patch of downtown real estate), The Mudd Club opened its doors 1978, giving both CBGB and Studio 54 runs for their respective money. Pairing the grit of the former with the glitz of the latter, The Mudd Club became a hot spot for artists and celebs, hosting visceral performances by a host of forward-thinking artists, among them the "No Wave" contingent like Mars, DNA and Teenage Jesus & the Jerks, bands who pointedly stripped music down to its rawest and often harshest rudiments in a manner that made the Ramones sound as daring as the Partridge Family. Today, 77 White Street is a pricey condominium.
11. The Palladium (126 East 14th Street)
Originally dubbed The Academy of Music -- dating back to its construction as a cavernous performance space in 1927 -- The Palladium became one of the essential live music venues for New York City, before transforming into the massive nightclub in the 1980's as memorably depicted in Bret Easton Ellis' "Bright Lights Big City" and in the earliest incarnation of "Club MTV," hosted by "Downtown" Julie Brown. In the 60's, 70's and into the early 80's, meanwhile, it was a straight-ahead concert venue, booking everyone from Frank Zappa, Jackson Brown and the Grateful Dead through Kiss, Judas Priest and Devo. It's probably most famous for being the location of Pennie Smith's iconic photograph (above) of Paul Simonon smashing his bass for the cover of London Calling by The Clash. When the era of the big city nightclub passed, the Palladium was razed to accommodate a towering dormitory for NYU (also called the Palladium), with a Trader Joe's on its ground floor. More about The Palladium here, here and here.
12. Wetlands Preserve (161 Hudson Street)
Initially conceived as both a live music venue and a haven for conservation and social activism upon its 1989 opening, Wetlands distinguished itself early on by unabashedly embracing a deeply unfashionable (at the time) hippie aesthetic. In doing so, however, they became the epicenter of a burgeoning jam band movement, serving as active hive for bands like Phish, Blues Traveler, the Spin Doctors and The Dave Matthews Band. Though deeply steeped in the tye-dye vibe, Wetlands booked a wide array of artists, including funk, soul, hardcore, indie, punk, reggae and hip hop. Wetlands eventually was overtaken by the gentrification of the neighborhood, and it closed in 2001. Today, the space is a specialized bedding emporium. More about Wetlands here.