Friday, April 24, 2015

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut

When an old dive bar becomes a new bar it frequently loses it's tattered prom dress allure. One exception to this rule is Niagara Bar on Avenue A and 7th Street.

This Jesse Malin owned establishment, formerly King Tut's Wah Wah Hut and home of the Joe Strummer (badly painted but well-intentioned) mural maintains a sense of old-school cool no longer easily or readily found in the East Village.

Once upon a time King Tut's was home to a varied cast of characters including Klaus Nomi, Rockets Red Glare  and these extraordinary murals painted by Laurie Olinder. It closed in the early 90s, later becoming Wally's Midtown and then eventually Niagara.

While the pool table and Klaus Nomi performances are gone and the murals painted over - supplanted by a single Kenny Scharf piece, Niagara still maintains some of the old vibe. The cast of characters is less characters and more a mix of NYU kids, hockey players and some stalwart EV denizens but you gotta hand it to this place. There is something about it that maintains a strong sense of dirty dive bar integrity. And to that I say AMEN!

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

I moved to NYC in the winter of 1992. Before making the move I spent a lot of time in the East Village seeing live music and occasionally puking in a few doorways (ok, one really, and never again). I mention this not to establish some lame sense of street cred but because it happened and because it afforded me a chance to see a lot of great bands in a lot of great venues that have unfortunately gone the way of the dinosaur.

One of these late great venues, and a personal favorite, was Coney Island High. Located at 15 St Marks Place it was home to D-Generation, The Spitters, Smirk, the Turbo ACs and a host of other bands some of whom are still around and some of whom have sadly lost key members to not-so glamorous but decidedly rock star ends and some of whom have simply gone on to form other bands and play other venues.

Coney Island High was huge. Not just in reputation but in actual stature. It had 3 or 4 floors (memory slightly fuzzy here, please refer to the occasionally puking in doorways remark for context). It was all black and red and had tattered red pleather dinette style chairs and cabaret tables. Floors you could dance on, decent sound system (despite Marky from the Spitters' attempts to rip it from its hinges), different style music and a weekly party called Behind the Green Door.

Places like Coney Island High were the reason I moved to NYC. I could actually see the bands I loved in a groovy, funky, more than slightly worn but oh-so-intimate setting instead of just listening to them on a local radio show at midnight on Fridays (yes, that happened). And now? Well, now Coney Island High is a noodle and sushi place in what has evolved into an area commonly referred to as Little Tokyo. See for yourself:

And here it is now...

Friday, July 08, 2011

CBGBs "brand" sold to Streambank LLC

This doesn't really fall under what I normally write about but I thought it was timely and I'm left wondering what it will mean. Streambank LLC, the same folks who bought up real estate and inventory from Tower Records when it went belly up in 2006, have just purchased the CBGB brand. This includes trademarks, domain names, recordings and artifacts from the club.

What this will mean, I have no clue, but watch this space...

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Gas Station

When I moved to the East Village the adage that applied to the lettered avenues still meant something; "A is awful. B is bad. C is crazy and D you're dead". I lived right around the corner from a place called the Gas Station, because, well, it had been an old gas station. Surrounded by a chain link fence that was stuffed with all manner of found objects, including an old corner/3-legged sofa riddled with cockroaches I had dumped from my 3rd St apartment, the Gas Station had become a hard-core punk bar that played host to a raft of notorious punk bands.

I had some difficulty digging up old images of the Gas Station. I don't own a scanner and am maybe too lazy to go to the trouble of scanning the old photos I have (I'll get around to it), but the Gas Station and its final days are intrinsically linked to the last day and night of GG Allin. The self-proclaimed Anti-Christ and front man of the Murder Junkies played his final show at the Gas Station. What happened next was evidence of a man in decline. He publicly snapped like a cheap lawn chair - running and rolling around the streets of the EV buck naked and covered in shit and blood. I dug up some video footage of GG frolicking in his altogether. It's tough to watch, for a number of reasons, but perhaps mostly so because it's common knowledge that just hours later he OD'ed in his brother's apartment on 9th St.

The Gas Station was razed and a doorman building with a Duane Reade erected in its place. Proving that old punks can never go home again but they can certainly shop there.

CORRECTION: A faithful reader - Johnny Puke, sent a correction to this post. GG actually died in a friend's apartment on Avenue B. The New York Post at the time of Allin's death actually published that he had died at his brother's apartment on 9th Street. All of these were inaccurate. Allin's brother lived on Mulberry Street in '93 not on 9th St.

The Former Gas Station

Thursday, June 16, 2011

City least our graffiti is clever...sometimes.

A collection of photos from around the City and mostly the East Village for your viewing pleasure...

A Message of Nope

Punk is Dead...or at least its watering hole is.

It's been a while since I've posted anything. It's not for lack of fodder - plenty of good spots closing, a raft of young'uns infiltrating the neighborhood and bringing with them the convenience of super stores and doorman high-rises. It's sheer laziness or depression over the continued systematic denudification of any kind of character or cool this City once possessed. It seems like uniqueness is frowned upon these days or it's at least not financed. Or maybe I'm just a grumpy old fucker.

The Mars Bar in NYC is the latest casualty in the City's personality crisis. The building is being razed, and while an offer was made to them for a larger space in a different building, Mars Bar declined. Part of Mars Bar's "charm" was its cramped-ness. A narrow opening between the front door and the bar. A sparse number of seats and an old jukebox that took up more than its fair share of room. The last time I went there, and trust me, this was never a place I went alone, no matter how much of a bad ass I think I am, Mars Bar was the only bar I actively feared entering by myself - The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" was blaring, a set of twenty-somethings drunk and banging their fists on the bar, the scattered patrons covered in tats and cigarette stains and for a moment I felt happy. Happy that this was a place where time had stopped and maybe the City, if just for a few more days, still had some guts. Despite my lack of skin ink and piercings, I felt at home.

Vive le Mars Bar!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Dying On Bar Time (formerly Grace City Limits): End of the Century

Dying On Bar Time (formerly Grace City Limits): End of the Century

End of the Century

On November 30, 2003 after 2 years and a 16-year old kid from Staten Island spearheading the effort, the dedication ceremony for Joey Ramone Place was held. My friend Artie and I decided to check it out. So we wandered over to CBGBs around 11am. We were thinking we'd beat the crowd. So we walk straight in to CBGBs, said hi to the door guy and made our way closer to the bar. We looked around and saw that the place was mostly empty. We were pretty chuffed with ourselves and our fantastic timing and decided to celebrate with a beer for breakfast. As we ordered our Ying Lings we noticed Little Steven, Jim Jarmusch, Mickey Leigh, Legs McNeill, Arturo Vega, Charlotte Lesher (Joey's mother), Snookie and Tish from Manic Panic, Alberto Camarasa (proprietor of Wows!ville Records) and Handsome Dick Manitoba of The Dictators filing in. Artie and I slowly realized, the sharpness of our normally keen senses dulled by the effects of our breakfast beers, that we had pulled a Harold and Maude. We had in our innocence and enthusiasm and perhaps a small amount of cool, crashed this memorial. Who knew??

Well, they'd let us in so...we listened enraptured by the speeches and little anecdotes each speaker offered. The highlight being Jarmusch playing an answering machine message that he'd saved from Joey. Apparently Joey made a habit of leaving these sorts of messages, sometimes short and sweet, sometimes rambling and all focused on something uniquely New York or random that he'd witnessed or experienced on that particular day.

Once the speeches were over, everyone filed out of CBs and were greeted by a crowd that stretched across Bowery down to Houston St and as far up as Cooper Union. All there to watch the Joey Ramone Place street sign unveiling.

Artie and I looked at each other and thought well, we've just taken a page out of Steal This Book. And wouldn't Joey be proud.

Monday, December 07, 2009's been 29 years. How far have we come? I salute you John Lennon...

I remember...and a story to follow.

The best bands you've never heard of but should there!

The Rousers
The Rousers began in New York City in 1977. Originally formed with the stated purpose of playing at an SVA beach party that never happened, The Rousers at first consisted of three friends from Weston, CT. who had played together in high school bands under such names as "Billy Universe and the Satellites" and "Stepn'fetchit".

The Senders
Headlined by fabulous front man Philippe Marcade, The Senders were one of Johnny Thunders' favorite bands.

The Nails
88 Lines About 44 Women. Need I say more?