The More Things Change

In the course of accumulating this material it became obvious early on how quickly the musical climate changed during an incredibly  short period of time. In a city thats known for change, that says a lot. Nevertheless many of the locations mentioned in this site are still around, although often with drastically different makeovers. While BuzzFeed covered some of the more iconic ones a few years back, below are my garage-centric picks:

The Asylum – 647 East 9th St
The Asylum 2016First up on the tour is the location that formerly housed The Asylum. An art space that doubled as a performance space for at least two very prominent gigs in 1987. The brainchild of music fan and engineer at Electric Lady Studios Jim G., it was large and actually a perfect place for The Cynics, The Optic Nerve and The Raunch Hands (all at the peak of their game) to cement their legacy. The last event here additionally featured the Chesterfield Kings. The huge ceilings serve it well now in its present incarnation as a gym.

The Pyramid – 101 Avenue A
The Pyramid 2016
Of all the places I expected to see missing, the Pyramid club was  happily not one of them. Once totally representative of the counterculture of the area, The Pyramid was a gathering place for people of many persuasions and interests. What many did not realize was in addition to catering to the LGBT scene, the Pyramid was very open to booking garage and punk bands. Much of that thanks to the wonderful efforts of Deb Parker, Jody Kurilla and The Fleshtones’ Keith Streng. Its still boldly holds court on  Ave. A.

The Lizmar Lounge – 41 First Avenue
The Lizmar Lounge 2016
The Lizmar used to be a biker bar that not only served stiff drinks upstairs but also hosted some great punk rock shows in the dilapidated basement.  The Ultra V, The Rat Bastards and The Lunachicks were among some of the bands that did time here. Today, it’s still a bar but a one that specializes in specialty beers to appeal to the area’s professionals and well as college kids.

Downtown Beirut 2 – Houston and Essex Street
Downtown Bierut 2016
While Downtown Beirut 1 on 1st Avenue is the one most people remember fondly, it was only the second location that offered live entertainment. Admittedly the only time it was palatable was when they featured garage bands such as The Willys, as well as many others. Needless to say it did not last long. It wasn’t long before the space began its new life as a series of rotating high end bars.

The Knitting Factory – 47 East Houston Street
The Knitting Factory 2016While not known as a stopover for the smaller bands coming through NY, the Knitting Factory also served as an important place in the nightlife of mid-80s Manhattan. Performances took place on the second floor while the downstairs bar area served as the holding space. The small room on the second floor was the first place The Gories performed in NYC (opening for Alex Chilton). Today, the bar downstairs remains as the well-known Botanica and often hosts DJ sets by garage and soul fans Jonathan Toubin and Mr. Fine Wine.

The New Theater – 62 East 4th Street
The New Theater 2016Shortly after garage bands started performing at The Strip on 14th St. Empresario Gare Balaban started hosting shows at this venue as well. The theaters dual spaces (a small theater upstairs and downstairs) led to not just the staging of multiple performances but also screenings of cartoons, Little Rascals, and Three Stooges shorts as well. During its short life as a venue the theater hosted shows by The Willys, The A-Bones, The Cynics, The Secret Service, as well as many others. Today, the renovated theater is still going strong and decidedly NOT hosting any rock bands.

Continental Divide- 25 Third Avenue
The Continental, 2016Longtime denizens of the night need no introduction to the Continental Divide. For a time the bar was one of the mainstays of the downtown music scene in New York. Hosting amazing residencies by The Senders as well as The Waldos, its stage also saw performances by the likes of The Headless Horsemen and even Iggy Pop. Legend has it that Johnny Thunders himself was once thrown out for trying to steal a chicken from the kitchen. Although it continues to survive, music was discontinued in 2006 and the interior was retooled as an upscale dive bar for the college crowd.

The Space at Chase- 98 Third Avenue
The Space at Chase 2016Why anyone would name a bar after a bank is beyond me, but apparently it did not matter much to the owners of the Chase Manhattan Bar & Grill. Nevertheless, the back room (The Space) was a notable venue in the 90s, and not just because it was one of the few places that let G.G. Allin play. Regulars included The Raunch Hands, The Vacant Lot, The Devil Dogs, and The Gashounds. While the live music ended a long time ago, it lives on as a frat boy bar called Bar None.

The Cat Club- 76 East 13th Street
Cat Club 2016Opened as a “rock” club, The Cat Club nevertheless managed to book some great bands during it’s heyday. Although its main acts were the hard-rocking metal bands that were so popular during the late 80s early 90s,  The Vipers, Smithereens, and Optic Nerve also managed to grace the stage as well. Another unusual garage music supporter during these times was High Times magazine who sponsored psychedelic-styled events. Even CMJ brought in stellar talent like Australia’s Lime Spiders. Nevertheless after interest in hard rock waned, the club closed and sat unused for many years. Eventually it was converted into part of the sprawling Hyatt Union Square complex. These days just the address exists above a renovated exterior.

Tramps- 125 East 15th Street
Tramps 2016
Tramps is one of those clubs that inadvertently played a big part of NYC’s garage (and alt) music scene. Catering mainly to blues music for years, Tramps started booking the odd rock band, often sponsored by NYU. Then, around the time that the Dive closed and the Strip took over as the defacto HQ of garage punk, Tramps began hosting monthly psychedelic nights co-hosted by Ivy V. and Ann D. Interested in creating an all-immersive experience, the fledgling impresarios booked garage and psych bands and had them perform to live liquid light shows and gyrating go-go dancers. While leaning more toward the hippy-ish aspects of the genre, they nevertheless brought in exceptional groups that otherwise would not have been heard in NYC. Noise concerns ended the live music at the 15th Street club, eventually forcing the club to move to west 21st St. Where it lasted for a few more years before closing. The original location became a short-lived hip hop club(!) before morphing into what it is today, a full-time Irish bar.  

The Peppermint Lounge II – 100 5th Avenue
The Peppermint Lounge 2016While not reaching the lofty heights of its predecessor on 45th St, the second and final location of the famed Peppermint Lounge nevertheless served as one of the first showcases for the growing 80s garage rock movement. Shortly before it closed in 1985 the club was host to shows by The Chesterfield Kings, The Vipers  and some of the last shows from the soon to be West Coast-bound Fuzztones. Due to its prominent address, the space has since been host to several high-end clothing stores.

The Strip (McCarthys Bar) – 205 West 14th Street
The Strip 2016Home of the second wave of garage rock  after the closing of The Dive, Gare Balaban and Deb Parker’s brainchild was short lived but managed to provide the perfect atmosphere for local and touring garage bands to play. As a hardcore run-down drinkers bar, McCarthys had seen better days when Endsville Enterprises approached the owner with a win-win proposition. On a typical Saturday night, customers and residents sat elbow-to-elbow at the bar or shared the back booths while the bands played on in the fluorescent-lit back space. Every now and then someone would stumble in front of the band, realize they were playing, and happily dance along. And, oh, what bands. The A-Bones, The Headless Horsemen, The Secret Service, The Ravens, Lord John, The Talismen, The Wylde Mammoths and on and on. Garage rock never had a more appropriate showcase. After a change of owners and a massive renovation in the late 80s McCarthys (now renamed Flannerys) briefly held shows in the basement by the likes of The Lyres, The Insomniacs, and Nine Pound Hammer to name just a few. But, the magic was lost. Management started hosting cover bands and before long it just became just another Irish bar. 

And if you’re still feeling a bit wistful, here are a few more underground bars brought to you by the good folks at Flamin’ Pablum.

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