Musical Interlude – The Optic Nerve @ Neither/Nor 1986

While digitizing some old cassettes, I ran across this gem of a performance from NYC’s own Optic Nerve. Centering on more folk-rock stylings, the Nerve were unique among the plethora of harder sounding NYC bands. Bobby Belfiore, Tony Matura and Orin Portnoy formed the core of the band throughout its existence, supplemented on drums mainly by Ken Anderson, Greg Clark and Frank Max. This performance is taken from a show at Neither/Nor bookstore on 703 East 6th St.

Located in what was once the wastelands between Ave C and D, Neither/Nor was a launching point for much of the literary talent in lower Manhattan during the mid-80s. The bookstore occupied the ground floor of an old, dilapidated loft building, which amazingly survives to this day. No small feat considering that directly opposite the building in the 80s one would have found just open lots strewn with rubble.  Neither/Nor not only served as a artistic oasis for the community, it also nurtured future talents such as Joel Rose and Nuyorican poet and playwright Miguel Piñero.

The Optic Nerve went on to have one of their songs immortalized on the Children of Nuggets box set alongside the likes of The Cramps, Lyres, The Hoodoo Gurus and other equally important contemporaries. At Neither/Nor though, they were just another local garage group scraping by and playing their hearts out to a small, but passionate, fanbase.

3 thoughts on “Musical Interlude – The Optic Nerve @ Neither/Nor 1986”

  1. I had all but forgotten Neither Nor! I saw a Blacklight Chameleons gig there in 1986 or so after getting a flyer from Dino at a gig . The neighborhood reminded me of a post apocalyptic setting! I always thought my rural NJ teenage mind exaggerated the area in my memory but reading your description I think I was pretty spot on in my recollections! Any idea how long it was open?

    1. Very accurate recollection Bill! Amazingly there is not that much info about Neither/Nor I was able to scrape up online. It’s certainly a very interesting space for all the talent that it nurtured. My biggest recollection is being able to find a spot right in front of the place. Cruising in just like in an old cop show on TV. The celebration was short lived though once I realized there were only four cars on the entire block. —J

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