The Bottom Line
The Knitting Factory (Manhattan)
The Angry Squire
The Lone Star Cafe
Bonds International Casino
Max’s Kansas City
The Peppermint Lounge
The Gaslight Cafe
The Electric Circus
The Five Spot Cafe
The Half Note Club
The Lion’s Den
The Mudd Club
Coney Island High
Gerde’s Folk City
The Savoy Ballroom
Cafe au Go Go
The Village Gate
and on and on…Going back further-
The Academy of Music
The Fillmore East
Those are just some of the live music venues we’ve lost in Manhattan. Spill a little of your drink on the pavement in their memory. In spite of the title to this Post, I include Live Music Clubs as a whole. The list includes Jazz and Folk Clubs, and clubs that had a variety of types of music, along with Rock Clubs. Some intrepid places have come along in their absence, though I don’t think anyone would say they’ve “replaced” them. There are some legendary places that still remain, including the Village Vanguard, for me, the greatest music club in the world. It’s nothing short of a cultural tragedy that so many clubs have UNWILLINGLY closed, which most of the above have, mostly due to rent increases that they couldn’t afford. When I walk past their former locations, which are “sacred” in their way (and so, some I consciously avoid), and see what’s there now, I continually shake my head and remember-
A little piece of New York City, and what makes this City great, special & unique, went away every single time each one of the Clubs closed.1
City government doesn’t care. They’ve done nothing to stop it. As the clubs have closed, it’s been interesting to me to note that there has been an increase in Art venues, a few Museums, but mostly galleries. Where some of those clubs were “cheap,” they were all at least “affordable,” to the average music lover, and they made going to see and hear music regularly possible. In the mid-1990s, I was going out every night, and hearing a crazily wild range of music, often in the clubs listed above that we’ve now lost. I wrote about many of the shows I saw as part of my Artist Management website. That led to my writing for a national music magazine for 4 years.
As prices, especially real estate, have risen steadily since the mid 1990’s the clubs have faced extremely challenging business environments, with no protection from government2, that has seen their business model largely change from a “club” to more of a “concert/show” environment. Clubs like “City Winery,” founded by Knitting Factory founder Michael Dorf, have become a model for franchises all over the country. Customers can sit, eat and drink, and hear music. I’ve never been to one. It’s not my scene.
And so, this Post is my way of saying I realize that I only wrote about one live music event this year, a damn good one (Jacob Collier opening for Kamasi Washinton), and that I, unfortunately, expect this trend to continue.
As the music clubs closed, in another part of the City, Chelsea, hundreds of Art Galleries were starting up- unprecedented numbers. While most specialized in Contemporary Art, some showed the work of established Artists. Soon, it was possible to wander for endless hours and see as many Art shows as you wanted, or as your feet could take, without spending a dime, (unless you wanted to make a purchase.)
Little by little, completely unintentionally, Art began to usurp Music’s primacy in my life, even though I am someone who was a professional musician who spent 5 years on the road. This has continued to expand to the present minute, where as I sit here on New Year’s Eve, at the end of a terrible year in many ways, I sit back and realize that I’ve gone to see Art every day for the last 6 weeks, except Sunday and Mondays, when the galleries are closed, and the Museums have short hours. I’m now living the life I was living in the mid-1990’s as a live Music fan as an Art lover.
I still listen to, and love, Music. My iPhone is packed with Music to the point I have very little room left for Apps or photos, and it’s constantly being changed and updated. I am always listening to Music when I’m looking at Art. But, I so miss that spontaneous creativity of a a great live Jazz Band, or the energy of a great live Rock Band, even though my years of performing live have taken their toll on my hearing.
For me, anyways, there’s not a heck of a lot of difference between Art & Music, in many ways. If you look through the history of both, there are similar “movements” that happen in both at about the same times. You’ll find Baroque Art & Music, Romantic, Impressionistic periods in both, and 20th Centuries marked by similar explorations. Picasso and Miles Davis have been compared often, not without good reason (and I don’t mean qualitatively compared). A good number of Musicians (including Miles), are/were Artists, though very few Artists were also Musicians (as far as I know). The similarities don’t end there, but that’s the subject of another Post3.
I don’t expect the number of Art Galleries we have in Chelsea to last. When their leases are up, many will close, move, or go online only. A current list can be seen here. Their number is probably already down from the peak number, which was over 300, an astounding number for such a small area of Manhattan, and more than there has ever been in any neighborhood in the world. Back in the day, Soho experienced a “boom” in the number of Art galleries opening. Today, not many remain. It’s hard to know what the future is in Chelsea. Some galleries have moved to the Lower East Side, Brooklyn, even to Midtown (traditionally more expensive). This will, no doubt, continue. Given that I believe the Art Market has, or will very shortly, peak, a downturn in prices may well be followed by a downturn in interest/demand, which would further exacerbate things. Time will tell. The Art market has gone down, a lot, in the past and recovered. Right now, though, many of the people in the Art market today have never experienced a large downturn in prices, so who knows how they will react.
As 2017 dawns, however, I expect one of the biggest years in memory in the NYC Art World. Blockbuster shows loom in the Museums, and the galleries are going strong. Both auger well for new records being set in Art attendance. I think it’s a good thing. For me? This is the reason I continue to live in Manhattan.
Making the rounds of the galleries and Museums to see Art shows before they end now reminds me of the days when I’d make the rounds of bars and clubs to see bands while they were there. Yes, back in the day there were often so many bands playing at the same time it was hard to juggle, unless they were all playing at the same place, I’d find myself going from CBGB downtown on the Bowery far uptown to the original, classy, Iridium on the same blind date. Now, I find myself going to see a similar range of extremely wide ranging Art on the same day so often I expect it.
Having seen the rise, peak and fall of live Music in NYC, I well know that the Art gallery scene here is likely to follow the same trajectory. The unknown factor is- how much longer will it last? Somewhere, Carly is singing…
“We can never know about the days to come
But we think about them anyway”*
Enjoy it now, while you can, Art lover, because these are “the good old days.”*
*- Soundtrack for this Post is “Anticipation,” by Carly Simon. Published by BMG Rights Management US, LLC.
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This Post was created by Kenn Sava for www.nighthawknyc.com