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An Inside Look at Unsilent Night

Last Saturday, the event known as “Unsilent Night” took place in the East Village for its 20th year. This winter time annual event has garnered participation from cities around the world, including San Francisco, Chicago and Melbourne. But it all started in New York.

The Local embedded with creator, Phil Kline, in the days before his New York and Philadelphia Unsilent Night events, in order to get an inside look at how he prepares. The parade of devices playing Kline’s music started out at Washington Square Park. Participants carried boom boxes, iPhones or other portable audio equipment, cranking up the music in unison. The composition was timed by Kline to finish just as everyone arrived at Thompkins Square Park.

If you couldn’t make it on Saturday, enjoy this glimpse of the night, and just how Kline made it happen

Musician Ramzi Khoury On the EV’s Secret Guitar Guru, and Winning Scarlett Johansson’s Approval

Ramzi Khoury, 33, musicianSanna Chu Ramzi Khoury.

As noted yesterday, the inaugural NYC’s New Music Festival will see over 130 acts across 24 stages around the East and West Village. The performers are coming in from all over the country, but a few, like folk-rock musician Ramzi Khoury, are based in the East Village.

Mr. Khoury, 33, grew up in California – playing trumpet in elementary school and picking up guitar in high school – and came to the East Village because, he said, “it’s got a lot of good arts and music.” His debut album was “Color”; a subsequent EP, “Champagne and Cigarettes,” yielded the above video, for the song “2nd Avenue,” in which an actor is jerked around the East Village at the whim of Google maps (and you thought the iPhone 5’s maps were maddening). The Local spoke to the musician in Unions Square Park.


Do you have a day job?


For the longest time I didn’t, but six months ago I started working for a technology company. Does it interfere with my music? More so than I thought it would. But I do play my guitar every night when I get home. Read more…

This Week, a New York City Music Festival Born in Florida

Theater 80Courtesy of S.S.A. Theater 80

A music festival taking place across both Villages this week is being billed as “East Meets West.” And the organizers? They’re from down south.

Kicking off Wednesday and lasting five days, NYC’s New Music Festival will feature over 130 artists  – from indie, folk and alternative rock to rap and hip hop – at a variety of venues.

Unlike the CBGB Festival, which last week announced it would return in May, the organizers of this festival aren’t from around here. It’s the first production that the Songwriters Showcases of America will stage outside of its home base in Florida.

Phil Weidner, president of the S.S.A., said the 13-year-old company had been trying to put together a festival outside of Florida for years. New York City, he said, was a no-brainer. “We wanted to focus on the East and West Villages to show that’s really the magnet of where good local, live music is being featured in Manhattan,” he told The Local. Read more…

Quicksand Rises: Post-Hardcore Influentials Play First NYC Show in 15 Years


Soon after 90s post-hardcore band Quicksand took the stage Friday night for its first hometown show in about 15 years, a half-dozen beers had flown into the air. Bowery Ballroom had never felt so full: virtually the entire audience consisted of men in their 30s and 40s, weighing over 200 pounds.

The mix of metalheads and current and former hardcore guys might have looked like a recipe for the sort of beef that erupted between current and former members of the Cro-Mags at the CBGB Festival last month. But the opening bass notes of “Omission” brought on 90 minutes of rapture. From the balcony to the mosh pit, the entire ballroom pulsed and popped as fans yelled and sang along, arms in the air. They were celebrating the return of a band that broke up in its prime in the late 90s, after touring with acts like Helmet and Rage Against the Machine but never achieving similar breakout success.

After a surprise reunion last month in California, Quicksand had announced two shows: one at Bowery Ballroom and another the next night at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Both sold out in minutes. Rumors of a full reunion came after an appearance on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” this week. Read more…

Two Weeks After Stabbing, Hardcore Returns to Webster Hall

american nightmareAlan Yuch

Two weeks after members of the Cro-Mags were allegedly stabbed by the band’s former bassist, hardcore returned to Webster Hall as Give Up the Ghost performed a pair of sold-out shows.

The Boston band (still known to many as American Nightmare or A.N., though a copyright suit forced them to change the name in 2002) kept Webster Hall’s bouncers on their toes Friday and Saturday. “Things were a little tighter security-wise,” said guitarist Brian Masek. “Hardcore isn’t always violent, but it’s dark, aggressive music, so it brings out a certain element.”

Indeed, the mosh pit was hundreds strong as vocalist Wes Eisold, who also leads synth-goth act Cold Cave, belted out the honest, poetic lyrics that have inspired a generation of tattooed hardcore kids. Read more…

Rockit Scientist Records Packs Up Its Crates

Joe BarbosaSuzanne Rozdeba Joe Barbosa had been selling records outside of the store.

Earlier today, John Kioussis hauled a turntable and a few remaining crates of records out of an empty, darkened storefront at 33 St. Marks Place. Before locking up the narrow nook that has housed Rockit Scientist Records since 2003, he said he had closed in part because of squabbles with one of his landlords.

Mr. Kioussis let forth a litany of complaints about Amnon Kehati, a co-owner of the building (which is for sale) and of Mark Burger next-door: he had set up tables in front of his store without asking, made unreasonable complaints about garbage bags being left out, and accused the record store of attracting rats.

“The reason we have rats in the building, according to the landlord, is because I have records downstairs and rats are attracted to records,” Mr. Kioussis said as he cleared out his shop. “I wonder what scientist would tell you that Bob Dylan and Sex Pistols records attract rats as opposed to bags of tomatoes and onions all over the floor.” Read more…

Revisiting the No Wave Scene At The BMW Guggenheim Lab On Sunday

Two of the most comprehensive documentarians of the late-1970s East Village punk scene will give a screening of their rare no wave footage at the BMW Guggeinheim Lab on Sunday.

Bush Tetras at CBGB, 1980.

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David Yow Talks Art, and Why He Is Done With Music

IMG_2975Angelo Fabara David Yow

Fuse Gallery, behind Lit Lounge, has seen its share of musicians moonlighting as artists. Among others, the space has hosted artwork by the likes of Hank Williams III, Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers, Nick Zinner and Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Conrad Keely of …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

Last night, David Yow held court at an opening reception that drew J.G. Thirlwell, the lead singer of industrial band Foetus, as well as other admirers of Mr. Yow’s bands, The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid. Mr. Yow, best known for vocals that alternate between mumbling and shrieking as well as onstage antics that at one point got him arrested for indecent exposure in Cincinnati, was polite and soft-spoken. He was dressed down (or perhaps up — he has been known to favor the shirtless look, after all) in a button-down shirt and spectacles.

When Erik Foss, the owner of Fuse Gallery, bought a painting titled “Go Figure,” depicting an erect penis, Mr. Yow texted his girlfriend, “I have tears in my eyes.” She responded, “I love you. Stop crying.”

The Local sat down with Mr. Yow to talk about his new calling.
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The Old Songs of the Bowery, Live

The Bowery near Broome Street in 1895NYPL The Bowery in 1895.

Lately, the Bowery has started to look more like Dubai and a whole lot less like a poor man’s Broadway. But for at least three hours on Sunday, old-time songs will echo on the street once again, as a connoisseur of vaudeville songs and a historian lead a walking tour of music from the Bowery’s heyday. Bree Benton, accompanied by a viola and accordion, will sing songs like “My Brudda Sylvest,” and “Yiddle On Your Fiddle, Play Some Ragtime” (which was written by one of the former Lower East Side’s most famous sons, Irving Berlin.)

“The songs are so full of life, they really speak to the people — the common people,” said Ms. Benton, who will play the character of Poor Baby Bree, a down-and-out kid from the Lower East Side. “People who couldn’t afford to be entertained on Broadway; they went to the Bowery.” Read more…

The Day | Gavin DeGraw Hospitalized After Beating

down to the 6Michelle Rick

Good morning, East Village.

The Post reports that singer Gavin DeGraw was attacked by a group of men on First Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets around 4 a.m. Monday. He was scheduled for a concert in Saratoga Springs today, but instead Mr. DeGraw, who owns The National Underground with his brother Joey, is under observation at Bellevue Hospital.

The “outlook is dim” for the last of the lighting businesses along the Bowery. “Store owners point to gentrification, the downturn in the local housing market and the rise of online shopping as having taken a toll on their businesses,” writes The Wall Street Journal.

More change on the Bowery: The folks at Bowery Boogie and The Lo-Down recap last night’s CB3/SLA meeting. According to The Lo-Down, a “slightly more affordable” version of midtown steakhouse Quality Meats has been green-lighted for liquor at 199 Bowery. Bowery Boogie reports that the owners of Peels at 325 Bowery were given the nod for some alterations.

Correction: August 12, 2011

An earlier version of this blog post misstated the name of a neighborhood blog. It is The Lo-Down, not The Lo-Side.

Liquor License Transfer Approved

Banjo Jim'sMeghan Keneally The transfer was approved for Banjo Jim’s.

The State Liquor Authority Committee of Community Board 3 Monday night endorsed the transfer of the liquor license at Banjo Jim’s, the popular bluegrass bar on Avenue C.

The transfer of the bar’s liquor license was said to be the only issue left to be resolved before the bar was sold to an ownership group led by Robert Ceraso. The next step is for the Community Board to pass along its recommendation to the State Liquor Authority.

The new license allows for acoustic guitar accompanied by microphone amplification and DJs up to two times per week. The hours will remain the same as they are at Banjo Jim’s currently — 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. throughout the week, and then from noon until 4 a.m. on the weekends. Few other details were finalized at Monday’s meeting, except that the signage will change — perhaps unsurprising since Mr. Ceraso has indicated that he will depart from the bluegrass theme and opt for an “artisanal” motif, which may not fit with the large banjo on the current sign over the bar’s front door. The bar’s new doors will be barn-style with glass windows that can be lifted and opened in the summer months.

Debating an ‘Artisanal’ Vision for a Bar

Banjo Jim'sMeghan Keneally. A staple of the East Village music scene, the future of Banjo Jim’s is up for approval.

After the blogger EV Grieve reported that changes may be coming to Banjo Jim’s, a popular bluegrass bar on Avenue C, locals took to their keyboards and headed to the blog’s comments section in anguish.

The bar’s prospective owner, Robert Ceraso, told the blog that he will be presenting a plan to the State Liquor Authority Committee of Community Board 3 tonight asking that the liquor license for the bar be tranferred to he and his partners. In describing his vision for his bar, Mr. Ceraso said that he envisioned it as an “artisanal neighborhood cocktail bar.” And that did him in.

Commenters skewered his use of the word, likening it to buzzwords of trends past, and immediately branded him as one of the big bad developers swooping in to discard the East Village of old.

One commenter, Chris Flash, wrote: “Yet another cool unpretentious music venue lost on the LES, to be replaced by yet ANOTHER yuppie dive, as if Ceraso’s dive will be different from any other dive!!”

Another, Bowery Boogie, said: “Missing Banjo Jim’s already. Artisinal is one of those buzz words that makes me puke every time.”

Mr. Ceraso said that the reaction was not totally unexpected.

“I knew there was going to be some backlash,” Mr. Ceraso said in a telephone interview. “People don’t like change and they turned me into some crazy guy that wants to change the neighborhood.”
Read more…

Conversation | On 34 Avenue A

photo.JPGTodd Olmstead The doorway of 34 Avenue A.

I felt very young last week, sitting at the Community Board 3 meeting at 200 East Fifth Street. Being 21 years old, there were surely other attendees my age, or younger. But I could not beat the feeling that our voices and spirits were being silenced. I say this mostly because, as the Community Board again refused to support the application for a new experimental music venue at 34 Avenue A (formerly Mo Pitkins), a project of the music promoter Todd Patrick and Two Boots owner Phil Hartman, I felt like one of the few attendees who genuinely understood the cultural significance of what their proposed space, The Piney Woods, could be.

Imagine my surprise yesterday afternoon, when, flicking through Gmail on my iPhone, I found a response from Richard Hell, musician, punk innovator, East Village resident,and one of the most influential musical figures to come out of the neighborhood, in support of the application. The board is scheduled to consider it again at its meeting tonight.

“The Lower East Side needs a specialized, non-pop music room for musicians who are in it for other things than head-banging or making it big,” Mr. Hell told me. “Headbanging and raw ambition are fine, but there are plenty of venues for that already, and the Lower East Side would do well to maintain or recover its tradition of cutting edge art.”
Read more…

Viewfinder | The Fillmore East


Earlier today, we wrote about the Fillmore East, one of the more remarkable properties within the confines of a proposed landmark district. The unofficial house photographer of the Fillmore East, Amalie R. Rothschild, shared her photos and memories from the theater’s brief yet influential existence from 1968 to 1971. — Stephen Rex Brown
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A Record Label Finds a Retro Niche

Plapinger and Davies, Neon GoldCourtesy of Lizzy Plapinger Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies.

Instead of trying to break into the music industry with new technology, one record company is looking back to the technology of the past to introduce new acts.

Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies started producing limited edition 7-inch vinyl singles for new and emerging bands through their record label, Neon Gold. Since starting in August 2008, when the now-23 year olds were only juniors in college, they have been credited for much of the early success of a number of indie bands and recently partnered with Columbia Records.

Ms. Plapinger and Mr. Davies are childhood friends, having spent summers together at camp in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. When summers came to a close, they returned to school in London and Washington, D.C. respectively but kept in touch about new music.

“It was always a pipe dream,” Ms. Plapinger said of their early talks about starting a record label together.

Though they had both held internships in the music industry and searched for new talent out of habit, they decided to start their specialized company in 2008 even though they were in the middle of college.

“We couldn’t really let this opportunity pass us by,” Mr. Davies said.
Read more…

The National Underground To Reopen

Music venue The National Underground will reopen tonight for the first time since June 10, said co-owner Joey DeGraw. The bar at 159 East Houston Street has been closed for over a week because of a failed health inspection, which included five critical violations for sanitation and food safety issues. The reopening of the venue, co-owned by Mr. DeGraw’s musician brother, Gavin, comes a few days later than  expected.

On 11th St., New Musical Horizons

If I’m still living in this neighborhood when I turn 50, I’m going to knock on the door of the Third Street Music School at 11th Street and Second Avenue and join New Horizons, a wind and brass ensemble composed only of adults that old and older, many of whom had never picked up an instrument until they retired from other careers.

In the three and a half years since New Horizons came to the East Village, it has grown from 15 students to 70 and split into two bands that each meet twice a week. These students practice on their own up to two hours a day and the bands perform once every several weeks.

New Horizon’s parent organization, New Horizons International Musical Association, started twenty years ago in Rochester as the inspiration of Roy Ernst who wanted to get older adults into playing music together. It now has locations across the United States and in Iceland, the Netherlands, Australia, and Ireland. Here, the program has funding from the National Endowment for the Art and is “the first and only New Horizons in New York City,”according to Nancy Morgan, the director of school and community partnerships at Third Street.

Ms. Morgan told me that when this band of New Horizons musicians started, “they didn’t even know how to put their instruments together.” New students are always welcome, she said, so if you’re “50 or better” and you’ve always wanted to become a musician, maybe now’s the time. Check out the band and see what you think.

More information about New Horizons can be found here.

First Person | A Hangover from CMJ

Pianos at Ludlow and StantonClint Rainey Pianos, 158 Ludlow Street.

As I was making my way down Avenue A last week, a young girl in combat boots asked me for a light. I stared at her, confused. It was obvious to me that before she left the house that morning, she had remembered to smear her eyes with liquid liner, wrap her hips in enough metal belts to refurbish a John Deere machine, and carefully paint each of her nails a different shade of black – but she forgot her lighter?

“Here,” I gave her a neon pink Zippo I’d had since the last time I was hounded by Marlboro promoters at ACE bar.

“Thanks,” she said, and after using it threw the lighter into the dark depths of Tompkins Square Park, provoking the muffled sounds of an annoyed rat. Maybe she thought it was a large, cold, match. Read more…