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Tour the bohemian Lower East Side of 1995 for alternative fashion, underground art and punk opera!


 
These videos, from documentarian Corey Shaff, are a record of a New York long since passed, despite being only 20 years old. Yes, the rapid gentrification of the Lower East side has rendered the areas you see here nearly unrecognizable, but before you bemoan the lost “real” NYC, it’s worth remembering that the changing landscape of New York is its most consistent feature—you’ll notice some of the subjects in these shorts talking about how different the neighborhood is from the one they remember. Of course the most recent changes in New York has left it all but unlivable for the working people and artists it once boasted, though somehow they keep coming, and finding a way to stay.

Shaff covers some fascinating ground in these three little shorts. There’s a five-minute tour of Ludlow Street, where little theaters and punk bridal shops and millineries exist alongside older businesses, like a pillow shop where the owner still uses techniques from the old country. It’s a cool look at at artistically thriving area with old and new artisans—there’s even a shot of The Mercury Lounge with its original signage at the end. The longer second film centers on 2B, a gritty art space that operate for nine years before being replaced by a corporate drug store. My favorite film is the third one, a look at the Amato Opera House on the Bowery. The tiny little venue had world class artists crammed onto a tiny stage, spitting distance from the audience, for a truly intimate yet grand experience. Shaff’s wife Stefanie Lindahl says the documentary was a little too gritty for some viewers:

I remember how Corey wanted to juxtapose the Bowery ‘bums’ with the goings on within the opera house, but PBS nixed the idea as ‘too scary,’ so he had to cut out the footage.

It’s a weirdly selective documentary that covers the Bowery in ‘95 yet leaves out the bums, but this is the sentiment and aversion that has shaped the New York of today—one that prefers Applebee’s to artists.

Watch ‘em after the jump…

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Posted by Amber Frost
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08.11.2016
11:02 am
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‘The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body’: Pulsallama, NYC’s all-girl all-percussion New Wave band
08.21.2015
03:10 pm
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Pulsallama were an all-girl percussion band in New York circa 1980 to 1982 who put out two singles and played at nightclubs like Danceteria and Club 57. I own both records. Their distinctive sound—think a more chaotic, New York version of Rip, Rig and Panic, Bow Wow Wow or early Bananarama—can work wonders on an unsuspecting dancefloor. They played jungle rhythms and wore 50s cocktail dresses.

Here’s a brief description of Pulsallama from former member Jean Caffeine’s website:

In 1980, this damsel moved to New York to become a fabulous nightclub D.J. and stumbled upon Club 57, church basement which was a clubhouse to Downtown celebrities such as the late, John Sex, Keith Haring and Wendy Wild where the Ladies Auxiliary of the Lower East Side (founded by Ann Magnuson - star of stage, screen and Bongwater) were banging on percussion instruments and hanging up meat bones in preparation for their “Rites of Spring Bacchanal.” Jean joined on drums and Pulsallama was born.

Pulsallama toured the East Coast as well as England and opened several shows for the Clash. They released a controversial, yet comical ditty, “The Devil Lives in my Husband’s Body,” for London’s Y Records which was a hit on alternative and college stations. Pulsallama was beloved for their rhythmic cacophony, theatrical stage antics, props and costumes, and their primal, yet glamourous absurdity. They had lots of fun, got their picture in Interview magazine and had 15 minutes of fame.

Fun fact: Jean Caffeine was also seen as the “roadkill” at the beginning of Richard Linklater’s classic cult film, Slacker.
 

 
The “The Devil Lives in My Husband’s Body,” video, below, was directed by Dangerous Minds pal Paul Dougherty:

 
More Pulsallama after the jump…

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Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.21.2015
03:10 pm
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The Fleshtones rock out in ‘Soul City’ (co-written by a young Lou Reed)


 
Animator and all around 3-D mad scientist/genius M. Henry Jones has long been a fixture of the East Village. With his street level art studio allowing passersby to see his fantastic creations since 1992 (he’s recently had to move) the friendly Jones is one of the last bohemian artists still left in the neighborhood. Jones has also helped keep the work of his friend Harry Smith alive with “magic lantern” screenings of Smith’s animated films utilizing multiple projectors, mounted the world over with DJ Spooky.

During the late 1970s, while both were students at the School of Visual Arts, Jones became friends with Peter Zaremba, leader of garage rockers The Fleshtones (and later the host of MTV’s The Cutting Edge series) and they teamed up to make a music video marrying Jones’ strobelight animation technique to a number titled “Soul City” (a song originally recorded by the Hi Lifes and co-written by a young Lou Reed).
 

 
Marc H. Miller’s Gallery 98 is currently exhibiting ten hand-colored cutout photographs that M. Henry Jones created for the film:

The emergence of digital photography during the last decade has provided a new perspective on photographs from the pre-digital era. The photographs that M. Henry Jones created in the late 1970s for the animated film “Soul City” have a special place in this story of technological change.

Sometimes the urge to create precedes the technology that makes it practical. That was certainly true for Jones’ 2 ½-minute photo animation of a performance by the rock group Fleshtones, enhanced with stroboscopic effects. Created before the widespread use of computers, digitization, and tools like Photoshop (1988), Jones’ special effects were created solely through tedious analog techniques. It took nearly two years but there was an unexpected bonus: 1700 individually printed photographs, each hand-cut with an X-acto knife and then hand-colored. This was the raw material for the film, re-shot frame-by-frame with changing backgrounds. Today these photographs stand on their own both as beautiful objects and as an artistic record of the creative toils that preceded the digital revolution.

 

 
The making of this elaborate, time-consuming piece was apparently quite legendary at S.V.A. The exhibit also makes a bit clearer the connections between that school and not only the nascent East Village art scene, but also the punk and New Wave era in New York City as well. After all it was artists and art students who were the ones making the scene (man). Aside from Jones and Zaremba, S.V.A. counted among its students Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, and for a short while, the great painter Joe Coleman, who left in disgust when one of the instructors told him that he was painting “wrong.”
 

 
As someone who has made my own share of work and time intensive low budget East Village music videos, I doff my hat to the maniac workaholic who put this puppy together…
 

Posted by Richard Metzger
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10.16.2014
05:27 pm
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1980s nightclub invitations from ‘Downtown’ New York


Keith Haring, invitation for “Larry Levan’s Birthday Bash,” 1986

It’s… interesting—and a reminder of how fucking old I’m getting—that I’m starting to see promotional ephemera from nightclub events I attended (or worked at) in my… younger days turning up in museums and art galleries. Good thing for me that I have boxes of these types of invitations that I’ve kept sitting out in the garage. Twenty years from now, I’ll spend my dotage as an eBay seller specializing in… shit I’ve kept.

What’s slightly worrisome, though, is how little of some of these events I call recall in any detail. I’ve heard older friends of mine say things like “Well, it was the sixties!” (or the seventies) but even so, the 80s were a seriously decadent (and dangerous) time to be young and living in New York City. I have always lucked out and been at the right place at the right time, I like to think.

Without putting too fine a point on it, drugs were better then—especially cocaine, which, sorry is just a joke now, kids—and super easy to get your hands on. People were more extreme then. As someone who (luckily) lived through it all, it’s very easy for me to see why so many of today’s young people romanticize the East Village or “Downtown” scene—which will never, ever, happen again (at least not there)—It’s because it was better then. It just was. All the elements, including cheap rent, came together then. A perfect storm, culturally speaking.

It didn’t last that long—Manhattan nightlife is all rich kids and bankers these days—but if you were there you know what I mean. And if you were there, perhaps like me, you’re starting to find that a lot of it’s pretty damned foggy by now, so it’s good to have exhibits like this one, online at Marc Miller’s Gallery 98, which specializes in this sort of artifact, to jar our memories.

This mix of ambitious high art with popular entertainment and performance emerged first when two clubs, CBGB and Max’s Kansas City, helped launch Punk in all its many and varied creative directions in the late 1970s. By the 1980s dozens of new nightclubs and bars including Area, Club 57, Danceteria, Limelight, Mudd Club, Palladium, Paradise Garage, Pyramid and the Tunnel consciously strove to be part of the art world by presenting new music, art, film, video, fashion, and performance.  It was a period in art not unlike that of Paris in the 1890s when the cafés of Montmartre helped mold the fin-de-siècle aesthetic. Gallery 98 presents here a selection of nightclub invitations and posters from this exhilarating moment in the 1970s and 80s. For artists and performers it was a golden age with clubs needing to book events seven-days-a-week.  To attract the trendy crowd, artists were recruited to paint murals and design publicity; curators were hired to organize exhibitions; photographers were booked to present slide shows and document events; filmmakers and video artists were paid for screenings; and performers were engaged to make music, stage cabaret shows and host interactive events involving audience participation.  Out of this milieu, stars were born: performers Ann Magnuson, John Sex, Joey Arias, Phoebe Legere; artists Colette, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Mark Kostabi; curators Baird Jones, Neke Carson, Carlo McCormick, Michael Alig.  And in the wake of all this activity came the thousands of cheaply produced but creatively designed cards and posters that the artists and clubs created to publicize events in this pre-Internet era. Presented here is a small sampling of nightclub ephemera available through Gallery 98.  All items are for sale.

 

 
Take for instance this invitation for a 1989 party for British filmmaker Derek Jarman at Mars, a four story club on 12th Ave. I worked as the doorman at the fourth floor VIP room (Vin Diesel worked the front door) and I recall working at this party, and indeed still have the invite below in my possession. The thing is, I have no memory whatsoever of seeing or meeting Derek Jarman there, which is weird, because you’d think I would. Perhaps it was because I was outside of the party and not in it, but I don’t know because the invite aside, I’m drawing a complete blank! [I should probably take this opportunity to mention that I was perhaps the very worst—or best, depending on how you look at it—VIP room doorman in all of NYC nightlife history. How do I know this? Because I let every single person who walked up to the rope inside. Every one of them. The sole exception was when some idiot timidly asked me “You don’t want me in there, do you?” and I just silently shook my head “no” and he turned around and fucked off. Had he just kept his mouth shut, the rope would have parted for him.]
 

“Family! The New Tribal Love Rock Musical” with Joey Arias and Ann Magnuson at Danceteria, 30 West 21st Street, New York
 

A Seconds magazine party for the NY Debut of “Serial Killers” by Richard Kern at Madam Rosa’s, 24 John’s Lane, New York, 1987
 

Kembra Pfahler at Pompeii, 104 East 10th St., NYC, 1985
 

Joey Arias and Ann Magnuson “Request the Pleasure of Your Company at a Mad Tea Party,” which they hosted in character as Dali and Gala, Danceteria, 1985
 

The opening night invite for AREA’s “American Highway” theme, 157 Hudson Street, New York, 1986. The club changed its highly elaborate decor every six weeks or so, so scoring these opening night invites was a matter of some importance. Plus, if you were on their mailing list, you tended to “mysteriously” get onto the mailing lists for other clubs.
 

Girl Bar, a popular lesbian night out, one of very few at the time, happened at Boy Bar on St. Mark’s Place once a week.
 

There’s a picture of me, age 23 perhaps, with really long hair in one of the issues of Project X
 

 
James White’s Sardonic Sincopators, at Save the Robots, 1986. Save the Robots was a super sleazy afterhours club. If you were there, chances are you were fucked up, not likely to be sleeping anytime soon and probably up to no damned good.
 


Finally, both sides of a business card for former Yippie leader Jerry Rubin’s afterwork networking parties. He threw these parties at different clubs, including the Limelight, where I was working in 1985, and they were the fucking worst parties ever, with the worst crowd and the worst tippers and these parties simply sucked. Rubin’s networking parties, I do have vivid memories of, none of them good.

Via Stupefaction

Posted by Richard Metzger
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08.04.2014
06:06 pm
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Bhangra in the East Village: New York City when it’s good is very good indeed
08.08.2010
03:49 pm
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Musician Derek Beres filmed this New York moment of his buddy Duke doing an impromptu jam with a Punjabi shopkeeper on 1st and Ave. A.

The saag is spiced perfectly, the gulab jamun not too sweet, and vocals ring out non-stop through the night.

Posted by Marc Campbell
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08.08.2010
03:49 pm
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