In the bathroom of 315 Bowery, in New York City’s East Village, a picture of a picture of a rock club hangs. The original was taken some time after the club closed last decade, an impression of a time when it had already lost modern relevance, reproduced so that even the faded memory it captured would be lost in a dimly lit hall of mirrors.
Outside of the bathroom, an attendant of John Varvatos tells me that the store policy is to not allow photography of the store. I tell him that it isn’t the store I’m taking photos of. The chagrin of my own borrowed nostalgia is forgotten in the shadow of his callowness. He becomes heated and directs me to an area by the door. Here, a farcical museum has been erected. Stickers and gig posters are gathered here, organized for optimum viewing behind a pane of glass, under-lit to provide an efficient area to gift wrap Italian-sewn men’s jeans.
Two doors down, I meet the former director of the Amato Opera in front of his old digs. He has seen me capturing the For Sale sign attached to its facade, and he illuminates the changes the neighborhood has seen since the beginning of its decline.
It is a day of oral histories, one that leads me west of the village to the home of one of its forebears.
He noodles insatiably… country, samba, metal… mainly metal. The detritus of the apartment is rich with history, originals of album art, photos begging for backstories. We settle into the moment and begin the work.
He tells me how it all started, whose siren song he answered to arrive in the city, whose kept him there… Joey Ramone, a teenage Beck Hansen, Jim Jarmusch and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Todd’s Copy Shop, Patti Smith in Creem magazine and the birth of hardcore.
His solo is fierce and transcendent. When he shocks with a suspenseful burst after it ends, we jump and quickly recover with laughter that builds as we regain ourselves.
A generation and a geography removed from his experience, I delight in the first-hand account, the continuation of a noise, the perseverance of a restlessness.
Originally published June 13th, 2011 // La Blogotheque