Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday The 13th

Tonight's the final hurrah of one of my favorite places on earth: Tonic. I interned at Tonic in the spring of 2000, during my second-to-last semester of college. I took one look at their January music schedule and realized (a) I absolutely had to go to every show they had that month and (b) I definitely could not afford to pay. The internship wasn't even close to a fair exchange: in return for entering mailing list names into an ancient computer, I saw upwards of 60 shows.

Oooh, Tonic. The memories ... John Zorn, all the Masada projects, Dave Douglas, Mark Feldman, Charlie Burnham, Jim Black, Joey Barron, Susie Ibarra, Mark Ribot, Ori Kaplan, Ben Perowsky, Sylvie Courvoisier, Hamid Drake, Peter Brotzmann, Ikue Mori, the Klezmatics, etc, etc, etc, and of course my beloved Millenial Territory Orchestra. Probably about 70 percent of the shows I've seen there have made me cry.

Why's Tonic closing? There's a fancy condo going up next door, owners are all mobbed up with the mayor. Higher rents, noise complaints, rinse and repeat. I'm sick of feeling sad about this sort of thing; its inevitability makes it even more disgusting.

My home base here, Síraly, narrowly escaped the bulldozer this week. Luckily at the 11th hour (actually at 1 am the morning the police were supposed to come knocking) they got a reprieve. They'll stay open at least until the middle of May.

Síraly's an interesting contrast to Tonic. It's smack dab in the middle of the old jewish district, the 7th, home of most of the city's hip young cafes and bars. Síraly is the kind of place that is still possible in Budapest, and unthinkable in today's Manhattan: three floors of bar-cafe-music venue-theater-movie screening room-community center-dance club-living room, on a very hip street, run by a collective of energetic young people. Oh--and it's a squat.

That's the problem, of course. When the founder of Síraly decided to build the place, he tried to buy the building, which had been standing empty for over a decade. But his efforts to do things the legal way were thwarted by complex local politics, graft and corruption. The full story has been explained to me, but was too complicated to repeat here (read: I couldn't even fully understand it). The bottom line was that Síraly's founders couldn't buy it, but no one else could buy or rent it either, so it was just going to continue to stand empty. So Síraly's organizers broke in, spent good money on renovations, gave the owner a copy of the new key. Presto-changeo: instant community, the sort of place where you always know someone, where you can book an impromptu gig for tommorow night with one phone call, where you can spend hours nursing an espresso without anyone giving you a hard time. Like Tonic, they get a lot of noise complaints. Here's hoping they don't pull down paradise and put up a condo.


Norman said...

Norman Yamada of here. Hey, come down to our protest tomorrow morning at Tonic at 11 am to protest the closing of this club.

Also sign our petition of outrage that such a thing should be happening: go to and sign our petition.

Ganch said...

Well, I would but I'm in Budapest. And I would except this is Melissa and John's decision, and I think it's been really hard for them to come to. No one is forcing Tonic to close; it's a money thing. Wouldn't a protest be painful for them?

Garth said...

Nice post, Sarah. Of course, it is truly inevitable that things, even beautiful things, come to an end and make way for other things. The real outrage is that nowadays, at least in New York, too often the communities, buildings and institutions dying out (or being shoved out of the way) are diverse, vibrant and beautiful, while those springing up day by day to occupy their places are homogenous, vulgar and soulless.

Norman said...

No, they supported

Norman said...

No, they supported our action -- and it's not just about Tonic, it's about the loss of places in lower Manhattan for experimental musicians to play.

Take a look at our web site; we just had a press conference with a city council representative today.