An all-too-familiar story in New York these days. An institution establishes itself as a hub of forward-thinking culture, attracts a whole mess of people to a part of town previously uncared about. Said new popularity of neighborhood (largely due to the seeds planted by institution) brings condos, pushes said attraction out of the picture:
Responding to community outrage at the eviction of Tonic - a center of New York City's new music cultural
life for the last 9 years - an ad hoc committee of musicians, cultural activists, and their supporters are convening to call for public, political intervention.
When: 11:00 am this Saturday April 14th
Where: Tonic 107 Norfolk Street between Rivington and Delancey
Why: To ask for public and political intervention to protect new music/indie/avant/jazz in New York City
and to ask the city to provide a minimum 200 capacity, centrally located venue for experimental music.
What: From 11 am on April 14- musicians and other performers will stage a musical protest against the
planned closing of Tonic, a vital NYC new music resource.
Tonic, located at 107 Norfolk Street, has been unable to afford a series of rent increases imposed by
landlord William Gottleib Inc. It will be forced to close its doors April 14th. Coming on the heels of the closing of CBGB's, Sin-e, Fez, the Continental, and numerous other downtown venues, the closing of Tonic represents the continued shutting down of NYC's most important live music experimental jazz, indie, and new music scene. This wave of club closings constitutes a market failure. If there is not immediate and sufficient public intervention, either in the form of limiting rents, or supplying alternate space and funding, or both, New York City will lose an essential part of its heritage, culture, and economy.
Tonic is the last new music/indie/avant jazz venue in Manhattan with a capacity above 90, presenting
concerts on a nightly basis. It is also the last such venue in the city with the relatively musician friendly policy of paying 75% of door receipts.
In words of Steven Bernstein, (leader of the band Sex Mob): "My band closes some of the biggest festivals in Europe...Meanwhile there's only one club I can play in New York and it's about to close." (New York Times)
According to Patricia Nicholson-Parker, organizer of the Vision Festival: "We have come together to say we deserve a space and in essence, we have already paid for our space. Musicians contribute to the economy of this city every day with world class performances. in the case of Tonic, many musicians came together and invested in the space. Through benefits and organizing they raised significant sums of money (100+ grand) for the venue, Tonic. The city needs to acknowledge this. It is good for the city and good for the artists and their audiences for the city to make available a musician-friendly community venue which holds up to 200 audience members. It is important that it be centrally located in the LES where this serious
alternative music has been birthed and where it can be easily accessed by audiences."
This press release is being issued by an ad hoc coalition of musicians and supporters of
new/experimental jazz/indie music. We represent a racially and culturally diverse community united in
our desire to preserve the cultural legacy and future viability of this music historically based in the LES.
Saturday's action will be the first of an ongoing series of actions towards this goal.
Further information and contacts are available at www.takeittothebridge.com
The coalition is asking:
1. That the city council adopt a general principle similar to European cultural policy: under which the
arts are not left to the mercy of market forces. So that the new music and experimental jazz/indie musical
culture, which is a unique asset, and an essential part of New York's history, economy, and identity
will not to be left without this essential support.
2.That the city recognize the damage done to its cultural heritage and status as a 'cultural capitol' by the displacement of venues central to experimental musics, and act now to protect those remaining venues
- from displacement - either by providing funding sufficient to allow them to withstand the explosion of
commercial rents, or by legislation forcing landlords to restrict rents of culturally valuable venues, or
3. That New York City intervene to preserve 107 Norfolk street as an experimental music venue, or make
available a comparably sized and centrally located space for that purpose.
There has been little discussion of the economic impact of shutting down nightly new music venues in
NYC. Beyond its own inherent value as art, new music/experimental indie/jazz also serves as crucial
research and development for a much larger music industry- entertainment products, including music, are
a major New York City export, and live entertainment in NYC is a major factor in restaurant, tourism, and
The reason people come here from all over the world to hear music, and hire ensembles from New York to tour all over the world- derives from the unique sound of the city's music. This uniqueness derives in turn from the historic interaction between NYC's mainstream and its avant garde and other indigenous scenes.
The proximity, the mutual artistic influence, the trading back and forth of players between mainstream
and avant gardes is what has created the competitive advantage of NYC music- its world famous "edge." The avant garde draws from a pool of excellent professionals also working in NYC pop, classical, and
mainstream jazz and rock: these are enriched by thecultural ideas of its avant garde. This "edge" brings
millions in local club and restaurant business, music and film production, and tourism to New York annually, in addition to creating employment for the thousands of NYC-based musicians who tour world markets on a yearly basis.
The Mostly Mozart festival is a wonderful experience for many New Yorkers. However, it is neither an export
nor the type of music representing New York City's musical cultural abroad. Europeans can travel to
Salzburg or Vienna to hear Mozart. New York's indigenous forms, however, are being presented every
night of the year in cities throughout Europe, Asia and around the world. New music/experimental
indie/jazz has support abroad completely disproportionate with its profile in NYC, as even a brief visit to http://www.europejazz.net/, the European jazz network website will confirm. And tourists from abroad can and do travel to New York to hear this music in its local setting.
But all this depends on its having a local setting: including a viable new indie and experimental music
nightly club scene. It is not only culturally barbarous, but also incredibly short sighted economic
policy that the internationally and critically recognized value of this music should be without an
adequate, well advertised, and easily accessible showcase in its place of birth: one funded well enough
to be able to both nurture new talent and present established musicians.