Posted in music | venues on April 13, 2007

John Zorn @ Tonic, NYC - Dec 15, 2005 (CRED)
John Zorn @ Tonic

Tonic closes after tonight (April 13, 2007). John Zorn plays two "improv" shows followed by the final Bunker ("A wild dance party with dark techno, house, and electro"). The club won't be quiet tomorrow though. In fact:

Musicians and Friends:
It is time to Claim what is our Right!

Saturday April 14th
FROM 11 a.m. until...







Tonic is scheduled to close on Friday, April 13th, 2007.

The following day, we will gather to fight the eviction of this crucial venue, the diminishment of our livelihoods, and the destruction of our culture by peacefully resisting. Please join us.

Continued below....

For the last nine years Tonic has been at the center of NYC experimental music. When the tsunami of rent increases and mal- development engulfing the LES forces its closure, NYC will have lost the last avant-jazz/indie/new music club in Manhattan with a capacity over 90. A vibrant community of musicians and fans worked for years to maintain Tonic -- raising over 100,000 dollars through benefit concerts and donations to pay off debt, fund repairs, buy a sound system, and keep the club open in devastating times such as following 9/11/01.

We’re taking action now to dramatize the market failure of which Tonic’s closing is a symptom, and to ask that the city save this home for us or provide a minimum 200 capacity, centrally located venue for experimental jazz, indie, and new music.

We want for ourselves and the communities around us the right to stay around long enough to enjoy the culture we’ve created, not harassment and a bum’s rush into eviction the minute real estate decides we’ve made the neighborhood ‘safe’ and ‘cultured’ enough for them to cash in.

This is where we tell the landlords, developers, and the city:
Enough. Genucht. Basta ya!

Coming on the heels of the closing of CBGB's, Sin-e, Fez, The Continental, and numerous other varied downtown venues, the closing of Tonic represents the shutting down of NYC's most important live music experimental jazz, indie, and new music scene.

This wave of live music space closings constitutes a market failure.
The downsized or geographically marginal venues arising in the wake of the established club closings are not generating enough to maintain the economic viability of this scene. 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.

“My band plays 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.”
Steven Bernstein, Trumpet player and leader of Sex Mob and the Millennial Territory Orchestra (NY Times)

According to Patricia Nicholson Parker, organizer of the Vision
“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 that the city make available a musician-friendly community club/space which holds up to 200 audience members. It is important that it not be in the outer boroughs but be centrally located in the LES where this serious alternative music has been birthed and where it can be easily accessed by audiences.”

* Other Passengers - new album/video & Tonic show
* Kiiiiiii, Tonic Alumni Festival & John Zorn Improv Night



Tags: Tonic

Comments (23)

This is good. This is more important than Arcade Fire tickets. This is about the long term viability of a vibrant musical culture that has been specially unique to NYC. Let's remember the culture that turned these rundown hoods into desirable places for condos.
Also, I said it a few minutes ago under a different posting, but it bears repeating: don't fuck with Marc Ribot.

Posted by bbll | April 13, 2007 11:21 AM

"It is time to Claim what is our Right!"

We have no such right. Also, government involvement would be wrong because they would be sponsoring a certain type of music/art over another. These venues are closing because capitalism is in progress, but it is also the same capitalism that will make them reopen...

Everything is cycical. Neighborhoods became popular because artists made them destinations. How long before the condo owners discover that they just spent over a million dollars for a hood that has no cultural amenities?

Vote with your dollars, don't let politicians get involved.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 11:34 AM

I agree with the above poster that government should not get involved. However, there are answers beyond mere capitalism and government intervention. Other forms of art/theatre have charitable benifactors. Maybe if someone started a non-for-profit indie music venue and relied on contributions/fundraisers/grants/endowments/etc... there might be hope.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 11:45 AM

I know that this has been said before, but "capitalism" (i.e. business trends) in the US is heavily influenced by the government, and this is especially so here in New York. Poly Sci students may note that this is a key element of fascism.

The idea of government involvement being "wrong" in this case is ridiculous, as that assumes that our goverment operates according to some legal or ethical code, which for the most part it does not. Citizens making their voices heard to get what they want from the government is a key element of democracy, which is the system under which we supposedly operate.

Cultural activity, and the arts in particular, will rarely make enough money to compete with purely commercial interests. Many of us, however, feel that the arts (that includes subculture and the avant-garde, not just canonical works) are a vital part of a healthy society, and should be supported governmentally. For those who don't share that belief, you're increasingly going to get your wish here in NYC.

Everything is cyclical, however, many of us would like to see that cycle happen within our lifetimes, and the current picture doesn't look too good.

Posted by boringification of nyc | April 13, 2007 12:01 PM

Not-for-profit, community driven spaces that people can play music at do exist, the two that come to my mind are ABC No Rio & 924 Gilman Street, though that's mostly punk/hardcore.

While it sucks that Tonic is closing, perhaps they could start a not-for-profit indie music space like you said.

..& definitely don't get the city/government involved! Last thing we need is Bloomberg being able to say who can & can't play at a venue.

Posted by Marlon | April 13, 2007 12:09 PM

I'm less optimistic that the market will correct this problem. It is in the interest of the city government to protect institutions that help make the city what it is. Corporations do fund the arts, as does our city. This tradition should be continued and upheld. The loss of Tonic creates a huge gap in Manhattan's experimental scene. Many of the artists who frequent Tonic have called this gap irreplaceable. Will it open up in another neighborhood? Probably. Is the function of experimental venues to pave the way for fancy and expensive housing? Or do they have their own intrinsic value?
Capitalism is not the only force at work here, friends. The city shapes decisions like these everyday.
It is absurd to argue that this would be favoring one type of art over another. When the city sponsors an Opera day in Bryant Park, do you immediately think to yourself: "Why is the city favoring Opera over Clap Your Hands Say Yeah!?" Of course not.
Tonic has been, like many of the other venues who have recently closed, quite successful in bringing an amazingly consistent blend of talent in front of frequently packed crowds. There’s a reason why these musicians are calling this a “market failure.” Voting with dollars does not always work.

Posted by bbll | April 13, 2007 12:19 PM

Now that Farm Aid is no longer needed with the farmers raking in big profits thanks to ethanol production, maybe they could name it Indie Aid instead.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 12:24 PM

wait, correct me if im wrong but wasnt tonic evicted because they didnt pay their rent for several months?

i dont see what they can really complain about, if thats the case.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 12:27 PM

Remember when the city musuem took down the elephant dung Virgin Mary portrait? That's why you get when you mix politicians and art. Freedom of speech and expression succumb to the wills of the elected officials.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 12:27 PM

why not do something for yourselves. if you truly "have the power of the people" and are "concerned about the scene in your city" then go make it happen.

it won't happen on this message board.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 12:49 PM

Good experimental music happening tonight in Brooklyn:
Friday, April 13
keith rowe
rick reed
michael haleta

Keith Rowe is an English free improvisation guitarist. Rowe is a founding member of AMM in the mid-1960s and a founding member of M.I.M.E.O. After years of obscurity, Rowe has achieved a level of relative notoriety, and since the late 1990s has kept up a busy recording and touring schedule. He is seen as a godfather of electroacoustic improvisation.

Posted by drewo | April 13, 2007 1:00 PM

You know what else you get when you mix politicians and art? The New York State Music Fund, created by Gov. Eliott Spitzer as a result of the radio payola investigation. Fines from the labels were put into this fund, which was distributed to arts organizations. As a result, you can see a free show by Major Stars, Jonathan Kane's February, Flaming Fire, and DJ/Rupture at Southpaw on 4/28. It is the first in a series of WFMU free events from the fund. Not everything ends up in assholes shitting on shit.

Posted by bbll | April 13, 2007 1:00 PM

I'll see you there tomorrow, Anon 12:49.

Posted by bbll | April 13, 2007 1:03 PM

bbll - Ok, but we'll have to meet in the middle. I'm in Cleveland.

I always check up on BV because ClevelandVegan is so trite.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 1:59 PM

Why should I give a rat's ass about music that holds no appeal for me? Seriously, who's going to determine which musicians are worthy of access to subsidized facilities, and which are not?

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 3:39 PM

True, if the government got involved they'd have to give equal access to any resident band who wanted to play. Also, they wouldn't let anyone with what they determined to be "objectional" lyrics play. Hello censorship.

Posted by Anonymous | April 13, 2007 6:10 PM

It's hard to keep typing this: the government is already involved. Most people want it this way. Some would want more. Your scenarios are highly unrealistic considering last year Talib Kweli gave a free concert in City Hall Park (the government was involved), and not every rapper from Bed-Stuy was given equal time. You can't please everybody, but you can protect institutions that have contributed to the musical legacy of the city. Tonic is a venue that was very much a product of New York. There is little else like it left in this city. Many of the musicians who play there are some of the most respected in the world. John Zorn, playing tonight, is a MacArthur grant winner. There are at least 3 albums by major jazz/experimental musicians that were recorded at Tonic (some of them even named Tonic).

Posted by bbll | April 13, 2007 7:17 PM

Please come down in the morning to Tonic at 11 am to make our demonstration big, peaceful and noisy -- if you can't get there at 11 am, come whenever you can. We will be there until ?? -- at least all day and we hope far into the night --

Among the artists who have promised to play the demo are:

Ned Rothenberg
Marc Ribot
Marc Anthony Thompson (chocolate genius)
Cooper- Moore
Marty Ehrlich
Sean Lennon and Yuka Honda
Kenny Wolleson
Jim Campilongo
Roy Nathanson
Frank London
Gina Leishman
and many others TBA ...

Remember -- go to our website at and sign the petition -- click the link marked Petition at the right side of the page.

Posted by Anonymous | April 14, 2007 9:03 AM

Tonic is being forced to close because THEY COULDN'T PAY THEIR RENT! It has little to do with the lease. If THE PUBLIC wanted such a venue, it would be mobbed and it would be a money-maker. But THE PUBLIC has responded, and they have voted (with their dollars) that they do not care about Tonic. Why should the government increase our taxes just to subsidize music that only a select few appreciate? Stop wasting taxpayer money. Schools or Tonic, you decided.

That said I love Tonic. Sad to see it go. I just don't need my neighbor's taxes to go up just so I can see a show.

Posted by Anonymous | April 14, 2007 3:25 PM

This city blows. I've been here for 15 years and its so ridiculous is insane, even in brooklyn, all the good places are closing. hipsters, do yourselves a favor: find another city. the people who made this city what it is for people like you and me (keruac, warhol, lou reed, etc.) would have NEVER come to a city like this. they would be in the baltimores, in the phillies, the portlands, the seattles. nothing will come up from new york the same way it did...why? because you have to have a trust fund to live here and do art. i'm sorry but ny is done, in my opinion.

Posted by Brad | April 16, 2007 9:13 AM

I'm no expert, but if the City or State were distributing funds to Arts Institutions like Tonic or The Stone or whoever, wouldn't there be a committee determining who gets the funds? And can't committee's be shaped, to a certain extent at least, by the public? Maybe I'm wrong... probably am.

Also, just wanted to mention that even though a good number of people LOVED Tonic, myself included, I often found myself wondering how they could afford to stay open. Seems like they could have tried to make more money without sacrificing standards or jeopordizing principles. Could they have maybe tried to sell food? Or whatever.. my point is, it's not like any of us would have thought Tonic was "selling out" if they tried experimenting with their business model. Especially if it would have helped them to stay open.

Posted by Anon | April 16, 2007 2:54 PM

What's a hipster? Are those people who are "hip" to new culture? Like the people who discover and make artists like Warhol? I think Lou Reed was a rich kid with an insider dad in the music biz, sorta like the Beastie Boys, does he count?

Posted by IamCurious | April 21, 2007 12:44 AM

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