photos by Kyle Dean Reinford; words by Bill Pearis
Bob Mould / Ted Leo / AC Newman @ HiFi, 5/17/2014
Back in the '90s, most up-and-coming indie rock bands touring through NYC played either Mercury Lounge or Brownies. Mike Stuto started booking shows there in 1994, and became co-owner in 1998. (Full disclosure: I've known Mike from before his Brownies days, and the club was the first place I saw a show when I moved to NYC.) Pretty much everybody played there and it was the site of the infamous 1998 show by The Fall that ended in an onstage brawl, with frontman Mark E. Smith arrested. When the club closed in 2002, Stuto turned Brownies into HiFi, a bar with no live music but with a digital jukebox that, at the time (iPods were still a novelty), had an astounding number of songs.
HiFi underwent renovations last fall, adding a small performance room in the back with a bar, and a DJ booth to the front. With the 20th anniversary of his association with 169 Ave A, there was an invite-only "20 Years of Stuto" party at HiFi last Saturday (5/17) that doubled as a benefit for longtime bartender Rhea Buckner who has been battling cancer and incurred a lot of debt from it. You can donate too.
The evening featured a lot of live music, and all the acts had played at Brownies at one point or another. After an opening set from NYC vet Don Piper, we got Boy Morgan (which includes members of Robbers on High Street) who played some of their own '60s-leaning material before inviting up a host of guest vocalists: Will Sheff of Okkervil River did Nick Lowe's "Cruel to Be Kind," AC Newman of New Pornographers did Wings' "Mrs. Vanderbilt" which was then followed by Ted Leo doing another Wings' song, knocking out "Band on the Run." Newman remarked, "New Pornographers' first New York show was here, as was my son's first birthday party."
Next up was former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty, which was followed by a short set from Ted Leo who told the crowd he probably wouldn't still be making music if it wasn't for Brownies' support and brought out the Pharmacists for a couple songs as well. Leo also brought up Stuto to do Elvis Costello's "Pump it Up" with the band.
Then out came Bob Mould who, even though it was just him and his electric guitar, was insanely, ear-bleedingly loud. I think his amp only has two settings: on or off. In addition to playing Sugar's "Hoover Dam" and "If I Can't Change Your Mind," we got a couple songs from his soon-to-be-released Beauty & Ruin. Then he brought back out Ted Leo + Pharmacists for a ripping rendition of Stiff Little Fingers' "Suspect Device."
The night's music ended with a set from Saratoga Springs power pop trio The Figgs who were the first band Stuto booked at Brownies. Their set also included some guests: Ben Smith (The Brought Low/Sweet Diesel) sang Small Faces' "Song Of A Baker," Jesse Malin (D Generation) sang the Stones' "Do Do Do Do Do (Heartbreaker)" and Steve Wynn (Dream Syndicate/Baseball Project) and his wife, Linda Pitmon (on drums) came out for a cover of Lou Reed's "Coney Island Baby."
It was a very fun night and pictures from all the above are in this post. As mentioned, HiFi is hosting live music now in its very small (35 capacity) back room, nothing with drums and nothing as loud as Bob Mould. They host readings and other performances too and you can check their schedule here.
More pics from Saturday's party below...
HiFi/Brownies owner Mike Stuto
Bob Mould & Mike Doughty