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HiFi Bar, RIP: Carl Newman, Craig Finn, Ted Leo, Okkervil River & more offered tributes

photo via @okkervilriver
photo via @okkervilriver

The HiFi Bar, the East Village indie rock watering hole owned by Mike Stuto (who ran indie rock club Brownies in the same space before HiFi) served its last drink on Sunday night (10/29). Mike let friends and longtime patrons take album covers which decorated the bar’s walls home with them, and he signed them, too. “Why can’t you make an album this good?” is what he jokingly wrote on Britt Daniel of Spoon’s choice, Big Black’s Songs About Fucking.

Will Sheff of Okkervil River posted the above picture of one of HiFi’s wall’s mostly picked clean, writing:

Hi Fi, my favorite bar, closed tonight. I’ve had countless afterparties, sung numberless covers, done readings and even attended baby showers here. It was a haven for working NYC musicians who just wanted to hang out in a non-careerist environment. It was previously Brownies, where all of your favorite bands played before anyone had heard of them. It feels like the heart of what was New York for me has been cut out.

The Hi Fi was an unpretentious rock and roll bar. No bespoke reclaimed wood wainscotting, no appeal to the frat party vibe the East Village has taken on in recent years. Nice people and a great jukebox, always one or more of your friends there, always a smaller bill than you expected at the end of the night, a little shelter from what New York has turned into. One more thing that made the city liveable is gone, and I’m not sure I’ll be too far behind.”

There are a lot of memories packed in 169 Avenue A, and artists who played and drank there over the last 23 years have been sharing tributes and memories since the news brokeTed Leo, who played Brownies in multiple formations including solo and with his ’90s band Chisel, said on Twitter, “I have a lot to say about @hifinyc closing. And when I get on the road and settle into a routine next week, I will. This is not a threat!,” then adding “…It’s an invitation! And this is neither threat nor invitation – just a heads up: might get back to longer form blogging.” Here’s Chisel at Brownies in the mid-’90s:

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The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn (whose old band Lifter-Puller played Brownies) wrote “Many THS schemes dreamed up at HiFi, some even worked out. Mike and HiFi hugely important to the band- even employed one of us. Sad news.”

John Joseph of Cro-Mags, meanwhile, offered up a little history on the address:

Jason Narducy, who plays in Bob Mould’s band with Jon Wurster (and has his own band Split Single), shared this tribute:

The Van Pelt posted this tribute:

Last but not least, Carl Newman of The New Pornographers (whose first-ever NYC show was at Brownies) wrote, “This sucks. The only bar in NYC I could give a shit about. 1st New Ps NYC gig was at Brownies, had the kid’s 1st b-day party there. Memories.” He then shared an anecdote:

Did you know Muse played Brownies in 2000?
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