Avant Jazz/Indie/New Music Cultural Crisis
Responding to community outrage at the eviction of Tonic – a center of New York City’s new music cultural life on the Lower East Side for the last 9 years – an ad hoc committee of musicians, cultural activists, and 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 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, 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, and will be forced to close its doors this 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 hugely 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 the words of Steven Bernstein, (leader of the band Sex Mob):
“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.” (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 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.” 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 the progressive jazz, experimental rock, and new 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; that NYC’s new music and experimental jazz/indie musical culture is a unique asset, an essential part of the city’s history, economy, and identity, and not to be left entirely at the mercy of market forces.
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 music, and act now to protect those venues still left 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 both.
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/experimental/ indie/jazz music 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 hotel industries.
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 the avant garde 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 the cultural 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 culture 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.