The title is not in reference to the sketchy Greenwich Village CD stores known for low prices, surly service, and the sinking feeling that all of their merchandise fell off the back of a truck, but rather a current exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts that I took in this weekend w/ the Woman, as well as members of OneLouder and MMM.
Originally exhibited at the Experience Music Project in Seattle and supposedly curated by ex-Spin Magazine scribe Eric Weisbard and journos Ann Powers and Julianne Sheppard, it was impressive to say the least; overflowing with random minutae ranging from the electric basses used by Chic, to typed letters lamenting the closing of exclusive gay disco "Flamingo," to a collection of vinyl albums said to be responsible for the disco backlash (e.g. "Sesame Street Fever," a Marilyn Chambers record, "Disco Duck" etc.). And that barely begins to scratch the surface.
This particular Saturday afternoon featured a two hour long panel with a number of figures instrumental to the disco boom, including "Godfather of Disco" and gay activist Mel Cherren, Flamingo founder Michael Fresco, and Studio 54 publicist-extraordinaire/Behind the Music-talking head Carmen D'Alessio.
Boiled down to its elements, the panel consisted of older folks fondly recalling the good 'ol days of the legendary Paradise Garage and gay club staples such as The Saint and The Gallery, while completely condemning any DJs that don't spin three-minute songs with vocals. Everything other than the latter was lumped in as mindless "boom boom" music. I took the aforementioned phrase to encompass the collective experience of paying 40 bucks to wait in line and dance to WKTU beats with most of Northern New Jersey at places like Crobar and Avalon. Fair enough. But if there was downside to the panel, it was that the panelists were completely dimissive of the fact that there's plenty of modern day DJs with enough talent to make today's intelligent clubbers just as elated as the panelists were back in their day (at times it felt like my father constantly telling me how virtually everything I listen to nowadays is completely terrible when compared to the Beatles and/or Stones).
However, one significant difference that the panelists touched on involved the fact that inventive clubs are all that much more difficult to keep active today due to the harsh economic climate and extreme expense of keeping them open (thus the ugly transition to bottle service). Despite some of the negative vibes on the part of the panelists, the afternoon was still well worth it as a glimpse into a bygone era told by its participants, as well as a few priceless memories regarding such things as Madonna's debut performance at the Paradise Garage (it's one thing to refer to use the N-word onstage if you're Gloria Gaynor...but not if you're a relatively unknown "small white bitch").
Yeah. Back to work on this lovely federal holiday.