Take a walk through almost any neighborhood in Manhattan and you’ll likely pass some of the most significant clubs in American music history. But you won’t know it—almost all of these venues have been demolished or repurposed, leaving no record of what they were, how they shaped music scenes or their impact on the neighborhoods around them.
Traditional music history tells us that famous scenes are created by brilliant, singular artists. But dig deeper and you’ll find that they’re actually created by cheap rent, empty space and other unglamorous factors that allow artistic communities to flourish. The 1960s folk scene would have never existed without access to Greenwich Village’s Washington Square Park. If the city hadn’t gone bankrupt in 1975, there would have been no punk rock. Brooklyn indie rock of the 2000s was only able to come together because of the borough’s many empty warehouse spaces. But these scenes are more than just moments of artistic genius—they’re also part of the urban gentrification cycle, one that often displaces other communities and, eventually, the musicians themselves.
Jesse Rifkin is the author of “This Must Be the Place” (Hanover Square Press, 2023). He is also the owner and operator of Walk on the Wild Side Tours NYC, a music history walking tour company in New York City, and consults as a pop music historian for the Association for Cultural Equity. His work has been featured in the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Vice, the Quietus, Interview Magazine, and Fodor’s Travel. Prior to his work as a historian, he spent twelve years touring the country as a working musician, playing at CBGB, Lincoln Center, and venues of every size and shape in between.
- Thursday, September 28, 2023
- 7:00 pm
Thursday, September 28, 2023
Location: St. Mark’s Church in-the-Bowery, 131 E 10th St.
New York, NY 10003