Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Times looks at Webster Hall's past and present (and future)


The $3 million, yearlong renovation at Webster Hall is done. And the Times takes a look at the 11th Street club's history....

Charles Goldstein, a cigarmaker, built Webster Hall in 1886 for $75,000, with a design by Charles Rentz Jr., an architect and beer vendor, for “balls, receptions, Hebrew weddings and sociables,” according to a December 1886 article in The New York Times.

But it soon came to be known for rowdy parties, many of which featured live music, like the fund-raiser for General Grant’s memorial in September 1887, or the fete for the French Revolution centennial in May 1889.

In the early 1900s, Webster Hall’s guest lists featured artists of all sorts, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. Around the same time, Greenwich Village became a center of gay and lesbian life, and the club was frequently a gathering place.


And some of its music history...

It was back in 1953, when RCA Victor set up a studio in the Grand Ballroom of Webster Hall in Manhattan to achieve a level of reverberation that would help the label compete with Columbia Records. Perry Como recorded his “Como Swings” there in 1959, which displayed Como in slacks and a blue shirt on a golf course.

As the world changed, and music with it, so did the acts the venue attracted: in 1967, Jefferson Airplane staged its first concert in New York inside. On Dec. 6, 1980, U2ushered in the post-punk era here — it was called the Ritz at the time — when it pounded out “I Will Follow” in its first gig in the United States. And on Feb. 2, 1988, Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses, standing on the same stage, before screeching “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” inflated a condom like a balloon.


No mention of K-Fed's show there, though...

5 comments:

Karate Boogaloo said...

I guess the story here is the renovation because it would be too easy to make fun of the Times being a year or two behind on this story. They've been having more bands than ever there for a while now.

EV Grieve said...

I would NEVER make fun of the Times!

philipp said...

wot!!! no mention of the famous 1981 P.I.L. show/riot?

http://www.fodderstompf.com/GIG%20LIST/rit81.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ritz_(rock_club)

EV Grieve said...

Good call, Philipp...Yeah, the article just mentions the P.I.L. show in passing without getting into the riot:

Legs McNeil, the author and longtime East Village resident who’s credited with popularizing the term “punk,” recalls seeing Public Image Limited and the Ramones there, but an even more memorable moment was sitting in the club’s balcony listening to someone have loud sex in a bathroom. That same balcony would also shake noticeably when the crowd started dancing, “and you wondered if the whole thing was going to collapse,” he said.

hntrnyc said...

Actually I was there for a Bad Manners show back in the mid-80's and as the entire main floor erupted into ska fueled mosh/skank-pit, i really thought the heaving floor was about to give way. Buster Bloodvessels, the illustrious Bad Manners front man was dousing the crowd with buckets of water.
Years later, I came back to do a show there and was charged with getting an enormous Yamaha monitor console up two flights of stairs with only 5 stage hands. It was like building the f*ckin pyramids.