My next suggestion in my spaces to have a decent hang with one’s friends pre-concert would find me remaining down here on the Lower East Side, or the LES for all you folks that Twitter your brains out and offering up for your chill time – Nice Guy Eddie’s. Their located on the corner of Avenue A and Houston Street and are the perfect spot to kick back a few with your friends if you are heading to the Mercury Lounge or even the couple of blocks away Arlene’s Grocery, Piano’s and The Living Room. I realize that there are a score more venues in that region but I could be here all day lining them out so you get the overall picture.
I didn’t shoot any pics on the inside of the place since it was kind of crowded and I didn’t want to appear too “touristy” myself. I was actually hitting a show with Skeleton Pete and we braved it together to see how different it was from the bar we had hit in the past that was just across the street. They didn’t have any food and tonight we were hungry so to Eddie’s we ventured. The bar has a cool Happy Hour which amounts to two for one beers and unlike some places that end this special at 7pm, Eddie’s goes until 8pm. That helps if the bands you are seeing are hitting the stage a little late. The food we’ve tried at Eddie’s was pretty much the burgers and I had no complaint about them. They dished out a fine one and one of my friends had said that their wings were also commendable.
Eddie’s is a full on Rock and Roll bar when it comes to the sounds blasting out of their jukebox. During my times there I have heard not only Ramones and Joan Jett, but also The Clash, Stones and my favorite of them all – KISS. That makes Eddies a cool and somewhat rocking place for a decent Happy Hour without question. Good food, great music, close to where you need to be and wait there is more; they are also very known for the mural that is on the Houston Street side of the place. It depicts KISS in their “Destroyer” regalia and its a superb photo opportunity. Check it out.
That’s all I have for you in this little concert themed Zagat guide of mine. I hope you drop into the place when hitting these venues because it keeps the value on the reasonable side and we all need to save money nowadays. Stay tuned for more, I have some other suggestions for you up my sleeve and I think you will like them.
UPDATE: 6/18/2012 – The other day I learned about the closing of Nice Guy Eddie’s after being in business for eighteen years. It’s going to become some sort of upscale Hipster lounge or so I am told by some of the staff. I went there one final time the day before they closed and scream about this horrible news on my personal blog. You can check that out and do some screaming yourself if you enjoyed this place by clicking HERE.
If I had to think back to when I first went to Smith’s Bar, I will say that it was after a job interview from Hell and I was meeting a then friend for a cold beverage and to catch up. I was not anywhere close to having PiercingMetal.com yet, and as I reflect upon that day, I was not really writing for the website that got me started either. Anyway, I digress. At the time of this meetup, Smith’s was really a different looking place. They had a bunch of tables on the side and one of those hot meat counters that we used to see a lot in places like Blarney Stone. I loved those since you could get some corned beef, turkey or roast beef for a reasonable sum and a few cold beers and then go off to whatever it was you were doing.
I liked the bar and remembered it when I started doing my music scribe thing and began to use it as my own launching point for diner and beverage before going off to B.B. King Blues Club and the Nokia Theatre. Slowly but surely the word started to spread thanks to the growing Social Nets and many other Metal peeps began to use this space as well for their own pre-gaming. On the other side of Smith’s was a larger restaurant side and while you could get food on either of the sides, there were more tables and room over on the opposite side for larger groups. It was your typical NYC bar and had a certain sleazy charm to it. The crowd was a regular person crowd and when I was there with a Metal compliment of friends I never had an issue. The shot below shows off the new restaurant space look and I will explain that in the next paragraph.
Of course in time things do change and Smith’s eventually got a makeover that made the place look a lot nicer and I guess more appealing at the end of the day. They dumped the meat counter for standing tables and cleared a few of the other parts in the main bar that had become part of my memory and things I liked to see. Granted it was roomier now and while I didn’t snap any shots of that for this narrative I will say that they definitely classed it up a bit. Welcome tourists I reckon we should say. They often had music in the restaurant space and the players would be against the front window over there. Now there was a small stage that was a much better option in my opinion. They don’t seem to move the tables back at all when bands are playing and that can be a little annoying in my humble opinion. They changed the menu around and yeah prices went up a little bit too but it was still a good launching point for the Metal and Hard Rock gigs for sure. Now with tools like Twitter one is able to say where they are going before a show and reach numerous friends/fans. I have used it for this purpose a lot.
At the time of this writing I can safely say that this is probably the most visited bar in my personal record. One of these days I will snare one of their shirts because I like the look of them. You can see where Smith’s is exactly by clicking their website link below but please know its right on the corner of 8th Avenue and 44th Street. Mark it on your agenda items if you are going to B.B’s or Nokia.
While this place has been around for many years before my finally getting through its doors, I owe a debt of thanks to our own Skeleton Pete who first suggested it on the night that we were both catching the band Blackfield down at the Bowery Ballroom. It was a very weird night without question and while winter was upon us, a sudden snow had started to fall and not only was it a continuous downfall of it. It was sticking and to find this happening in the city takes some doing what with all the pipes under the streets. We were too early for the show, and decided to grab a bite to eat. “Have you ever tried Acme?” Pete inquired when we realized how much time we actually had before the show began and I told him I had not. So we wandered the five or so blocks it was away and I have never regretted trudging through the snowy mess for food ever since that night.
The menu was a Cajun one, and that meant a whole bevy of filling, comfort type food. They had choices of gumbo, friend chicken, blackened everything and assorted Po Boy sandwiches. They even had freshly baked corn bread on the table and a knock you out hot sauce. I remembered my first order was a chicken fried steak with a side order of black eyes peas and their mashed potatoes and grave. It was heavenly. There was also a house brew that I loved and while I didn’t realize this until we had sat down, this was also above the Rock Club “Under Acme”. Now the name made complete sense. This was officially going to be my pregaming spot for any shows that I was attending down at that club and perhaps even some of the close in proximity ones like Bowery Ballroom as well. Here’s a visual of the place during the day time and I am sorry but I didn’t take any from the inside.
Though I admit that I have to explore their menu a little deeper, I can say that I have had their burgers, the meat loaf, po-boy sandwich, gumbo, chicken fried steak, fried chicken, and even their wings. Whew, there is a lot of ground to cover and everything leaves you full and satisfied for sure. Take a look at this scan of the menu which I took home (don’t worry this was the take out menu so I was allowed to have it). Be warned, everything on this menu might prompt you to head into the kitchen and get some cooking done so don’t say that I didn’t warn you.
Since that first night I have held court here on numerous occasions whether it was for some concert pre or post gaming, networking meetings with like minded peers in the industry or just to catch up with old friends at a comfortable space. It even ended up being a space I was not adverse to travelling to before gigs at Irving Plaza or Mercury Lounge which were more of a distance away than I would normally like to be when a show is happening. The club downstairs is awesome too if you are in a local band that kicks some ass. The sound is pretty good and while the getting set up can be a confining thing I have enjoyed quite a few bands here and written about them on the site. You can check out those reports and galleries via this LINK. Be aware that they changed the club name to “Ace Of Clubs” not too long after I first visited the establishment.
I guess one can say that “Pre-Gaming” by it’s literal definition seems to denote any activities that one partakes in before a particular sporting event but with that being said, it can probably be applied outside of this realm as well. This is a good thing in my humble opinion and I like the idea of this term as not just something that’s relegated to the parking lot before the Jets, Giants, Mets or Yankees games. In reality it can also be applied to any of the hanging out time that finds friends or like minded individuals gathering at a single spot before they hit the venues to support their favorite bands. To many people, it is just as much fun getting together before a show as it is going to one and with this in mind I wanted to point out some of the haunts that I have found myself stopping into before the shows took place. I also wanted to speak up about what I had enjoyed about each of them and by using the blog angle of my music adventuring would be able to accept views from the wider public should they care to chime in. Of course this whole idea of “PiercingMetal Does Zagat’s Guide” is not at all music related but on the same token it is because at the end of the day the thoughts being presented happened while on the way to a hopefully kick ass Metal show. Our first chapter actually deals with two establishments that are no longer in business and ones that made me come up with the whole idea in the first place.
First up is a place that I happened to pass by while on a neighborhood walk doing the usual errands that one finds consumes their time. It’s the long shuttered Carroll’s Bar in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, and this space was located not too far from where I did my whole “Viking Quest” adventure several months ago. Anyways, in my own musician life history, Carroll’s Bar was NOT a pre-gaming spot, but instead a post gaming space that was used to a regular extent by my band Machine and also Eclipse. I am thinking that it was my Machine guitarist Rizzo who actually pointed out the place to me first even though I was a long time resident of Bay Ridge and he was from Park Slope. Amazing how things work out. Anyway, the place was run by Eddie Carroll who I am pretty sure has long passed on. It was your typical “Old Man’s Bar” which now gets labeled as “Dive Bar” based on their being no frills to the establishment. You want beers, we got a couple of them. You want whiskeys, we got those too. Food? What does this look like to you , a diner? Anyways, for a band coming home late from gigs and looking for a place to decompress this was perfect for our needs.
The photo above was taken by my buddy Eric from the Beehivehairdresser.com Blog, and as you can see the place is shuttered. I am not sure how long it has been closed but in my own personal history this remains a fond memory of youthful good times with a number of my band friends. I recall five dollar pitchers which were filled to the brim and ice cold. Given the timeframe I am speaking about this was very likely Budweiser out of the tap. The beverage I tend to avoid nowadays. My how the times change. I remembered Machine signing a photograph for Eddie which he kept at the bar. I tried to be poetic and write something like “You’re The Tops For Tap”. Corny I know, but I was not a writer yet. Next up – The Blarney Stone.
The Blarney Stone
Ahhh “The Stone”….This one comes with some lamenting based on its eventual status but first let me recant some of the reasons why this place was called home when my friends and I were hitting shows at Madison Square Garden or the Theatre which is located directly beneath it. If memory serves me right, I believe that I started going to “The Stone” with my buddy Trig and a couple of other friends when we all used to regularly attend N.Y. Ranger hockey games. The bar was located right up the street from The Garden and was a stones throw in distance to the train lines that got me there and back home again. This fact alone would make it welcome sanctuary when it was brutally cold outside or found the city pummeled by torrential rain. After a few visits the comfort zone factor set in and this eventually became the meeting spot for concerts that were happening as well.
The Blarney Stone being discussed was once located at 106 West 32nd Street and this was your typical Irish Bar with a meat counter for the food they had and a bunch of tables scattered around the main bar section. They also had numerous sport photographs of the NYC teams hanging around on the walls which kind of reminded me of a sport themed “Rock and Roll Café”. Don’t bother looking up that last reference as they have been gone for more than ten years. The layout of this particular Blarney Stone was interesting as there was a back space that you could command if you got there early enough and also a great table right below the jukebox that I used to always hope to secure. The bar was always popular and packed before Rangers games and most likely Knicks as well, but since I only went to a single basketball game I cannot tell you more. Since it supported these teams on the various televisions around the bar (and they had a decent number of them) they also sold baseball caps with those team logos on them. I still have two of my Rangers hats and they are among the best in my cap collection. The usual scenario before shows was get to the bar as early as possible to secure a good table or space for you and whomever was joining you. Get something to eat, have a few pitchers around your group and stumble down, I mean head down to your sporting event or concert. I loved the meat table and always got my heaping plate of roast turkey, mashed potatoes and corn. It was $6.00. An amusing memory was seeing the Neil Diamond concert with my parents and stopping in there for supper and a drink and having my Dad enjoy the amount of food he got for the price. You might be laughing now, but believe me that really tasted good. Another notable memory is how a whole crew of friends had gathered for an Iron Maiden concert and recalled being at this bar back in the day when youth and dreams were still in charge of ones day. The amusement that they were still enjoying the same music today as investment bankers, financial analysts and technology professional was quite funny. Of course there was a music journalist spark being lit around this time as well. Fancy that.
You recall I said “was once located” at 106 West 32nd and that is because not too long ago I found the doors locked and the signage gone. A few months later the entire building and corner of the block followed. In its place are some luxury high rise office facilities and I must admit that this is one of those times that I do not enjoy the march of progress because there were so many damned good times at this little hole in the wall of the city. I took this shot when I passed the then empty space where a couple of buildings had once stood. Granted there are still a couple of other bars using the Blarney Stone franchise moniker but this was the one that I found sanctuary at with my people. I was very sad to see it gone as I didn’t even get to toast its memory or thank its owners for having it there for so many years. After seeing this empty space, I needed what our Finnish Ambassador refers to as a “street beer”.
Thus begins our next batch of blog musings and we hope that you will enjoy them in some fashion. I’ll be breaking up the tales place by place for easier mental consumption. Perhaps these will guide you to some places to meet your friends before shows as well but I don’t recommend that you do it unless you are the legal age to drink. If you are, then perhaps you will see me prepping for the Metal madness at one of these locations. If you do, please come say hello.
Helpful Toasts From Around The Globe
Depending on which band that you are seeing and where they are visiting from, you might want to know what toast to use in the event you meet the band members down at the merchandise table or somewhere else at the show.
German – “Prost” – very useful for EdGuy, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Iron Savior etc.
Swedish – “Skol” (pronounced “skole”) great for those Viking warriors Amon Amarth, Sister Sin,
Finnish – “Kippis” (pronounced “kip-eese”) useful for Nightwish, Sonata Arctica, The 69 Eyes, HIM, Ensiferum, Turisas and many, many more. You’ll very likely use this one the most
Polish – “Nostrovya” (pronounced “nos-trov-ya”) useful for Behemoth, Vader, Gwynbleidd and Darzamat.
Chinese – “Cambei” (pronounced “come by”): Might be used mainly for the guys in Wormrot or Chthonic. Not sure how much you will use this one since we don’t get a lot of Asian Metal bands hitting the region.
French – “A Votre Sante” – Best for bands from that part of the world and even French speaking parts of Canada like Blackguard, The Agonist, and Unexpect.