It’s with incredible sadness that I share the email that I just received about Duke’s Bar, which has been one of my very favorite places to get together before Metal and Rock shows at the Irving Plaza and Gramercy Theatre venues for several years now. I began my forays into Duke’s thanks to my buddy Steve Keeler who “found” the place for my own dining radar and from there I helped set up Metal pregaming hangs for more shows than can easily be counted. Here’s the email….
“To our loyal Duke’s Customers, After 20 years in the Gramercy Neighborhood, we are closing our doors at the end of the summer. Thank you for all the great times throughout the years. Our Murray Hill location at 860 Third Avenue will remain open and we hope to see you there for more of your favorite food, drinks, staff and good times”.
The note continues with their inviting patrons to join them for one last dinner on July 28th by calling 212-477-1500 to book a space while there is the means to do so.
I’m numb because if you have gone to the amount of shows that I have in the region, you have most likely been here on your own or as one of the masses that raised glasses with me before the charge onto the venues. This is a loss that I am surely going to feel as it draws closer to its last day. I plan on visiting Duke’s a few times before the closure as I am not sure I could handle the final night. When Smith’s Bar initially closed I did the same thing and went the night before the final night as it was easier to say goodbye in my head. Of course they had a miraculous return thanks to new owners but I am doubtful that the same shall be found with Duke’s. I’ll likely be lamenting Duke’s once again but friends and those who had enjoyed some good times at this pub with me over the years or on their own are welcome to leave comments in below since that adds some weight to these words. The sadness countdown begins now with just over one month left to go. New York City really doesn’t want to be New York City anymore it seems.
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.