The Lower East Side club Tonic is in danger of closing, facing a major and costly sewer repair, many thousands of dollars of unpaid rent, and an inflexible landlord. This might seem to be of only local interest, but really it's not -- Tonic is the locus of an extraordinary music scene, a community of musicians with a small but devoted international following. To get some sense of how important this club is to many people far away from New York City, take a look at the page of testimonials that has been recently added to the club's Web site. You'll see that people are writing from all over the world.
The stars of the scene Tonic plays home to, kings and queens of avant/experimental/new music, are out in force to save the club. Still to come are benefit concerts by Jim O'Rourke, Sean Lennon and Vincent Gallo, Medeski Martin & Wood, Arto Lindsay, Sex Mob, Ida and more. And there have already been benefits with Smokey and Miho, Chocolate Genius with Marc Ribot, Devendra Banhart, John Zorn and, most impressively, Yoko Ono, who celebrated her 72nd birthday last Saturday with a Tonic benefit concert. It was a magic evening, and as close as I'll probably ever come to experiencing a '60s happening. She showed movies for an hour: home videos her parents took when she was a child and a lifetime of conceptual art pieces, all with Yoko's running commentary. After a while she started turning it into a performance piece, dancing around in front of the movies, slashing the screen, and eventually she began singing, accompanied by her son and Vincent Gallo.
Tonic is worth saving. Where else could you find Anton Fier (leader of the legendary Golden Palominos) and Aurelio Valle (lead singer of Calla) working the door? If you live in New York, go to some of the benefit concerts, there are some great ones planned. If you don't, consider making a contribution. It will be a great loss to fans of experimental music everywhere if Tonic is forced to close.