Avenue A seems more like Bourbon Street some nights, but this Thursday a hardcore show with several reunited New York bands will evoke the spirit of a grittier time. Once the location of the A7 club, where bands like Agnostic Front and Bad Brains played, Niagara will host a record release show for a band that hasn’t played in 30 years: The High and The Mighty.
Fronted by New York born filmmaker Drew Stone, the band’s Crunch On demo was recently pressed on vinyl for the first time by Brooklyn/Boston label Radio Raheem.
“I came back to NYC in 1983 from Boston after crapping out in college,” Stone said of the group’s formation. “We were around for about a year, but played CBGB, the A7 a bunch of times, and Boston twice opening up for The Misfits at one of their last shows they did with Danzig.”
Owned by Jesse Malin, who was a member of early NYHC band Heart Attack before going on to D Generation and a solo recording career, Niagara will have Urban Waste, Mental Abuse, and Abject playing a free show, playing homage to A7, which was recently commemorated with a plaque outside the bar.
Known for giving the small, devoted scene a home, A7’s shows might have appeared violent to the uninformed, but offered an alternative to the crime and sleaze that laced the avenues outside the club. With CBGB not yet monetizing on the hardcore scene by having Sunday matinees, it was the only consistent place to play. And it was staffed by members of the scene, including Doug Holland from Kraut, Jimmy Gestapo from Murphy’s Law, and Raybeez from Warzone, who ran the door.
“The neighborhood at the time was very different than the NYU campus it seems like now. It was very dangerous and you never wandered down in the direction of Avenue B,” Stone said, recalling his experiences at A7 in the early ’80s. “The shows started around midnight and went until dawn, so we used to come down from the Bronx and just sit in the van outside the place, waiting for our turn to play.”
Hard at work on a documentary film about former Elektra records A&R man Michael Alago, who changed the course of heavy metal by signing Metallica to a major label contract, Stone talked about the significance of the tiny club and what it meant to have what he called a “ground zero” for the scene. “Having been a part of the early Boston hardcore scene which started out very small, had a leader and patterned itself after the D.C. scene, the New York hardcore scene was a very different animal. It was much bigger, disjointed and very fractured. To a hardcore band starting out in New York City in the early ’80s, playing the A7 was like playing Madison Square Garden.”
The High and The Mighty in rehearsal in 1983.