artbook_2029_38437712.jpgWatching Wild Combination last week, I had my curiosity piqued by references to a club called Tier 3. I’d heard the name before, but never really paid too much attention — it seemed third tier to more famous (and more fully chronicled) places like Mudd Club, CBGB, etc. More references turned up last week, though, in a book I bought as a Christmas gift for a friend: Soul Jazz Publishing’s New York Noise: Art and Music from the New York Underground, 1978-88.  (Review here. Fun fact: I once played in a band with someone featured in the volume.)

I’m sad to admit I didn’t even know where Tier 3 was located. So I poked around. God bless the internets.

Turns out it was an early TriBeCa club, West Broadway and White, that catered to post-punk/new wave acts, a lot of them British acts that provided the soundtrack to my teenage years in faraway rural Arizona. Post-punk photo chronicler Eugene Merinov has a set of Bauhaus photos online from a 1981 gig.

Must be something in the air right now about Tier 3 nostalgia; the current issue of the online music magazine Perfect Sound Forever has a profile on the club by Andy Schwartz, based primarily on an interview with founding booker Hilary Jaeger. The piece is part of an ongoing series about defunct NYC venues. Hilary recalls the club’s origins:

I was waitressing at the L&M Coffee Shop, at
Second Avenue and 10th Street, and I had a friend named June
Giarratano. Her mother, Kathleen Giarratano, and Kathleen’s friend
Maureen Cooper somehow got the lease and the liquor license for Tier 3.
June told me they needed a waitress, and I started working there in
March or April 1979… TriBeCa at that point was just a no-man’s-land.
There was hardly anybody there.

You walked up a few steps to enter the place, and
the bar was on the right-hand side of a sort of narrow room. We built a
DJ booth to the left, and behind that a couple of booths with bench
seating. The whole space was divided by a half-wall, so you could see
over and into the rectangular space where the bands played, to the left
and a few steps down. Because of how low the ceilings were, the stage
was only about ten inches off the floor and maybe fifteen feet wide.

I don’t who named it Tier 3, but in fact it did have
three levels. The second floor was a more brightly lit room with tables
and chairs. People didn’t really go to the third floor–there were
bathrooms up there, and a disco ball, and in the very beginning there
was a DJ booth there. At some point we showed films there, like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. God knows what else went on up there!

There were really very few places to play in
Manhattan at that moment–basically C.B.G.B., Max’s, and Hurrah. The
Mudd Club was open, but I don’t think they were doing a lot of live
bookings at the time. My sister [singer Angela Jaeger] was in bands and
my friends were in bands and I was completely involved in music. Tier 3
was obviously an auspicious space in which to do something.

New York acts featured regularly: dB’s, DNA, The Stimulators, The Bush Tetras, 8 Eyed Spy with Lydia Lunch, The
UK bands included the Raincoats, the Slits,
the Pop Group, Delta 5, Young Marble Giants, A Certain Ratio, Bauhaus, and Madness.

All this talk about new wave in TriBeCa reminded me of the great little 10-minute film Soul Jazz included on their ACR compilation Early a few years back. It intersperses footage of the band banging out beats in their TriBeCa loft with a performance at Hurrah’s, the famed “punk disco” venue on W. 62nd Street. The YouTube embedding is disabled; link here.

ACR’s MySpace page has this recollection of the early 80s downtown scene:

In late 1980, the [band relocated] from post-punk Manchester to the
hustle-bustle of the Big Apple, New York City. Romantic Mancunians love
to ponder the similarities between the two cities, the skyline over
Hulme, the great canals running through the cities (born from their
mutual industrial heritage), the fantastic nightlife. Realistic Mancs
know the score — Manchester is fuck-all like New York, but it looks
good in print. The band played gigs with local funk-machine ESG, along
with a fledgling New Order and a little known support act by the name
of Madonna.

For the intellectually and musically curious, our friends at Fales Library and Special Collections have compiled a set of resources for studying the scene.