Although I wasn't entirely crazy about the vibe (and certainly not the smoke) at Gallery of Tribes, I do think it's impressive that Ben managed to keep the Sidewalk culture alive and thriving there during the months that Sidewalk itself was closed for renovations. Unfortunately I had to be out of town for the final night at Tribes, but I gather it was a fun evening. I WAS there for the second to the last Monday and finally found myself connecting to that old 'you just don't know what's going to happen" feeling that has been a defining part of the Sidewalk experience at its best. It was a fun and slightly wacky night. Morgan Heringer and Ray Brown filled in for Ben who, one imagines, was home with his newborn. Morgan seemed to take most of the MCing responsibility and although she was hesitant at first, things started to flow after a while. Jen Kaplan cracked me up with her explicit tales of dating life which also inspired a brief audience colloquy about certain expressive practices of interrelating.
Anyway, I'm getting off the topic. We're getting close to Sidewalk's reopening and information about the new place is coming out in dribs and drabs. The most specific details so far have come out in the following article in the Village Voice online.
There are several interesting points here, including that Sidewalk has hired a publicist. It really cannot hurt to have people who know what they're doing help with promotion. But I hope that the publicists are tying into the most notable and newsworthy factors of the Sidewalk story. I would be thrilled if the "housemade potato chips," "paper-baked mustard tilapia" and "rustic hanging lanterns" help Sidewalk achieve great press. But to my mind what Sidewalk has going for it that other places don't is a deep subculture of artistic expression that despite its small size physically has had a large impact in the City's arts world. While I gather the music activity at Sidewalk pays off for the restaurant, its owners and managers still deserve credit for nurturing this shaggy scene for so many years. I have always gotten the sense that their heart is in it.
When Sidewalk opened in the 1980s, the East Village was filled with similar places--informal, cheap restaurants, patronized by the young artists and striving New York newcomers who moved to the area when it still was on the edge. In recent years Sidewalk has been one of the few remaining throwbacks to that time. I gather until the current renovations relatively little had changed at all since it opened, so in recent years it was easy to get the feel of the old East Village, just by entering. It's great that Sidewalk is being updated--it was about time really. No matter what though, I'm sure that I will always value Sidewalk for fostering artists and for its connection to the old East Village. I hope that Sidewalk's publicists see the value in telling the story of how the power of the Sidewalk community is so strong that it stayed entact over 5 months, waiting to return in full force to Avenue A. In the meantime, I'll look forward to trying some crème brulée French toast.
By the way, it would be great if we could see the schedule of upcoming shows. Some of them--mine included--are coming up soon.