Bridging The Continental’s Divide

Written by Adam Rathe on . Posted in Posts.


Before it doled out a fiveshots-for-$10 special designed to lure in passing college kids, Continental hosted some of New York’s most infamous punk shows. From 1991 when the club opened until 2006 when the plug was pulled on live music,The Ramones, Agnostic Front and The Cro- Mags were just some of the seminal local bands to take the dive bar’s stage. Fifteen years after opening the club, though, owner Trigger stopped hosting live shows in favor of pulling in a crowd that would pay for its drinks and enable him to keep the doors open. After more than three years of silence—save the sound that one too many Jaeger shots brings out of a New School freshman—Trigger is bringing music back to Continental for a onenight-only show featuring some of the club’s best-loved alumnus.

“It’s been over three years since I stopped doing live music. I miss the energy, the insanity and the dysfunction,” Triggers says over the phone from the back seat of a cab. “I don’t miss having a hard time paying my bills, but I miss running a live music club deeply.”

So Jan. 17 he’ll welcome performers such as The Patti Smith Group’s Lenny Kaye, a new band consisting of The Dead Boys’ Cheetah Chrome and Blackhearts guitarist Dougie Needles, CJ Ramone, The Waldos with Water Lure (formerly of Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers), Sea Monster, Furious George and special guests, including Handsome Dick Manitoba and Jesse Malin.

“It’s taken me three years to feel ready,” says Trigger. “The first year I was going through withdrawal—CBGB closed a few weeks after I did and there were certain bands that could really only play The Continental or CBGB or Coney Island High when it was open, so these bands were feeling really lost and homeless. I felt for them. I missed it and it took a year to make the new concept work. After that I started thinking about the reunion and I said it really should be done here, even though I don’t have any equipment and I know I won’t break even. I felt like now would be the perfect time to get something like this going.”

Trigger isn’t the only one who’s itching to take the club back for a night.

Kaye, who’s played countless gigs there over the years, is equally excited. “I understand what it’s like to keep a club going and often when you have people drinking five shots for $10, it’s not the most amenable atmosphere for music,” he says. “That said, I miss it as a great joint. It had a real coterie of bands that I liked seeing and I would stop in on a random night to see who was up on stage. I very seldom go beyond the Lower East Side to see anything—we need a place to play, not just on stage but off.”

Cheetah Chrome, who’s traveling from his home in Nashville for the show, is also enthused, despite the disappearance of the East Village of his glory days. “I went down there two or three years ago when we were recording—I had a few hours off and I wanted to get out of the studio—and I went to St. Marks Place and I didn’t see one thing I knew. I don’t go there anymore, it’s completely changed.”

Still, he says, “I’d stay to drink until dawn, but I’ve quit drinking. I’ve seen more than one sunrise from the Continental.”

Trigger doesn’t deny that the neighborhood’s lost some of its luster— “There’s not much going on in Manhattan,” he says, “it was a specific vibe that may never happen again”—but for a guy who keeps a sign taped up behind his bar that says “The customer is always WRONG,” he’s got a surprisingly sunny outlook.

“The Gap was an invasion. And then came Starbucks and Kmart and that high rise [on Astor Place,]” he says. “Things change, though.The Beats lost their jazz clubs and cafes and the hippies lost their galleries and community centers.There’s still plenty of fun to be had and art to be created—you’ve just got to go find it.”

Continental Rock’N’Roll Reunion Concert
Jan. 17, The Continental, 25 3rd Ave. (at St. Marks Pl.), 212-529-6824; 6, $10 and up.