Requiem For a Rock Dream: NYC's Red Door Closes
The Red Door was a rockers’ paradise, and on its final night detritus used artfully on the floor included old equipment from the Stones.
When Hyphen Hub started operating out of the Red Door at 140 West 24th Street it seemed a perfect fit. After all, even for a Manhattan rock venue, the Red Door has had a deliciously rambunctious history.
But then the invitation to what would be one of Hyphen Hub’s last events at Red Door came. The Red Door, one of the last centers of anarcho-cool in town, was a goner.
The building is to be torn down shortly and will be replaced by a hotel that will accommodate folks, some of whom, I imagine, have come hoping to experience precisely the vibrant, exciting Manhattan that Red Door used to encapsulate, and which condos and hotels like this are busily obliterating.
Hyphen Hub is on the ground floor of the three-story brick building, which is owned by Giorgio Gomelsky, an Everywhere Man in rock history. The building was badly damaged a few years ago when the one next door collapsed. The roof is a mess. Today was a rainy evening. “Giorgio’s upstairs with buckets,” somebody told me.
Gomelsky, who had connections with the Stones and the Beatles and produced a Yardbirds album just for starters, had taken his act to Manhattan in the ’70s and became a player in Punk and Hardcore.
Among those who played, rehearsed or recorded at the Red Door at one time or another were Richard Hell, The Voidoids, Bad Brains, Jeff Buckley, Alejandro Escovedo, and The Rapture.
It was saved for posterity by Raul Gonzalez of the Red Door Collective, and among those who crashed there for a while were Bill Laswell and Nico, the chanteuse with the Velvet Underground.
Hyphen Hub, which was co-founded by Asher Remy-Toledo and Mark Bolotin, who opened Red Door as a public art space at Red Door, 140 West 24th Street, 18 months ago, are also on a cresting wave.
The operation joined Bitforms and Eyebeam, then both in Chelsea, as venues for work in that tempting area where the arts and hi-tech cross-pollinate.
Such was the thinking behind these spaces, as it was that behind such ambitious enterprises as the Silicon Valley Contemporary Art Fair.
The Hyphen Hub space is fairly small—it accommodates 150 max—and as shadowy as one of the old Outlaw clubs. It also looks theatrically run-down and swimmy with ambient sound.
I took a seat in the second row. In front of me sat Lisa Gaye, star of such Troma movies as Nuke ’Em High, and somewhere behind was Barbara London, who founded MOMA’s video collection. Regulars both.
And right ahead of us all, squatting in the center of the stage space, was a heap of … stuff. It looked as if, yes, the robots had risen! But then the robots had fallen, and pretty damned hard, leaving incompetent humans to make sense of the leftovers.
The evening’s bill of goods featured Juan Cortes, a Bogota-based artist, who was to access the magnetic fields of the Red Door, and Daniel Neumann, Brooklyn-based, who works in sound.
Neumann, who cites as his inspiration Pierre Schaeffer, the radio engineer who in the 1940s played a leading part in developing the experimental genre of “musique concrète,” explained what this junk mountain actually was. Sort of explained.
“That’s an old Mackie mixer,” said Neumann. “That’s a bass bot. And this is my favorite piece. It’s an equalizer that somehow turned into an oscillator. It was the biggest surprise.”
No need to wonder where the stuff came from, people! It was here already. Equipment dumped by musicians, including such passing meteors as the Stones, had been lovingly saved for posterity by Gonzalez.
Well, posterity this evening was us. Juan Cortes set his apparatus in motion. We were looking at an oblong cat’s cradle, a hypnotic dazzle of straight, ever-changing lines. Then Neumann was coaxing grunts, creaks and weeks, sometimes astral, sometimes intestinal, from the innards of the Jurassic era rock-and-roll detritus.
The crowd--a motley crew of musicians, designers, architects and curators--was intent. Oddly they seemed not particularly melancholy, considering that this is a final event of Hyphen Hub in its Red Door location.
Remy-Toledo was unfazed. “What’s gone is gone,” he said. He has eyes on another property. And there were artists there that evening with whom Hyphen-Hub is working on future projects. And there were directors from Madison Square Park, likewise. And there is always his loft across 24th.
“We are working with two cyborg artists,” he said, “Neil Harbisson and Moon Ribas.” Harbisson was not present but I had met him on a previous visit to Hyphen Hub, and he is memorable, partly for his ideas and in part because he has an antenna embedded in his cranium.
While the Red Door may be no more, the wilder shores of artistry represented by Hyphen Hub will continue.
“Neil [Harbisson] created the Cyborg Foundation, so we are creating residences for people to become cyborgs,” Remy-Toledo told me. “We are planning to organize a series of dinners that are also organized by the Cyborg artists at the loft across the street. Dinners that are about the senses … colors … other elements that are not perceptible to other humans. They are about enhancing other elements.”
So the art and music will carry on, even if it is Red Door RIP.