Reaction To Yesterday’s Article & Tonight’s Concert For Joe Strummer

Yesterday’s article about the club fire in Brazil that killed at least 232 people got some attention. I will be appearing on channel 11 WPIX  as a guest of Arturo Chi’en, talking about nightclub safety in New York. I may ruffle a few feathers with what I have to say. For the purpose of clarification, let me declare that I do not oppose universal dancing in New York’s licensed premises. I do, however, believe that places that opt for dancing must make some adjustments for public safety. When people are dancing, they’re often distracted beyond the point where a fire would be noticed in time for them to flee. Large, loud bands also provide such distractions. In both the case of the Rhode Island fire which killed 100 people and Saturday night’s tragedy in Brazil,  pyrotechnics lit soundproofing materials, and the patrons didn’t realize what was happening until it was too late.

A cabaret license requires a fire suppression system that calls the fire department automatically when sprinkler heads are activated.  The fire department, local community boards, the Buildings Department, and even the Health Department get involved and must approve of dance permits. Background checks for security personnel are asked for. More rigid exit strategies and training are also part of it. Proving that the noise from sound systems will not disturb neighbors is also considered. I believe anyone who wants a permit to dance should be able to obtain one easily, but compliance with basic safety procedures is necessary.  The large dance clubs all comply. They all have cabaret licenses. 

Now that mid-sized venues and even small bars have DJs and dancing, there is a concern that a tragedy may occur. The big clubs have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to comply, while the smaller spots may not be able to afford to purchase all the systems necessary. A happy median must be reached before another Happy Land-type event takes place. The rules are not there to prevent people from dancing but to ensure safety when they do. It’s all fun and games until hundreds of people get hurt or killed.

Tonight I will be at The Bowery Electric (327 Bowery at Joey Ramone Pl.) for Strummerville NYC. Best known as the lead singer of the Clash, Joe Strummer was a large part of the 1980s punk scene. I spent some days and nights with gentleman Joe, and I cherish that time. We spent about a week together back in ’87. I think I lost the virtues of my wife in a drinking game with him. Tequila was the culprit. I saw him waiting on line to pay at a club in London once and couldn’t think of another rock star that would ever wait and pay. Joe wasn’t just a rock star; he was an activist, and his music was not limited to rock. He visited me at a joint I had on E. 2nd St. called the World and came upstairs to see Xaviera Gold sing Ralphi Rosario’s house music hit "You Used to Hold Me.” Joe’s entourage at the time poo-poo’d the non-rock offering, but Joe corrected them. We all hung out with the wonderful Xaviera after the show. His early death in December 2002 didn’t shock many but left us all a little short.

Over 30 guest musicians have signed on for tonight’s tribute:

H.R. (Bad Brains)
Joseph Arthur
Brian Fallon (Gaslight Anthem)
Ivan Julian (cowriter/musician the classic “Sandinista” Clash album)
Jesse Malin (D-Generation)
Jeffrey Gaines
Leo Mintek (Outernational)
Walter Lure (Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers, The Waldos)
Matthew Ryan
Mick Stitch (the Threads)
The So So Glos
Shannon Funchess (Light Asylum)
Vanessa Bley (Beast Patrol/Twin Danger)
Willie Nile
Felice Rosser (Faith)
Aaron Lee Tasjan (Madison Square Gardeners)
Michelle Casilass (Ursa Minor)
Jack Ridley (The Threats)
Mike Montali (Hollis Brown)
Jasno Swarez (The Vandelles)
The Young Things,
and many more.

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