The soul of the New York City downtown music scene, Tonic is small venue housed in a simple one-storey warehouse on Norfolk St., in the Lower East Side. The influential and down-to-earth club is home to avant-garde and experimental live music, as well as a favorite tour stop for indie-rock, jazz and electronic musicians — Sonic Youth, Boredoms, Cibo Matto, Arto Lindsay, Sean Lennon and Vincent Gallo are among the artists who have recently played regularly at the club. The venue was started by jazz musician John Zorn. The non-descript structure used to be home to a Kosher winemaker. In the basement is Sub-Tonic, a DJ bar that has refashioned the wine barrels into cozy semi-private booths for patrons. As a stand-alone, low-rise building, Tonic is unusual in the vertical city that is NYC. These qualities also make it an ideal location for live music — no attached buildings mean no neighbors to disturb and no noise complaints. Tonic is currently raising money to remain at its current home. As the Lower East Side completes its cycle of urban renewal and gentrification with the arrival of luxury apartment buildings, buzz restaurants and boutique hotels, rent has skyrocketed in the nabe and forced out many long-term businesses. Let’s hope Tonic can raise all the money it needs to remain part of the LES’s fertile creative, cultural scene.
Ivan Corsa Photo