New Heathens

Lakeside Lounge, 1996-2012

And as also seen in the New York Times.


The Lakeside Lounge, an East Village rock ’n’ roll bar with a passionate following, went out on a high note early Tuesday morning when it ended its 16-year run following a raucous party and a spontaneous jam session.

So many well-wishers poured in to pay homage that around 70 revelers spilled out onto Avenue B, where they pooled around a stage-side window to watch the final show. Inside the dark, cozy dive, around 200 people punched their last requests on the jukebox, posed for a few takeaway pictures in the old-time photo booth and hollered at the band to play just one more encore.

“Thank you for 16 lovely years,” Eric Ambel, 54, one of the owners, shouted into a microphone before leading his band, the Roscoe Trio, through a set-closing number.

Jim Marshall, 52, the other owner, stood on a chair to see above a crowd packed so tight that hardly anyone could inch to the bar for a drink. “There are so many faces here that I haven’t seen in years,” he said. “It reminds me of the old days.”

Scores of musicians, most of whom had performed at Lakeside, crowded in front of the band, and many fought their way onstage. The guitarist Lenny Kaye, from Patti Smith’s band, sang Van Morrison’s “Gloria.”

“This bar is for musicians and the people who like to hang around them,” Mr. Kaye told the crowd. “We’re going to miss this joint.”

Some traveled from out of town to say goodbye to the venue. The guitarist Sam Madison, 47, and the singer Jeff Holshouser, 43, from the band Hank Sinatra, flew up from Raleigh, N.C., and said they had abstained from alcohol that weekend just to more heartily toast Lakeside all night Monday. “We came here to pay tribute,” Mr. Madison said. Troy Lavayen, 25, a medical transcriptionist from Paterson, N.J., said, “Nothing else feels like the Lakeside Lounge.”

As Mr. Ambel chipped the first chunky and mercurial licks from his guitar, Daisy Reinhardt, 44, a fashion designer, danced wildly in front of the band wearing a sparkling red blouse. “I can’t believe I won’t get to do this again,” she said. Beside her, Nancy Elgin, 48, a copy editor, sat on the concrete floor where she had staked out a spot early. “I’ve seen more shows here than anywhere else,” Ms. Elgin said.

Charlene McPherson, a New York singer, put fists into the air with her frenzied performance of “Now I Wanna Be Your Dog” by The Stooges. “This place closing is a big, fat drag,” she said. Jimbo Mathus, formerly of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, strummed a mandolin and sang harmony on Chuck Willis’s “I Don’t Wanna Hang Up My Rock ’n’ Roll Shoes.” Mr. Ambel dedicated the song to the drummer Levon Helm, of the Band, who died on April 19. Chip Robinson, a songwriter, who played guitar all night, sang “Started,” an original composition, as well as “Sway,” by the Rolling Stones.“Musicians like us are going to scatter like rats when this place is gone,” said Jesse Bates, 49, a singer and a mover by day who said he would return with his truck later in the week to help empty the vacated Lakeside Lounge.

Outside on the sidewalk, fans smoked cigarettes, sipped from beer cans hidden in brown paper bags, and nipped whiskey from flasks. Deep into the morning, the Lakeside Lounge’s renowned jukebox played tracks by Little Richard, the Flamin’ Groovies, the Temptations, Doug Sahm and Lightnin’ Hopkins. Meanwhile the photo booth pulsed with light as a stream of people mugged for the camera and pocketed their picture-strip souvenirs.

Mary Lee Kortes performed Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up in Blue,” alongside her husband, Mr. Ambel. “Thanks for making Lakeside so great,” she said. Andy York, from John Mellencamp’s band, played guitar on an incendiary cover of “Total Destruction to Your Mind,” by the soul singer Swamp Dogg. This reporter sang “$1,000 Car” by the St. Louis band the Bottle Rockets, who performed at Lakeside’s opening celebration on April 4, 1996.

“Keep playing!” shouted Doug Arbesfeld, 56. “What are they going to do, shut the place down?”

Though Lakeside’s wake at times felt like an endless Saturday night, eventually it, and the bar, wound down. At a high point, Mr. Ambel performed “Garbagehead,” a song he wrote in the late 1990s about, and for, the Lakeside Lounge. Some, like Mr. Arbesfeld, climbed on their seats and yelled along with the tune’s ribald refrain whose first word is a profanity followed by “it’s all right!’’

For one last night, it was.


(11:37 a.m. This concludes my dream, two-week beat of writing about nothing but my favorite New York City bar, and Montana buffalo. If this blog reprints any more stories from the New York Times, people are going to think it's The Huffington Post.)


(3:28 p.m. Okay, no sooner had I made a crack about The Huffington Post than I saw I had my picture in The Huffington Post, singing at Lakeside last night. Remind me to make fun of them more often. They had a nice little story about the Lakeisde.)

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