Saturday, June 6, 2015

Max's Kansas City 50th Anniversary at the Bowery Electric

Max's Kansas City was a primary New York hot spot for live music from 1965 to 1981. Located at 213 Park Avenue South, just off of Union Square, the street floor was a restaurant that catered to a business crowd in the day and an art crowd at night. The upstairs room featured live music.

Logistically, the upstairs room was awkward. The kitchen for the downstairs restaurant was situated in the side center of the upstairs room. Not only was it sometimes noisy there, but the kitchen significantly blocked the sight lines to the stage. Music fans wanted a table near the front, because there were perhaps only 50 good seats; as the seating area narrowed alongside the kitchen, the sight lines became poorer and poorer until you could see no more. Often it was better to stand in the aisle outside the kitchen.

Until the mid-1970s, artists usually were booked for a full week, Tuesdays through Saturdays, performing two sets each night. The historic shows were countless; Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band opening for comedian Martin Mull; Bob Marley & the Wailers later opening for Springsteen; Gram Parsons shortly before his death introducing a then-unknown Emmylou Harris in his band.

Concerts in general became more popular, and the much larger Bottom Line's opening in 1974 started to draw all the major acts. Max's then featured local glitter rock and glam bands like the New York Dolls, and Wayne County became the house disc jockey. Peter Crowley was hired to book bands at Max's, and he helped usher in the punk rock era with the Patti Smith Group, the Ramones, The Heartbreakers, Television, Suicide, Blondie, Talking Heads, The Dictators, the Cramps, Mink DeVille, the Misfits, the Fleshtones, the B-52's, Suicide, Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers, the Runaways, the Damned and Sid Vicious. In 1977, David Bowie introduced Devo there as "the band of the future."

Bad Brains and the Beastie Boys performed at the closing night at Max's in November 1981. The building then became a delicatessen.

The Bowery Electric celebrated Max's Kansas City's 50th Anniversary on June 4-7 with concerts booked by Peter Crowley. These four nights featured some of the surviving artists from the early punk rock years as well as newer artists that continue to live the spirit of that era. The photographs below represent only a few of the more than 25 acts who performed.

Jahn Xavier & the Bowerytones
Miss Guy of the Toilet Boys
Frankie Rage of Luigi & the Wise Guys
Joe Sztabnik & Cynthia Ross of New York Junk
Bill Popp
Sonny Vincent of the Testors
Walter Lure of the Waldos
Puma Perl
Ricky Byrd
Arthur Stevenson of Sea Monster
Preston Morris III & Kenny Gordon of Pure Hell