In the early 1960s, New Jersey-born Mickey Ruskin walked away from a career as a lawyer for a more speculative life as a restaurant and bar owner in New York City. After some success with other ventures, he opened Max's Kansas City in 1965 as a restaurant and late night gathering spot catering particularly to artists, poets and musicians. At first the restaurant became known in art circles for its display of paintings and sculptures and for its bowls of uncooked chick peas on the tables. Soon, it became known as the hangout for Andy Warhol, whose workplace, the Factory, was nearby, and his colorful crew. The second floor became known as a music venue when the Velvet Underground performed there almost every night during the summer of 1970. Afterwards, it became a premiere venue for burgeoning rock acts like Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Bob Marley & the Wailers, Bonnie Raitt, Tom Waits, Gram Parsons and countless others, until unresolved tax issues forced Ruskin to close all operations in 1974. Ruskin died from a drug overdose in 1983 at the age of 50.
Tommy Dean Mills reopened the club in 1975, by which time the art folks were replaced by the new punks. Mills hired Peter Crowley to book the shows, and the club competed with CBGB's, which had opened in 1973 and paved the punk rock scene. Major punk bands performed at Max's Kansas City, including the Runaways and the Damned. After the breakup of the Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious gravitated to Max's and played all of his US solo gigs there. Devo played several shows at Max's in 1977, including a show where they were introduced by David Bowie as "the band of the future." Local bands were the regular fare, however. Max's closed again in November 1981; Bad Brains were the headliners on the final night, with the Beastie Boys opening.
Peter Crowley has booked Max's Kansas City reunions in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017. For the most recent series, May 25-27, Crowley booked about 35 bands at the Bowery Electric. The larger basement room primarily hosted bands that Crowley booked at Max's. The bands that played the smaller street level room, the Map Room, by and large were newer bands that were inspired by 1970s rock and roll.
Saturday, May 27
Mickey Leigh Band
King Bee & the Stingers
The Map Room
Avant Duel with VON LMO & Otto von Ruggins
Dragon People with Walter Steding
|VON LMO & Otto von Ruggins|