How Sandy Hit the Music Scene: Stories From the Streets

Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Hurricane Sandy caused vast destruction when it ripped through the East Coast last Monday, wreaking havoc for everyone from shopkeepers to schoolteachers, obliterating homes and businesses and taking lives. On Friday, ABC hosted a telethon to aid storm victims, and some big names in music lent their voices to the cause, including Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovi, who also come from some of the hardest hit areas. But beyond these rock stars, the New York/New Jersey music scene is full of stories about loss and survival in the face of Sandy. Last week Hive gathered tales from musicians, radio hosts, studio owners, engineers and indie label stalwarts about what they saw and how they held things together. Though they’re luckier than many New Yorker and New Jersey residents, their stories reflect the unique problems of running a small business (a band, a record store or a studio, in these cases).

“Where else would I be surrounded by a priest, a hooker, a Brooklyn hipster, and a Wall Street dude, all huddling around a table and talking over coffee while charging up their mobile devices? ”

For former Bongos leader/longtime solo artist Richard Barone, once a linchpin of the Hoboken scene but currently a Greenwich Village denizen, last week became the worst time to prepare for the 25th anniversary 10/30 reissue of his classic Cool Blue Halo album. “Albums can be released in a variety of wild situations,” he said, “But to have it happen just as the worst hurricane in the history of New York is hitting the city … well, that’s something this former Floridian could never have predicted. An October surprise, for sure. As my neighborhood of the Village went entirely dark in a massive power outage that was to last at least several days, and with cell towers blown away, I scoured crowded uptown internet cafés and hotel lobbies with power and reception, vying for treasured use of a wall outlet, so I could conduct the scheduled interviews about the new album … not to mention to keep up with the social networks. But, although the crowds and power struggle seemed like a bother at first, it soon dawned on me that this is just the kind of situation that makes it clear why I love this city the most. Where else would I be surrounded by a priest, a hooker, a Brooklyn hipster, and a Wall Street dude, all huddling around a table and talking over coffee while charging up their mobile devices? Hurricanes or not, the show must go on!”

Elsewhere, in what’s ironically been dubbed New York’s newest neighborhood of SoPo (“south of power”), recording studios were at a standstill. At the headquarters of ABKCO Records in the Flatiron District, the legendary label — preparing to release the Rolling Stones CD/DVD box set Charlie Is My Darling on Election Day — had its hands full keeping things going at its in-house studio sans electricity. “Everything is down at ABKCO. We lost power on Monday along with the rest of lower Manhattan…in anticipation of a power failure I shut everything down including the soundboard,” ABKCO engineer/producer Teri Landi told Hive. “I’m really glad I did after viewing footage of that explosion at the Con Ed plant on 14th Street. Also I copied some files over to a hard drive and it turned out that I ended up working from home on Monday night and delivering mastered files for LP cutting overnight to L.A. Luckily I had Internet service — I lost it later in the day on Tuesday.” At Soho’s renowned Magic Shop studio, owner Steve Rosenthal wasn’t having much more luck. “Sorry to say there is no power on Crosby Street,” he relayed. “So as of now the Magic Shop is quiet. We’re hoping to get up and running as soon as the lights go on. Since Jenny [Gilson, proprietor of Lower East Side club The Living Room] and I have a family, and our loft is in ‘The Dark Zone’ as well, we have been trying to keep the kids warm and happy and even trick-or-treating.”

Simon Chardiet’s Street

Those who were spared the storm’s ravages, like musician Hugh Pool , who runs Williamsburg studio Excello Recordings, were nevertheless full of news of waylaid comrades. Pool told us about Simon Chardiet, a New York rock institution who fronted seminal ‘80s band Joey Miserable & The Worms and garage rockers Simon & The Bar Sinisters. “Simon Chardiet got killed, man,” said Pool, thankfully metaphorically. “He’s been living in one of those bungalows out in Rockaway Beach for 15 years or so. He managed to get his guitars out of there, but his amps got killed, all his amps were down below, and his house got destroyed, he’ll never live there again.” In a Facebook posting, Chardiet told friends and fans, “I have the greatest neighbors in the world in Rockaway, and we are going to do a big benefit concert and fundraiser for the people on my street that lost everything.”

Speaking of Brooklyn-based garage-rock institutions, Norton Records – whose rosters has included everyone from Link Wray to the Reigning Sound — sent up a virtual message-in-a-bottle in a Facebook message of their own, regarding the “near total destruction of our Brooklyn warehouse at the hands of Hurricane Sandy.” Founders Billy Miller and Miriam Linna announced, “We will need able hands to help with the salvage effort here at Norton HQ in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. This is an indoor job, pulling records out of wet boxes, etc. If anyone has a vehicle of any sort to assist in getting wet boxes from the Red Hook warehouse to HQ in Prospect Heights, please call. We are working from 11AM until 11PM every day. Anything that you can do to pitch in would be most appreciated.”

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