Best Books and Photographs on America’s Most Popular Music Venues



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If you miss the days when you could listen to live music, you are not alone. The pandemic has forced the closure of a number of concert halls across the country, and although some shows are slowly returning, the majority of tours are still anchored.

While you wait for concert halls and festivals to reopen, look back on the glory days of live music with these books, which take you on a vivid, visual journey through years of live performances at iconic venues, each documenting not only the rise and evolution of artists and clubs, but also of the global scene around them.

The venues were more than just a place for performances; they were a central and safe place for self-expression, connecting fans and performers as well as each other, while nurturing new friendships, new bands and keeping the collective culture alive.

Often times, the club itself would undergo a major unexpected change that it was not originally intended for, adapting to a crowd and a completely different style of music than it originally featured. Artists of all types gravitated around these hidden meeting places for all to see. Bands like The Ramones can be on stage, while writers like William Burroughs, poets like Alan Ginsburg and social figures like Andy Warhol and modern celebrities have mingled and mingled backstage and in the crowd among the punks, ravers and drag queens.

Spanning three cities and six decades, these books and the stories they tell provide a great immersive way for new fans to experience a piece of music history in their city, or take a trip back in time for those. who were lucky enough to be there. in person.

While the premises are now gone, under a new owner, or – worse – turned into condos, the photos here offer a glimpse of shows and scenes that only a lucky few who were there (and allowed to pass the bouncers and the rope of velvet) were able to live.

1. In the Spotlight: The Visual Ecstasy of New York City Nightlife in the 90s

’90s New York nightlife was a colorful and sparkling whirlwind of sex, drugs, nonstop dancing, and tons of confetti. This never-before-seen photo book tackles where most people couldn’t: the exclusive and iconic parties of the era, in places like the Limelight, the Tunnel and Webster Hall, where fashion, art and music merged.

But the scene was more than just a big party – it was a way of bringing the past and present together in one central place where no one had to hide who he really was, regardless of gender, sexuality, their income or ethnicity. A typical night was atypical and saw club kids and models mingling with drag queens, bankers, ravers, goths, designers and even celebrities as diverse as Joan Rivers, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tupac and Madonna.

‘King of the Clubs’ Peter Gapien provides the text here, and Steve Eichner – a seasoned New York nightlife photographer whose photos have been featured in the New York Times, GQ, and Rolling stone, provides stunning visuals and narrative. Starring Gabriel Sanchez – the photo editor for Buzzfeed – this book delves deep into the birth of a new era of music that lived fast, strong and burned, leaving the seeds of a culture that was then taken over and spread. by everybody.


To buy:
In the spotlight: the visual ecstasy of …
$ 27.00

2. Let’s go to the rat

The Rathskeller, aptly nicknamed “The Rat,” was a legendary venue in the basement of Boston’s Kenmore Square, and the hub of the city’s punk and hardcore scene at the time.

Thousands of punk, rock and new wave performances took place in the underground space from 1974 to 1997. Anyone who passed through the alluring and seedy entrance could count on loud music, lack of hygiene and a memorable performance of one way or another. The cavernous club hosted young performers in their early days, such as The Flaming Lips and Sonic Youth, as well as Boston bands like Aerosmith, The Cars, The Lemonheads, Dropkick Murphy’s, The Runaways and Modern Lovers, some playing monthly for years and years.

“We played our first show already at The Rat on August 19, 1986, ”said Ben Deily, co-founder and co-leader of The Lemonheads. “I still have the flyers … and the VHS tape.”

He continues, “It was one of those particularly hot and sweaty summer nights in Boston. The perfect time to debut with a bunch of sweaty teens who wanted to make some noise in the perfect venue.

The Rat gave a scene in search of a home a physical location and became the symbolic representation of the local punk, rock and hardcore movement as a whole.

Deily is now performing internationally with his wife, playwright Lisa Deily, as Varsity Drag. And although the club is long gone, as are independent radio stations supporting local groups, the area is almost unrecognizable from what it once was. But this book, and the accompanying documentary, revives and revisits it, moving out of place and covering the entire surrounding area of ​​Kenmore. “The Square” comes to life with memories of how it was once a hub for live music, independent record stores, colorful characters and the quintessential punk hangout in bygone Boston.

Let's go to the rat


To buy:
Let’s go to the rat
$ 14.99

3. My Soul’s Been Psychedelicized: The Electric Factory

Philly’s iconic power plant began in a converted tire warehouse in the early 1960s, then reincarnated as a former GE power plant in the 1990s. This book includes color photos from both eras, as well as concert flyers and a story from owner Larry Magid.

The photos are sorted by chronological decades and not only feature giants of different genres who have performed at EF such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, but also focus on Philly and its local rising stars, from Todd Rundgren and The Disco Biscuits. up to The Roots.

This is a great book for all Philadelphians who want to revisit or uncover the history of a defining and irreplaceable place, or for young music fans who want to learn more about a central stage that has shaped the past and the present. musical of their city.

My Soul's Been Psychedelicized: Electric Factory: Four Decades of Posters and Photographs


To buy:
My soul has been psychedelic: the …
$ 32.44

4. CBGB & OMFUG: thirty years from the cradle of underground rock

The CBGB was an iconic venue in New York’s Bowery neighborhood, and hosted thousands of shows from 1973 until it closed following a rent dispute in 2007.

Originally designed to be a venue for country, bluegrass, and blues (hence the initials CBGB), the club has become a welcome stage for independent artists, as well as a birthplace and launch pad. for punk and new wave groups like The Ramones, Television and Blondie.

With a foreword by CBGB founder Hilly Kristal and an afterword by David Byrne of Talking Heads, the gorgeous black and white shots chronologically capture both candid and posed photos of the bands, and visually tell the story of CBGB to those of us who weren’t there to experience it firsthand.

CBGB & OMFUG: at thirty years of the house of the underground


5. Max’s Kansas City: art, glamor, rock and roll

At the intersection of music, art, fashion, poetry, and politics was Max’s Kansas City, a New York City restaurant and nightclub that has become a popular entertainment and hangout spot for artists of all types. Andy Warhol and Patti Smith were staples almost every night in the famous backroom, The Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop performed frequently, and the club was a major player in the glam rock scene, featuring promising musicians like David Bowie and the New York Dolls.

Independent bands and artists of various genres have graced the Max’s stage, sometimes in the same show, such as Bob Marley and the Wailers opening act for a young Bruce Springsteen. Unsigned artists often sought exposure, such as Aerosmith, who performed their very first New York show at Max’s and was subsequently signed by Columbia Records president Clive Davis.

The photos in this book, a mix of color and black and white, have an intimate feel and capture snapshots of some of the biggest names in their respective fields, all conversing and converging on the same place that brought them together. .

For more of a written story from Max, this also pairs well with “High On Rebellion: Inside the Underground At Max’s Kansas City” by Yvonne Sewall-Ruskin (former wife of Max’s owner Mickey Ruskin).

Max's Kansas City: art, glamor, rock and roll


To buy:
Max’s Kansas City: Art, Glamor, Rock…



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