The Continental Drifts

An East Village staple evolves, but dies a little in the process

The Continental's earliest days were marked by a diverse crop. "The Spin Doctors started here," says Trigger, "and Joan Osborne performed the first month we were open, before she had a record deal. Blues Traveler played all the time, and we hosted the record release party for their first album." Harder-edged music soon became the norm, and many local punk and hard-rock bands that would go on to achieve some level of mainstream recognition—the Lunachicks, Murphy's Law, the Bouncing Souls, H2O, Honky Toast, Spacehog, and the Toilet Boys among them—were fixtures at the club. (Full disclosure: My own band, Drag Citizen, plays there on occasion.) But the act whose history is perhaps most intertwined with that of the Continental's is the now defunct glam-punk outfit D Generation.

"We signed our record deal with EMI in the Continental's bathrooms," says the band's former singer, Jesse Malin, who was also a partner in the late Coney Island High on St. Marks Place and is currently co-owner of the Avenue A bar Niagara. "Television had CBGB, and the Velvet Underground had Max's, but for my little punk rock group it was this room on the corner of Third Avenue. It was our home, and it's where we made our name."

But what band, if any, does Trigger believe truly owes its success to his club? "The Ramones," he says. "I'm clearly responsible for everything they achieved in their career." An obvious joke, but it is also a fact that several members—Dee Dee, Marky, C.J., and in particular, Joey—were closely allied with the Continental. Each performed there with a variety of projects, and Joey for years held his annual birthday and Christmas shows at the venue, in addition to hosting "unsigned" nights where he would sometimes play alongside local bands he championed. "He was so supportive of this place," says Trigger, "and also of the local scene in general." The head Ramone, who passed away in 2001 after a long battle with lymphatic cancer, gave the final performance of his life at the Continental, on December 11, 2000.

photo: Ofer Wolberger

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    "Joey was undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the time, and he said to me, 'You're gonna come up there with me for a couple of songs,' " Trigger recalls. "So we did 'Blitzkrieg Bop' and 'I Wanna Be Sedated.' What a treat that was. I'm not the greatest guitar player in the world, but it's like, you know how the kid with the baseball bat or the football always gets chosen in? Well, I'm the guy with the club."

    Trigger is still going to be the guy with the club, even though he knows that things will be different now. "I think the weekends could become a bridge-and-tunnel, spring-break nightmare," he says. "Hopefully the weeknights will bring a local crowd, but for me this place is going to become a job instead of a passion, and I'm sad about that."

    But as what was once a labor of love becomes merely labor, Trigger, who says he will book the occasional acoustic show in order to "stay in touch with all the friends who have played here over the years," finds some consolation in having contributed a bit of history to a neighborhood that is rapidly losing any signs of having had one. "One thing I know is that for the past 15 years some of the best bands in New York City have called the Continental their home," he says. "And other than CB's, I can't really think of a local club that lasted as long as we did. So I'll always be proud of that."


    Jesse Malin will perform solo at the Continental Thursday night; the club will officially close with Sunday's all- star tribute to the Ramones. For more information visit continentalnyc.com.

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