In this week’s New York Press, there’s an enormously long feature chronicling the ignominious rise and fall of Williamsburg’s short-lived after-hours space, the Shank. As someone who pulled a few all-nighters loitering around that mud-bucket of an early morning hideaway this past winter, I am totally confused about hearing people memorialize the Shank’s unavoidable demise as some “fin de siecle” epic, especially when the timeline of the spot’s golden era is depicted here, ultimately, as the sum total of one month. It was definitely fun, but come on. It also wasn’t some breathless crime to step inside the joint: “Very few revelers were willing to go on the record for this story, even to admit they’d visited The Shank.” These people should all be more ashamed to admit they’ve been inside the Williamsburg Beer Garden, but whatever.
But credit to author Jamie Peck for digging in way deep: the tale is packed with painstaking detail, both in its steadfast retelling the Shank’s anarchic mismanagement style–a confusing struggle among a building owner, a self-appointed manager, and various other peripheral doorman/DJ/promoter types who drank and screwed on the job, or whatever here constituted for one–and in characterizing the self-important reflection of late-night Williamsburg. For example, the official cultural death knell, according to original DJ Jonathan Toubin, took place two-and-a-half months in, when, “One guy slipped me a $20 to play him Young Jeezy. It was the worst.” Hee hee!
The piece also fingers that bonkers Bikes in the Kitchen party in March with Spank Rock and Amanda Blank played as another turning point (“Everything that could’ve got destroyed, got destroyed. It was a disaster, but it was fun.”), and also the moment when the Shank started to become overrun with underage kids:
Bushwick resident Julie Vick was also among those who decided she’d had enough that night. “It was so bizarre,” she said. “I’m surrounded by teenagers. People are tagging and ruining things; things were getting a little Altamont-y, and the fun was ending.” Then, according to Vick, a teenage girl grabbed her beer, poured it on her and punched her in the head until she broke free and ran. “I was like, this is humiliating. I’m 30 years old, getting beaten up by 16-year-olds. I’m too old to be somewhere that teenagers are going to beat me up.”
There’re a bunch of other amazing quotes to note. Like this one regarding the place’s reputation as a drug den:
“Toubin explained that while there had always been some present, ‘the quantity had multiplied over time. By the end, every fourthrate Scarface wannabe with the ingenuity to fill a little baggie with baby laxative from miles around was drawn into its doors.'”
By the way, do not Google Image Search baby laxative.
On the nagging implications of that word hipster and how it’s so often synonymous with screwing, boozing, snorting, Adderalling, etc:
According to Engel, Foong had no clue that after-hours parties would breed debauchery. “Kevin’s a smart guy but very naive in a lot of respects. He didn’t really understand what hipsters were. We had to explain it to him.”
And lastly, on its unavoidable end:
Telli Gramz of Ninjasonik summed it up with a devilish grin: “It’s what happens when you cater to us wild animals who do nothing but party, drink, destroy and drug. Everything must come to an end. Nothing lasts forever in this city.”
Plenty of Nate “Igor” Smith’s photos from the February night when Japanther played at the Shank over here. Don’t think this was the golden era, but they’ll have to do.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2009