The Acheron Is Closing, and NYC's Live Music Scene will Never be the Same
The Acheron was more than just a venue. It was a welcoming oasis of metal, punk, and weirdness in a world that doesn't think we matter.
Earlier today, Brooklyn venue The Acheron announced its imminent closure, after six years of blood, sweat, tears, and spilled beer. The last show—with Wilt, Sauron, Nile, and Chain—will take place on July 9, and after that, the space will be used for some other, as-yet-to-be-determined purpose. Shows booked after that date will be moved, more will be added during the venue’s last three weeks, and the Anchored Inn—the Acheron’s sister enterprise next door—will carry out business as usual, providing food, booze, and big shots of tequila for us to drown our sorrows within.
The collective statement reads in part, “It is with a profoundly heavy heart that we have to announce July 9th will be the last show at the Acheron. As a result of numerous factors that are completely out of our control, the space can no longer be used for shows. The Anchored Inn will remain open, doing the glorious work of keeping the punks fed and drunk. We are endlessly grateful to all of our staff, along with (almost) every band and show-goer that has ever walked through these doors. When we started 6 years ago I don't think any of us imagined the Acheron would have grown into what it is now, and we feel very proud of all that we accomplished in that time. It has been a pleasure, and we mean that from the bottom of our hearts… Thank you to everyone that helped make this feel more than just a venue over the years. While we're all deeply saddened by the loss, we feel extremely proud, and privileged to have been able to do this for as long as we have. Please come find us at the bar, and let's have a drink. Viva 57!”
As the news began to spread, shared from punk to punk like directions to a basement show, all that could be heard—instead of the implied roar of distortion that usually accompanies any mention of Bushwick’s CBGB—was the hushed sound of thousands of hearts quietly breaking. Anyone who’d ever played a show there, or attended one, or even just wandered in off the street to see why so many punks and metalheads were gathered outside will tell you: the Acheron was—is—special. It was more than a venue. For so many of us, it was home.
Sure, the joint had an incredible track record when it came to booking lineups that stuck with you well after the lights went off—thanks to Bill Dozer, Dan O, and various outside promoters, everyone from Infest to Witchtrap to Subhumans to Raekwon (where he shouted out Queen and KISS in between shredding Wu Tang hits) has played the Acheron, and the venue more than earned its reputation as one of the only places in the city that’d let you throw a truly wild punk or metal show. Some of the most memorable shows I’ve ever seen have stormed across that small, utilitarian stage, from a secret Whitey Morgan gig to an insanely packed Eyehategod aftershow and Bleed the Pigs’ NYC debut. The venue offered ceaseless support for local bands like Anicon, Mortals Couch Slut, Syphilitic Lust, Tiger Flowers, Iron Force, and Trenchgrinder (with Dozer on axe) as well as to an impressive array of far-flung headliners, from a nonstop parade of Japanese hardcore punk bands (remember Death Side weekend?) to the Mexican Xibalba. What I’ll always remember most about the Acheron, though, even moreso than the music, is the camaraderie it fostered and the rock-solid community it built.
It seemed like 75 percent of the Brooklyn metal/punk community worked there, because as long as you were trustworthy and could get shit done, you were welcomed into the family—and it was a big family. Like so many other people, I’ve booked shows there, I’ve hosted bands that played there, I’ve worked the door there, I’ve bartended there, I’ve swept the floor and cleaned the bathrooms there. When my other half and I moved back to Brooklyn from the UK three years ago, the Acheron gave him a job, and helped us navigate our life here together; he still works there, and I shudder to think of where we’d be without them. I drank here (both back when the booze was hidden the end of that weird hallway, and now that it’s got a proper bar with lights and Bill’s Jager machine), celebrated birthdays (remember when Al nearly set his hair on fire?) and funerals here; I’ll not soon forget the silence that greeted Lemmy’s memorial service as dozens of us watched, whiskey in hand, united in grief.
I’ve spent more time and blasted more brain cells here than anywhere else in New York City. It was the first place I found after I moved to NYC, post-college, that truly made me feel like I could make it here. Losing the Acheron hurts more than I can really put into words, and I know that there are many, many others out there who feel the same way.
It seems like another venue closes every week here now, and a cynic could say that it doesn’t matter, than venues are just empty spaces, boxes that can be uprooted and replanted anywhere without any real effect. Those people are assholes, and the Acheron proved them wrong, night after night. It was a place for punks, by punks (and metalheads, and goths, and noise types, and so on—if you liked it loud, fast, heavy, or weird, the Acheron had you covered). It was more than just a venue. It was a welcoming oasis of metal, punk, and weirdness in a world that doesn't think we matter.
And, now that it’s gone, New York City’s music scene will never be the same. The Acheron family will remain, the Anchored Inn will still serve frozen drinks, and its architects will continue their much-needed work, but the physical space—the stage, the bar, the sound booth, the wooden bench Frank always stood on, even the bathrooms—are a heavy loss for the city, and all within who appreciate loud, live music.
May its memory live on: Viva 57!
Kim Kelly is in mourning on Twitter.