The Tonic, a small New York City club that has hosted free jazz and other outsider music for the past eight years has announced that it will be closing at the end of this week, due to the high cost of rent and the pressure of gentrification in Manhattan. This is hardly surprising, considering the astronomical value of real estate in lower Manhattan, but is is a more than a little disheartening. You don't have to be a rabid fan of music outside of the mainstream to realize that performance venues for all types of music contribute to a healthy and vibrant musical ecology and that when they disappear we are left with a homogenized landscape that lacks the energy and passion that came before. With the Tonic following in the footsteps of CBGB's, another Manhattan club that was driven out to make way for high-rise condominiums the musical landscape of New York becomes all the more pale. Trumpeter and composer Steven Bernstein commented in a recent article in the New York Times (NYT 3/31/07 pg. B8) that groups that he leads performs in are very popular in Europe and yet the only club that would book him in the United States was The Tonic and now that is closing. This is a sad state of affairs and does not bode well for Americans trying to make a career in cutting edge music. Those associated with The Tonic will try to soldier on, the concerts that were originally scheduled for late April and May have been moved to an alternative venue and John Zorn's small venue The Stone continues to book adventuresome music. Hopefully the upcoming Vision Festival will raise the profile of the types of artists that previously performed at The Tonic and will pave the way for another performance space to take shape. Innovators always have a hard time, but for goodness sake, it shouldn't be this hard.
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