Where It’s At: ABC No Rio

After hitting up some of the city’s more pristine venues lately, I thought it was about time to get down and dirty with a visit to ABC No Rio. The venue, and collective, have a long history in the city.

As there own website notes: ABC No Rio is a collectively-run center for art and activism. We are known internationally as a venue for oppositional culture. ABC No Rio was founded in 1980 by artists committed to political and social engagement and we retain these values to the present. 

I say, yeah, what has culture ever done for us!

Located in the Lower East Side at 156 Rivington Street (between Suffolk and Clinton), your travel options are to take the F to Delancey or the J/M/Z to Essex. ABC No Rio took ownership of the building in 2006, buying it for $1; a fee agreed with the city in 1997 provided they could raise funds to bring the building up to code. Although that only tells part of the story, which includes decades of squatting, eviction attempts and legal ambiguity.

The building still appears to be in drastic need of renovation, and plans are in place to make significant changes. However, those plans appear to have been in place for a few years so it is clearly a slow-going process! You can check out the schematics below and artist impressions here. The complete project is set to cost around $6.5m, funded in part by private donations and over $3m from the city, with some way to go before hitting the total needed.

For shows, the venue puts on a Saturday “punk matinee” every week, doors open at 3pm and costs $8 (no advance tickets). Shows are all ages and it’s worth noting that there is no alcohol allowed in the venue, you can bring food and other drinks in (the poster I got also says “No Phobias”, but I suffer from mottephobia and I’m pretty sure I will inside the building still).  After getting stamped you can come and go as you wish, which is handy if you need to go grab a bite or a coffee, etc. If time and money is of the essence then grab a cuban sandwich from nearby Cibao for $5 (corner of Rivington and Clinton).

No drugs or booze, apart from cigarettes, which you can smoke in the back yard (we’d still call this a garden back home…), because nicotine is punk, man!

The bathroom is typically run down, although everything does work, apart from the lock!

Other facilities in the building include a darkroom, computer centre and a ‘zine library (which includes over 12,000 publications).

The performance space can probably hold 150 people or so, and there is no stage, so unless you’re in the first few rows of people then chances are you won’t see (I’m over 6′ and couldn’t see a thing). As a friend of mine noted, it is a little disconcerting to see flickers of light under the floorboards, makes you think everything could cave in to the basement at any given moment!

The sound is better than you’d expect (note – low expectations), but a little ropey at times. It probably depends on what equipment each band is using. Screaming Females put on a great set.

Whilst the actual concert experience is ultimately a bit poor, and the building feels like it could disintegrate at the drop of a hat, New York needs spaces like this and I wish them well, especially with their much needed renovations. Keep an eye on our dedicated ABC No Rio venue page, as well as their own website, to see what’s going on.

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