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Set on seedy Avenue A at the corner of Seventh Street, A7 was the first Manhattan club to regularly host hardcore shows.
Local bands like Agnostic Front, Cause for Alarm, Murphy’s Law, Antidote, Kraut and others were welcomed into its tiny, kitchen tile-floored back room, inciting slam dancing and sing-alongs from their fans, which early on numbered no more than a few dozen – predominantly white males in their late teens and early twenties, with a low center of gravity, swinging their arms and banging into each other while carrying crowd surfers and absorbing stage divers.
He says there was also a brief “trend where people sprayed mace in the clubs.” Arthur Smilios, a member of Gorilla Biscuits back in the late ’80s, says he observed a “gang mentality” coagulating at the time, which caused such a frequency of large-scale fights at CBGB that the historic club suspended its weekly Sunday matinee hardcore shows.
Smilios says that was New York hardcore’s “low point,” when many regulars disappeared from the scene. Smilios himself left Gorilla Biscuits, in part to pursue a college degree, but also because of the hardcore scene’s mangy turn.
“That was place,” says Gill, who remembers it as “a crack in the wall.” “It was hardly a venue,” he continues, “but it was amazing.
How many music venues in Manhattan at the time would let a bunch of maniacs stand in front, smoking and drinking before a show and then for three hours just let you lose your shit?
Soon, District 9 became a standout act in the scene, in spite of their propensity to skip gigs and get high in the Bronx instead of lugging their instruments onto the subway to Downtown Manhattan and elsewhere.
“We were trying to put soul into the shit,” Ramirez says about District 9’s musical style – a combination of metal and hardcore punk, with an occasional jazz break and rhyming lyrics that were virtually interchangeable with popular gangsta rap songs of the era.
Merging with thrash metal in the ’80s, it experienced both jumps and dips in popularity. But when punk, too, came to seem lame, the hardcore kids arrived, eager to show up their elders.
But as the scene continued to swell, toward the end of the decade Downtown club managers became less willing to contend with increasing violence and injuries befalling audience members because of slam dancing, stage diving, and other unruly behavior, which could spur lawsuits.