Rocks-Off, one of the most infamous concert promoters in New York (famed for its live rock boat shows), has launched a series of walking tours in New York City. The two inaugural walking tours include "The History Of Art, Crime, Drugs And Punk Rock On The Lower East Side" (a guided tour given by John Joseph of the legendary CRO-MAGS) and "The Past, Present And Future Of Rock & Roll In New York City" (given by Jake Szufnarowski, owner of Rocks-Off, talent buyer and concert promoter for many legendary clubs in New York City and frontman of international touring juggernaut TRAGEDY, "A Metal Tribute To The Bee Gee's."
John Joseph, who detailed his infamous life in his celebrated 2008 autobiography "The Evolution Of A Cro-Magnon", has been a first-hand participant in the history of punk and its ground zero in New York, the Lower East Side, since 1977. In that time he witnessed some of the most infamous shows at clubs of legend like Max's Kansas City, Great Gildersleeves, The Mudd Club and CBGB, roadied for the BAD BRAINS in their legendary rise, slam danced with John Belushi, was one of the first people to stage dive on national TV ("Saturday Night Live"), defined and re-defined hardcore music with the CRO-MAGS.
As a resident of the Lower East Side, Joseph squatted in condemned tenements, lived below a murderer (the Alphabet City butcher Daniel Rakowitz), scuffled with the Guardian of St. Marks Ave. John Spacely and witnessed the Tompkins Square police riot. While still a teen, Joseph survived life on the streets acting as a heroin mule and pulling cons. He spent close to two years in the worst juvenile prisons in New York state Spafford and Lincolndale.
Of the tour, Joseph says, "There is a lot of history in the Lower East Side and a lot of its culture and significance has been lost in recent years with the gentrification of the city. Some of the best artists in the world came out of there and some of the most storied crime lore came from there as well, and those two elements co-existed side by side. I feel like an archeologist, digging up and exposing the real Lower East Side for new generations before it becomes completely fossilized."
Jake Szufnarowski has been promoting shows in New York since 1997, and he has put on some the best shows at such clubs as the Wetlands, Brownies, Webster Hall and CBGB (where he booked the last 100 shows before it closed). However, one of his first passions was being a tour guide. Szufnarowski recalls, "I've always been a history buff; I started giving tours at the age of fifteen for the National Parks Foundation in Massachusetts, showing people around the mills there.
"When I moved to New York, I took a class at the New School to be a tour guide here but life just got in the way, until I read John Joseph's book. In one chapter he tells the reader how he sees the white bread tours that roll through town and how he would give the John Joseph tour, the real-deal tour and gives a lowdown on the areas of the village and what really went down there. I called him up and asked, 'Are you serious about this tour?' and he said he was and I said let's do it!"
Szufnarowski's tour walks you through the hot downtown spots for music over the past fifty years. From CBGB, where you will learn stories of its heroes like the RAMONES and how to properly go #2 in the CBGB bathroom, you'll see the spots where groups like RANCID, SOCIAL DISTORTION, THE BEASTIE BOYS and THE REPLACEMENTS hung out and played secret shows. You'll see where Gibby Haynes of THE BUTTHOLE SURFERS beat up a soundguy mid show, see where the Hells Angels are headquartered and find out which famous rock and roll outlaw they kept out of New York City for 28 years. You'll also see the future of rock and roll like Piano's, The Cake Shop and Arlene's Grocery, where newcomers like THE STROKES, INTERPOL and THE YEAH YEAH YEAHS honed their chops.
Both tours are given weekly in-between Thursday and Sunday.
Tickets for the tours can be bought at rocksoff.com/walkingtours.