I just learned of the passing of Steve Trimboli (Stephen Paul Trimboli), reportedly of a massive stroke on the night before Thanksgiving. We weren’t friends IRL (just social media), and I met him at most once. But the place where I would have met him is the real story — his Bushwick arts venue and drinkery Goodbye Blue Monday, which existed from 2005 through 2014.
Goodbye Blue Monday came along at just the right time to be reassuring. The arts scene on the Lower East Side, which I’ve eulogized in print many a time, had only just crashed. Goodbye Blue Monday was a crucial part of what seemed to be the next wave, an outer borough diaspora. (The Brick, in Williamsburg, in which I was heavily involved, was part of that wave as well). Goodbye Blue Monday was a multi-arts venue, hosting music, poetry, performance, stand-up, and, on the walls, lots of original visual art. I was only in there a couple of times, to see my friend Robert play in groups with his friends, but it reassured me. THERE IS STILL A PLACE WHERE ART CAN HAPPEN. By art, I mean the pure thing, uncorrupted by commerce and market forces. There was no cover charge at Goodbye Blue Monday. Artists passed the hat. The venue itself got paid through drink sales.
My best memory of Goodbye Blue Monday is a fog of non-memory. I’d gotten stoned in the backroom with a bunch of musicians (back when that was one of the few ways you could get stoned) and then I wanted to vamoose because it was late and my friend’s band was done performing. But my friend Robert, who’d I arrived with, was staying to hang out. So I said, “Screw it, I’ll walk home”. After all, Bushwick is next to Williamsburg, where I lived. Though I had come there a round-about way, I was confident that I’d figure it out. Did I mention I was stoned? So I had quite an Odyssey getting home, walking streets that were strange to me, some of them pretty rough and scary-looking, but with enough of my New York locational radar functioning to make educated guesses about how to find my way home, and it all worked out. Some of you, non-New Yorkers, non-artists, or whatever, will never understand why that was so pleasurable to me. For some of us, that entire feeling of risk and adventure and the unfamiliar is the whole point of New York. It’s why I moved here. It was baked into my experience of the music I had just enjoyed at Goodbye Blue Monday. It was part of the journey. And as this little episode happened when I was in my ’40s, there was added savor in the fact that I was STILL able to have this experience. It was like a blast from the past, it had been awhile, and I relished it as though it might be the last time for such a thing. Because I was getting older, and because the city, and the country, and the world were changing.
The fact that Goodbye Blue Monday was in Bushwick was a measure of that change. Before this, from 1984 to 1995, Trimboli had run a joint called the Scrap Bar on MagDougal Street in the Village. It was a favorite hangout of metal musicians. By 2014, even the boroughs were getting inhospitable and too expensive for places like Goodbye Blue Monday, and it too folded. And I don’t get a sense from younger people that they’re looking for such experiences, anyway. They seem averse to risk and danger and the glorious anarchy of free expression. Traveling to terra incognita, leaving safety and comfort behind just to see and hear art and have a new experience. To those born since the turn of the century, if it’s not something the herd has already certified electronically, it doesn’t seem to exist. These days, to exist at all you must exist in non-space on the internet. That’s where even Trimboli was principally to be found after the storefront iteration of Goodbye Blue Monday closed its doors; his blog, which he wrote through 2017, is here.
Some nice pieces came out when Goodbye Blue Monday closed. Read ’em below: