Flatulation punctuates the still night air, and I thank god there’s a bathroom here! Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how nasty a toilet is, when you gotta go, you gotta go. On this, the 7th day of #RiotFestmas, we’re adhering to tradition and celebrating the brainchild of inventor Thomas Crapper (1836-1910). Thanks to his brilliant invention, the flushing toilet is as much a part of our lives as eating, drinking, and sitting down.
Here’s a look at seven notable toilets that I’ve either come across in his travels, or at least I feel like I have. Some are still with us, while some are sadly departed. However one thing’s for sure: their memories will swirl around in our heads forever.
Enjoy, my good friends, enjoy.
1. CBGB • New York, NY • 1973-2006
Considered by all who have, er, experienced it as the torchbearer for nasty punk rock toilets the world over, the CBGB men’s room toilet is, and forever will be, at the top of this list and all of the other lists like it. At the time, it was reportedly the stinkiest, most foul room in all of Manhattan (that says a lot); they didn’t even bother putting the toilet in a stall. It’s just sitting up there, like a throne, waiting for all the NYC punx to become kings for a day. “That’s the one thing that sears itself into your memory,” Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore once told New York Magazine. “It’s that toilet.”
CBGB may be a damn John Varvatos store now, but the legend of its toilet cannot be bought nor sold.
2. 924 Gilman St • Berkeley, CA • 1986-present
Berkeley’s world-famous punk rock collective, 924 Gilman St, is where bands like Green Day and Operation Ivy (and then Rancid) got their start. Famous for paying touring bands fairly at the end of the night, they may want to consider holding back a small convenience fee at some point to freshen up the john. I can’t recall another time when I felt the need to hover so badly.
Granted, I haven’t been there since 2004, so they may have cleaned things up a bit, but I’m hoping not.
3. 7th St. Entry • Minneapolis, MN • 1980-2010
While many know legendary Minneapolis rock ‘n’ roll palace First Avenue as the setting for Prince’s 1984 tour-de-force Purple Rain, I know it as the best place to see live music anywhere in the world. First Avenue’s bathrooms are pretty standard rock club fare, piss trough and all.
Attached to First Avenue its sister club is the 250-capacity 7th St. Entry. From its inception in 1980, until the building was renovated in 2010, the Entry’s single puny bathroom played host to such headliners as super long lines, a perpetually pissed-on toilet seat, and an utterly unbearable lack of proper ventilation. Upon renovation, they split the single bathroom into two, as though it were an atom, and the entire Twin Cities music scene let out a cold sigh of relief. In fact, when said renovations went down, the upgrading of the Entry bathrooms was such a major event, that the staff released a promo video to brag about it, as any of us would do.
4. Fireside Bowl • Chicago, IL • 1941-present
I haven’t been to Fireside in a very long time, but back in the late-1900s, around the turn of the century, it was quite the popular spot in Chicago for punk rock shows. And, of course, with punk rock shows comes nasty bathrooms. The Fireside is known for its stinky latrine almost as much as it’s known for hosting some of the most epic shows in the midwest, during the B.R.F era (Before Riot Fest).
It’s proven difficult to find tangible photographic evidence of this, so check out the back cover of this Scared of Chaka/Traitors split 7-inch…
5. The Mutiny & The Skylark • Chicago, IL
I’m only pointing these places out because they have amazing urinals. Sorry, ladies. You really seem to keep getting shorted in the notable punk rock bathrooms department. Regardless, look at these things! They’re yuuuuge!!
6. Forest Hills Stadium • Queens, NY • 2013-present
Sure, Forest Hills Stadium was a thing way before 2013. The West Side Tennis Club’s rollicking, 14,000-capacity venue hosted the U.S. Open from 1968-1977, and over the years it would double as a music venue. Bob Dylan played his first post-Newport Folk Festival electric show there, for example. How the hell is this place punk rock, you may ask? Well, it’s in Forest Hills, and the Ramones are from there! Not enough for you? How’s about this porta-potty?
Aside from Riot Fest flashbacks, this doesn’t look incredibly punk rock at first glance, I get it. However, look closer…
See those two little metal screws above the door lock indicator? Got a 9-volt battery on you? All the folks in the know do. That’s because when you press the battery’s contact points to the screws, it actually opens the door, to this…
You can’t see it, but there’s a little party light spinning up there. Walk on through, and you’ll be in…
…a secret little speakeasy! Maybe that’s not punk — and actually kind of elitist — but whatever, it’s my list, and I think it’s punk as fuck. And you can see the show through those little portholes on the right! So, don’t forget to bring a 9-volt to the next Mumford and Sons show at the stadium, because there’s free booze in there. And what’s more punk than drinking somebody else’s booze for free?
7. Lake Street Bar • Brooklyn, NY • 2013-present
I think Lake Street’s bathrooms may be my favorite in the world. Opened in 2013 by The Hold Steady drummer Bobby Drake, Spoon and The Get Up Kids bassist Rob Pope, and some other dudes, Lake Street is the most midwest-flavored bar I’ve ever experienced in Brooklyn. That’s not why it’s the most rad, though.
Many in the punk rock scene are friendly with Hiro Tanaka, a Japanese photographer, road dog, and super fun dude to have around. Tanaka spent years on the road with American bands, learning English the entire time. He took notebooks and notebooks of detailed notes on all the little bits he’d pick up on along the way, especially American slang. As a result, one of the bathrooms at Lake Street uses his notes as wallpaper, and it’s fucking awesome. I’ve gone in there to take a piss before, and not come out for 20 or so minutes, forcing my companions to assume that I must have fallen in. But no, I’m reading Hiro’s notes. I’ve been going there for years, and still have yet to read the same one twice.
Here’s an example, I took this when I was there a couple weeks ago:
The other bathroom? Well, not nearly as special, unless think it’s special that Jessa had sex with somebody in it during the last season of GIRLS. I do not.
Honorable Mention: Riot Fest • Chicago, IL • 2012-present
Sure, Riot’s been around since 2005, but until the festival went outside in 2012, you couldn’t truly experience it… because there are no porta-potties in the Congress Theater. Now, the plastic loos are as much a part of the Riot Fest culture as corn dogs and ferris wheels. Let’s put it this way: Have corn dogs and ferris wheels earned their own Garbage Pail Kids? I think not.
Alright, enough of this shit. Sweet dreams! See you tomorrow at 8:00am CST for the next #RiotFestmas contest!