raven cafe is gone. i learned through the grapevine that it was an electrical fire; the notice below names the cellar and first floor as the worst damaged, so apparently it started below the bar and worked its way up from the inside. supposedly no one was hurt, although i feel very much for the people who lived upstairs, as they now have to find new homes.
a staple of avenue a for as long as i can remember, i knew the raven as a goth/deathrock/punk/metal hangout open to misfits of all stripes, for those looking for somewhere to go after (or instead of) the regular clubs. whether jukebox or DJ's, the music was almost always good. because there was no dancefloor, there was no pressure to stick to danceable songs or crowd-please, although the crowd always seemed pleased anyway. however, no music played while x-files was on the tv.
there were barstools that i recall being more like tall thin chairs, as well as comfortable couches. a pinball machine, while rarely played when i was there, also functioned as both decor and additional warm light. and they probably had some of the cleaner nyc bar bathrooms i've seen (topped only by lucky 13 to the best of my recollection).
i never saw any judging or attitude at the raven. everyone there seemed to already be old friends. in fact, most of the people i saw there i recognized from other places. the bartenders were friendly, maintained a good ratio in their mixed drinks, and most of all, didn't seem like they would rather be somewhere else because they could just as easily have been one of the crowd (and some of them were, at similar clubs).
i played there twice at middle pillar's xmas party; once backing up my friend on some hank williams songs and once solo, covering elvis costello and sparks. the reception was warm, and the place felt a little like home.
apparently, the owners recently opened a new place in brooklyn, the boulevard tavern, which hosted a drown-your-sorrows get-together a few days later. i wish them and the other former tenants the best in recovering from this loss.
the title of this post comes from the raven by edgar allen poe. but you knew that already.