Legendary music venue 'The Bitter End' looks to new beginning

Musician Evan Kremin could not recall another time in his life when he'd gone nine months without listening to some live music.

"One day you are making a living doing something you absolutely love," Kremin said. "And the very very next day, you can't be legally employed."

Kremin works at The Bitter End in the West Village, which like every other club in the city hasn't hosted a performance since March. Kremin first played The Bitter End in 1987.

"I was in awe of the place," Kremin said. "I'd heard of the Bitter End before. I'd walked in before. I knew who'd played here."  

A showcase club for the last 30 years, discovering new artists like Lady Gaga before they reached stardom, in the 1960s The Bitter End hosted headline acts performing two shows a night for a week.

"You'd have Neil Young opening up for Joni Mitchell," owner Paul Rizzo said.

"Bob Dylan," Kremin said, "and a lot of Folkies, Peter, Paul and Mary."

"The Bitter End had many many performers there who found their beginnings, found their identity and their audiences in that place," singer-songwriter Peter Yarrow said.

The Peter in Peter, Paul and Mary, Yarrow includes himself among those performers who trace their origins back to The Bitter End, after performing there for six weeks in the summer of 1961.

"After the third night, you couldn't get a seat," he said.

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During the pandemic, Yarrow performed via a live stream for donors to The Bitter End's GoFundMe page, now more than 90 percent of the way to its goal of $100,000 to sustain the club until we can all gather indoors to listen to live music once again.

"It's all keeping us going," Rizzo said.

Rizzo used the last nine months to recarpet, repaint and repair parts of the club in need of renovation for many years.

"The Bitter End is not yesterday," Yarrow said. "It's an aspirational place."

Yarrow describes The Bitter End as "exactly the medicine we need for our time." When the club can reopen, Kremin expects to find what it has to offer in great demand.

"The audience's need for that spiritual uplift from live music, it's a symbiotic relationship," he said. "We as performers get the same thing from giving it to you."

"Live arts are a very important part of the human experience," Rizzo said.

"As soon as it's open again, I'm going to get down there and sing," Yarrow said.