The Cooler was one of Manhattan's hippest new-music joints from about 1997 until it closed down in 2001. C'est la vie, that's the nature of the New York underground skronk scene. It was located between 9th Avenue and Washington Street at 416 W 14th Street, (212-229-0785, not that it matters now ...), smack in the middle of the meatpacking district. In the summer months you could catch a distinct bovine rot-stench wafting up from the gutters, owing to the slaughterhouses all around. Actually, you could smell it in the dead of winter, too, now that I think about it.

Much mayhem went down there, and most of New York's noisemakers and thoughful types - as well as touring folks of a similar bent - made their way there to spill it. The action took place past the big metal meat-locker doors, downstairs in the basement, where the tracks for the meathooks still hung from the ceiling. Drinks were $5, not bad for Manhattan. The lineup wasn't all out-there skronk, though; the first and third Wednesdays were dub night.

One interesting feature is that folks were likely to get turned down at the door if they looked like they were gussied up for some swanky neo-Studio 54 joint like Life or Centro-Fly. It was about the music, maaaaaan. No shit.

Some of the folks who went nuts onstage there: Tonic, at 127 Norfolk Street, has since picked up the freak flag. Most of the folks you could once see at The Cooler now ply their trade there.

The Cooler's answering machine says it's available for photo/TV/movie shoots and private parties. It also says you can check out http://www.thecooler.com for updates, but the site's been down for quite some time. My research into New York City property records shows that Meilman Management & Development (run by one 68-year-old Jack Meilman, work phone (212) 242-5267) owns the $452,000 warehouse the club was housed in. (Supersecret number for "The Cooler Administration," if anybody really wants to call and ask what's up with the club: (212) 645-5189.)

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