📷: Recon Sign, photo by Manabu Okamoto
Reconstruction was an all-volunteer run hardcore – punk records store in the East Village that was open from 1991 to 1993. Taking a cue from San Francisco’s Epicenter Zone collective and referencing earlier NYC hardcore emporiums like Ratcage and Some Records, coincidentally Recon being located on the same East 6th street block as Some, the store’s aim was to support and nourish the DIY underground scene in a non-commercial fashion as ‘the year that Punk broke’ moniker took hold in ‘91. From putting on shows at the store, selling amazing rarities, having the place burglarized & an incident with a well-known NYHC band that got the store shut down for a brief period; there were definitely some interesting times to be had. On a personal note: I was one of the four persons that started the place and I asked the other co-founders as well as assorted volunteers, aka shit workers, their recollections about those days.
WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS FOR STARTING RECONSTRUCTION?
“My memory is that it was the next logical step for the ABC No Rio crowd. Especially since the much smaller Bay Area scene had already accomplished so much more: Gilman, Epicenter, Mordam, Blacklist, MRR. At the time, I’d assumed I’d bring to the table a deeper level of life experience than my peers, as I’ve been part of not just the Albany hardcore scene, but a much older Albany hippie scene, one that’d produced its own sustainable alternative infrastructure–stores, co-ops, two world class indie cinemas. In reality, however, all I did was flyer the walls and kick in $600.” —Sam Mcpheeters (Born Against/Vermiform)
“If I recall correctly, we had all come back from touring and visiting San Francisco and going to Epicenter Records, which also housed Blacklist Mailorder, and we saw what a positive impact a community run record store could have on a local scene and we tried to replicate that. Also, we were all huge record nerds.” —Charles Maggio (Rorschach/Gern Blandsten)
“I wasn’t part of getting it started per se. I came in as it was already in the works, but I was about 18, and psyched to be part of anything music related, and just getting more politicized around music. Learning about Epicenter and ABC No Rio and what it was all based on sounded good to me. I had wanted to play music since I was little, and go to concerts and sadly only found out about all ages shows and more DIY scene/underground punk at 18 years old so I was excited to be involved with anything connected to that! I had found ABC No Rio through seeing a flyer for a Positive Force NYC meeting, and when I got to that first meeting that was at ABC, there was a meeting about starting Reconstruction before the Positive Force NYC meeting and that was my first hearing about it.” —Kangs Trevens (Huasipungo)
“It was an awesome, fun mess! The city was still a place that you could start some holes in the wall of whatever you were interested in for whatever subculture you were involved in, and make it work. The city is large enough to have a sample of everything on earth to warrant projects, and it was still cheap enough to do. The rent I believe was $900 a month? I loved that it was around the corner from Kiev and Dojos. I’m sure Rich D was happy we were so close to Dojos, think he hooked up with the entire female staff, except Gillian Anderson.” —Justine DeMetrick (Photographer)
“From what I can recall Recon was opened to fill the void left by Some records, but do it differently, more underground than Some. I was not involved from the beginning so most of the early history I only know from an outside perspective or legend.” —Freedom Tripodi (Struggle Records)
“I had fond memories of getting into Hardcore in the mid-1980’s & hanging out religiously at Some Records, which was located on 210 east 6th & Recon was on 216 east 6th. I thought it was kismet and hoped for that same communal vibe could be replicated, albeit with a different set of circumstances as the scene changed in the early ‘90s. The seed money to start the place was put in by Sam McPheeters and Dave Stein. Charles Maggio and myself were the nominal figureheads in charge of day to day operations; just how much we succeeded in those roles is up for debate!” —Freddy Alva
ANY MEMORABLE STORIES?
“Some of us had ordering responsibilities. I had SST and Dischord I believe because I used to talk to Amanda Mckaye a lot. One day ordering from SST, the guy was telling me of new releases and mentioned the new Rollins. He didn’t say anything on it being spoken word. So I ordered a bunch. I never heard the end of it from Charles. Maybe we sold 1? But I remind him we didn’t need multiple copies of the Rhythm Pigs and some other band like Fearless Iranians. Yes, they were great but no one buys those either! You could make a solid living off Gorilla Biscuits, Minor Threat, and Descendants.” —Justine DeMetrick
“Memorable stories? A lot of it is a blur. The people that volunteered their time there made it all feel pretty special. I forged some really strong friendships sitting behind that counter talking to people. The landlord was also a trip. Carlo Manfredi was a classic NY landlord. I remember sheepishly asking if we could do shows in the stores to help us make the rent and that they would be loud and the upstairs tenants might complain, and without missing a beat he said ‘Fuck them, you gotta make rent. I don’t care if you sell drugs outta this place, you do what it takes to get me my rent.’ Needless to say we did some shows out of the store.” —Charles Maggio
“We had some killer shows in the store, with bands like Sticks & Stones, Hell No, Resurrection, Policy Of 3 and others doing incendiary sets that were amplified by the space’s intimate setting.” —Freddy Alva
“Here’s off top of my head: Max Bernstein at 12 years old & 4’3″ asking what qualifications one needs to volunteer and my answer; ‘You must be THIS tall to ride this attraction.’ Rich D and I found a slightly ripped pleather couch on the street at 2am and grabbed it and tossed the disgusting cloth couch that had probably been fornicated on during or after hours. The creepy garbage mafia always looking for Freddy for a payout. Amanda Mckaye showing up to collect all the money never paid to Dischord, me feeling very intimidated.” —Bill Florio (Bugout Society/Greedy Bastard Fanzine)
“The garbage man!!!! A nice black car dropping off a Good Fellas extra informing us dim-witted kids that HE was our garbage man. We don’t have a garbage man. I’M YOUR GARBAGE MAN. Lol!!! Charles – we don’t have a garbage man – I take home to NJ. Click the brains work. No. No. Apparently we DOOOO have a garbage man. I liked how quickly he went from classic thug to, so hey – what do you guys do here? He came by more than once and on one visit I remember some of us talking appearances and tattoos with him. He thought we were crazy but he wanted a rose tattoo on his ear. I believe the large drag queen next door was there.” —Justine DeMetrick
“Most of my memorable stories really just involve the folks involved: Things that I thought were amazing were the group TV sessions, like when we would watch The Simpsons or 90210.There was a period where I was homeless and before I found a stable place to crash, I was sleeping in the store overnight, pretty much living in it. During one of my shifts one day I got called outside by Chaka & Little Al. Apparently there were rumors going around that I bootlegged the Burn Hiltz recordings. I didn’t. Luckily I got Chaka to cool down. I got to meet Mike D!!!! I couldn’t believe it one day I looked up from the counter & he was flipping through records.” —Freedom Tripodi
“I don’t actually have that many memories of the store itself. I wasn’t there that often, either because I was on tour, or because I didn’t want to make myself easy to find for people who wanted to assault me. But the store did serve as a stage for several deep humiliations. One day, near the front door, Esneider from Huasipungo loudly lectured me about having too big an ego. Pete V (RIP) witnessed the scene, and although he looked as confused and mortified as I was, he said nothing to defend me. I realized that my public persona had made it impossible for even close friends to say anything in my defense. Several other once-close friends denounced me in fanzines which I read in the store, meaning in front of people who were watching my reaction. By spring of 1993, there was clearly no reason for me to stay in that scene, and I didn’t relish the idea of having to avoid an entire section of Manhattan. So I left. I deserved what I got. I just didn’t deserve it from the people I got it from.” —Sam Mcpheeters
“Rich D. Jesus. God the women loved him for some reason. He told me it was the socks. He had a great collection of themed socks, unusual for guys at that time. I was working alone one night and he was there. He starts to talking to some girl I hadn’t seen before, next thing I know they’re re really making out. First outside, then the doorway, then inside. Like I wasn’t there. I would like to know if he ever had actual sex there.” —Justine DeMetrick
“When we were kicking around names for the store, Sam suggested Uranus, so every time when answering the phone it’d be; ‘Hello Ur Anus Records, how may we serve you?’ Wish we’d used it.” —Freddy Alva
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN PORCELL SOLD HIS RECORD COLLECTION TO FINANCE HIS TRIP TO INDIA?
“Having Porcell pull up in a cab and unload the entire remaining Schism records/zine stock and his entire personal record collection onto our floor was pretty surreal. I’d be having my personal assistant typing this from my and Freddy’s private island if we had held onto that stuff and sold it today. We somehow figured out how to do a 30 day in person EBAY style auction (4 years before EBAY existed) using index cards and a crazy tracking system to sell it all.” —Charles Maggio
“Getting Porcells’ collection was pretty amazing. I got headaches rolling my eyes at the ridiculous actions taken by people joining cults at the time. Yet, did appreciate the benefit! Seeing the walls covered with all rare records. Charles ran an auction for them in MRR (I probably still have the issues) and a few of the winners were from Japan, of course. What amazed us was they didn’t do a bank transfer, or send a M.O., they sent mini piles of crisp, spanking new $100 bills. I think one pile came in pages of a magazine, and one just in an envelope with a sheet of paper. We were astonished someone would sent that amount of cash with complete confidence that it would arrive without issue, and that we actually received it, that it wasn’t clipped. We did discuss the dichotomy between cultures. Personally, I found it to be fascinating, found it to be rather naive on their part, and sadden/envious they were seeped in a culture that did have so much unquestioned trust. It was probably one of the first times any of us had multiple crisp $100 bills in one hand.” —Justine DeMetrick
“I was not present for the Porcell or Roger moments. I was bummed about missing the Porcell drop, not upset about dealing with the DMS nonsense. I did score big time though when Sam unloaded a shit ton of records. That day was certainly right place at the right time.” —Freedom Tripodi
“I have few regrets in life apart from picking up a couple or more copies of Chung King Sucks LP plus other gems from Porcell’s collection & fund that private island Charles mentioned earlier.” —Freddy Alva
THERE WAS A STICKER PLACED ON THE NEW AGNOSTIC FRONT LP, DENOUNCING THEM AND BAND/CREW MEMBERS SHOWED UP DEMANDING TO KNOW WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE. WE SHUT THE STORE FOR A WEEK DUE TO A POTENTIAL FOR VIOLENCE: ANY RECOLLECTIONS?
“My recollection on the AF fiasco was that someone put a sticker below the price tag on a record that was expensive that said; ‘because R is a greedy bastard.’ My thoughts on it now, is silly, scary and what a violent culture we live in that the response was to bring in a gun and threaten us. At the time I think my response was fear and confusion and possibly excitement. I have a vague sense that it may have brought us together more to all have a difficult problem to try to navigate.” —Kangs Trevens
“There was an incident that left the store closed for about a week after a still to be identified volunteer placed some unflattering words about a well-respected NYHC veteran on a sticker on a record in one of our new bins. The band member was rightfully angry about it and came in and demanded that he speak to the person who wrote the words on the sticker. When I honestly couldn’t produce the person who did it the band member left visible angry and we were later visited by a few well known members of an infamous gang comprised of a lot of NYHC people where violence was threatened on our staff. Write that off to all fun and games I suppose, or the perils of owning a small business.” —Charles Maggio
“I wasn’t present for the ‘AF related fiasco,’ but I have so little respect for the perpetrators that I’d keep my mouth shut on that one anyway.” —Sam Mcpheeters
“The gun incident, Sabu was Sabu. I was pissed and upset at the time, and saddened in hindsight that he was scapegoated into being the one who defaced the AF record. He might have been annoying in some ways, but when the world gets divided between DMS/thug bullshit and us, he was one of ours, like or not. And did we go to bat for him? Well, I guess someone did because he was left alone. I remember Dave Stein was the mediator. I hate guns, I hate the thug bullshit. I hated it in the scene. What’s supposed to be a bit of a reprieve from the regular world, it was no different than the jocks brought in with Rev/SXE. I remember the big meeting we had at Pam’s (?) apartment in the east village. (It was the first time we saw Chris Boarts w/o make up. We couldn’t figure out who she was for most of the night. She was so beautiful!!) Someone kept stealing my journals, but I kept them at this time which means I would of written about the incident. —Justine DeMetrick
“Meeting of all volunteers after thugs threatened store with a gun. Volunteer Ceasar stated he’d stake the place out and be a martyr for the store if need be.” —Bill Florio
WHY DO YOU THINK RECON CLOSED AND WHERE DOES IT STAND IN THE HISTORY OF NYC PUNK/HC STORES?
“I have no idea why the idea store closed. I was already gone. It took me a bit of a fight to even get my deposit back. Good times. I should make clear that I’m still proud to have been associated with the store. Having witnessed the heydays of Some Records and See Hear, I’m still stunned that I got to participate in something rivaling either. I’m glad it existed. I was sad when it closed.” —Sam Mcpheeters
“We were an open collective. Nice in thought, impractical in practice. I thought we need to vet people to a degree. If you can’t do basic arithmetic, they can’t work alone, and definitely not on the register. But I get into arguments with Charles about it. Somehow, if it was a collective, anyone can work. I’m not sure specifically why it closed, I was bummed when it did. I didn’t think it needed to. I know Tony and I discussed retooling it and continuing but instead it morphed into Sound on Sound. I think because Charles had to have something to officially name after a Big Boys song. —Justine DeMetrick
“I don’t remember why we closed. Were we not making enough money? People lost motivation to keep it going? It would have been amazing if it lasted longer. I can imagine it being used more for events and shows had it endured. The community and friendship during that time, while I’m sure had lots of challenges I’m idealizing it in the moment and know it was very special and for me along with ABC No Rio, as a place where I met people, introduced other friends to each other, started bands etc. For me it was the only NYC Punk/HC store as I came around later than the others.” —Kangs Trevens
“I don’t think I ever really knew why Recon closed. I was under the impression the lease was up & the rent shot up. I always feel like somethings place in history depends who you ask. For me Recon holds a very special place. As a customer it gave me access to the music I loved. As a volunteer it gave me a way to be part of a community that was dear to me. I’m sure if you ask some kids who were entrenched in the traditional NYHC scene it has no relevance. It was & always will be more than just a record store to me though. It was a safe haven & a place to network with like-minded folks.” —Freedom Tripodi
“Recon was an extremely idealistic, fiercely partisan, barely organized chaos take on the ‘hey gang, let’s open a record store’ model and try egalitarian consensus with wildly conflicting personalities facing the brutal reality of the retail economy; wouldn’t have had it any other way!” —Freddy Alva
“I like to think in the history of NYC Punk/HC stores that Reconstruction is remembered fondly by the relative few that shopped, hung out, volunteered, and slept there, but it probably didn’t make a huge lasting impact on “the scene” in reality and won’t be spoken of in the same way as say Bleeker Bobs, Venus, 99, or Sounds.” —Charles Maggio
RIP Volunteers Peter Ventantonio & Pete King!
Follow Freddy Alva