The longtime hub of the edgy East Village, St. Marks Place is the name given to idiosyncratic East 8th Street between 3rd Avenue and Avenue A. During the 1950s, beatniks Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac lived and wrote in the area; the 1960s brought Bill Graham's Fillmore East (nearby, at 105 2nd Avenue), and Andy Warhol's Dom and the Electric Circus nightclub (both at nos. 19–25), where the Velvet Underground performed. The studded, pink-haired, and shaved-head punk scene followed, and there's a good chance of still seeing some pierced rockers and teenage Goths on the block. Trash & Vaudeville, the punk store at No. 4, is the real deal—it's been open since 1971. Farther down, at No. 33, is where the punk store Manic Panic first foisted its lurid hair dyes and make-up on the world. At No. 57 stood the short-lived Club 57, a church basement that attracted such 80s stalwarts as Keith Haring, Ann Magnuson, Klaus Nomi, Kenny Scharf, and Fab Five Freddy.
These days, there's not
much cutting edge left. Some of the grungy facades lead to luxury condos, and the area has become a Little Japan, with several ramen and dumpling shops, some sake bars, and lots of young Japanese students. The blocks between 2nd and 3rd avenues can feel like a shopping arcade, crammed with body-piercing and tattoo salons, and shops selling cheap jewelry, sunglasses, incense, and out-there sloganed T-shirts. The cafés and bars from here over to Avenue A attract customers late into the night—prices for a drink are lower than in other downtown neighborhoods.