When you ask Rob Sacher, former co-owner of New York City indie bar Luna Lounge about his past, he mentions names like Joey Ramone, Elliott Smith, Jim Reid and Jody Porter as if they weren’t attached to rock ’n’ roll icons.
“It was really a cultural moment on the Lower East Side,” Sacher says. “Some of the bands that did their very first shows at Luna were The Strokes, Interpol, stellastarr* and The National. Elliott Smith wrote an album at the bar. He wrote most of XO on a stool, so it was just the right place and the right time and the right people were there.”
Sacher’s Wake Me When It’s Over offers a fly-on-the-wall perspective of New York’s rock scene. “I have a story to tell now about the different clubs I owned and co-owned and what happened to be in Luna Lounge and the people I worked with,” he says. “So I put it all together and I realized there was an arc to my life, an arc to my story from one end to the other. I was able to put it together in a way that is more than a book about rock ’n’ roll stories. It’s really more of a book about what it’s like to spend your life connected to something that you absolutely love. In the writing process I found out why I did that and why I connected to music in the way that I did. That’s what I tried to explain in the book.”
When asked what Luna’s walls would say if they were still standing, Rob’s pause is followed by a sheepish chuckle. “In a typical indie-rock nightclub you’re going to have sex and drugs with rock ’n’ roll but I purposely left those stories out of the book because they’re so obvious,” he says. “I felt something I wanted to connect to in my stories that I knew was associated with a deeper meaning of my life, was I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. For example—no I can’t use that example,” he adds, breaking into another round of laughter.
The impact of Luna becomes obvious in the memoir. Each chapter has its own icon—The Band, Elliot Smith, The Jesus And Mary Chain, Interpol, Marty Wilson-Piper. In “The Strokes (part one) (Last Nite)” we see the extent of what Luna’s doors actually did for so many young, hungry artists. The following excerpt appears in Sacher’s Wake Me When It’s Over.
The Strokes (part one) (Last Nite) by Robert Sacher
I’m not really sure as to how I first came to book The Strokes at Luna Lounge. Albert Hammond Jr. told me he’d contacted me and that we made the arrangements together for their first show. I suppose they dropped off a tape in the typical? manner that any band would employ in order to get a gig.
Oddly, though, I clearly remember their soundcheck. The band showed up on time and ran through a few of their songs. They were loud and the balance between the instruments was a bit off, but for a first show their soundcheck went well and there were no glaring issues. They seemed just a bit nervous, but that was to be expected. They were serious but not stressed. Above all, they seemed very respectful to each other. They were getting focused and that’s what a soundcheck is supposed to accomplish.
After meeting the guys and working with them for no more than 20 or 30 minutes, there was something in them that I immediately recognized as interesting. They were powerful. More powerful as individuals and as a collective than any other group with whom I had previously worked. And, even though they were still a moderate distance from being the polished, professional group that the world would soon come to know, The Strokes had a defined presence on the Luna stage.
Later that night, there were about 40 people in the room. It wasn’t filled but it was a respectable turnout for a band’s first show. At this time, I didn’t know any of their songs. The band opened their set, playing the intro of a good first tune when without hesitation, Julian jumped off our small, two-foot-high stage and started to move among the folks who had come out to see the band perform at the club. Effortlessly seizing the moment he began to sing to people, face-to-face in the crowd. I thought to myself, “What the hell is he doing?”
Then, “Hey, he sounds pretty good.”
Then, “This guy has a pair of balls!”
Then, “Wow, what a great moment.”
After singing most of a verse, he hopped back up on the stage and rejoined the band at the chorus. I was very impressed. In the first thirty seconds of their first show at Luna, Julian Casablancas was fearless. He grabbed the attention of absolutely everyone in the room.
Later that night, my girlfriend who was asleep when I got home, awoke and asked me how was my night. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I told her, “I might have just worked with the best band that I will ever see at Luna. If they don’t implode, they are going to be huge.”
Returning to her dreamy state, she said, “That’s nice,” and she rolled over and fell back asleep.