Electric Circus impresario Jerry Brandt

Electric Circus impresario Jerry Brandt

Beginning in the 1920s, 19-25 St. Mark’s Place was the site of the Polish National Home. In the second-floor space called The Dom, Andy Warhol staged his Exploding Plastic Inevitable with the Velvet Underground in April 1966. Former William Morris talent agent Jerry Brandt acquired the lease and opened the Electric Circus early in the summer of 1967.

Brandt tamed the wilder experimental edges of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable for mass consumption. He hyped his non-alcoholic club as “the ultimate legal experience”—a dizzying immersive environment combining sound, lights, visual projections, and performance elements like a trapeze artist and a resident astrologer. Progressive Architecture described the club as having “a little of the look of a high-school gym, transformed beyond the wildest dreams of the prom committee.” Electric Circus headliners included The Seeds, the Chambers Brothers, Sly & the Family Stone, the Sun Ra Arkestra, Ike & Tina Turner, the Grateful Dead, and avant-garde composers Terry Riley and John Cage.

Crime, hard drug use, and political tension were rising in the East Village when, on March 22, 1970, a bomb exploded in the Electric Circus and injured fifteen people; the club closed for good in August 1971. The interior was demolished by 2003 and remodeled into commercial space for Chinese and Mexican restaurants and, briefly, a CBGB retail store.