Jaunts and Haunts with Jake and John

Ah, the Big Apple. So many sights to see and things to do. You could hop on a double-decker red bus to see the traditional tourist must-sees: Times Square, Central Park, Empire State Building. Or… you can head downtown and let a certain red – and pink and purple and orange – haired host play tour guide as he shows you the past, present and future of rock and roll in New York City. Or how about winding your way through the Lower East Side with the singer of a legendary hardcore band as he schools you with his first-hand knowledge on the history of art, crime, drugs and punk music in the neighborhood?

Yeah, this ain’t no Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood tour. This is a Rocks Off Rock n Roll History Walking Tour. Three hours, no holds barred.

Meet Jake Szufnarowski and John Joseph. Well, maybe you met Jake during my C post. He’s been talent buying, promoting shows and generally kicking ass in New York for the past two decades.  He’s teamed up with John Joseph, a lifelong New Yorker and the frontman of the illustrious Cro-Mags, to drag you through the underbelly of the East Village and the Lower East Side. Together, they invite you to “immerse yourself in the very streets and sights where ordinary men and women became immortal rock gods and the proverbial ‘shit went down.’”

Jake has led curious tourists and jaded New Yorkers alike through the Evolution of Rock n Roll in New York City. Some of the tour highlights include Charlie Parker’s historic home, the Fillmore East, CBGB, Max’s Kansas City, The Electric Circus, The Palladium, The Ritz / Webster Hall, Irving Plaza, Tompkins Square Park, Madonna’s first NYC apartment. Be prepared to walk the streets that legends have walked, piss in urinals that Lou Reed pissed in, drink egg creams that the NY Dolls drank. See where Iggy and Blondie shopped for clothes and where Leadbelly and Joey Ramone lived. Here’s a quick video teaser.

Quoted by the Village Voice as having “a fuckin’ photographic memory and…stories out the wazoo,” John Joseph was living on these very streets as a teen, and now leads the History of Art, Crime, Drugs and Punk Rock on the Lower East Side jaunt portion of the walking tours. From junkie to hardcore-punk icon to vegan tri-athlete to tour guide, who better than Joseph to show you the vanishing history of an era, in an area being swallowed by hyper-gentrification?

“I feel like an archeologist, digging up and exposing the real Lower East Side for new generations before it becomes completely fossilized.” John Joseph, via Hails and Horns.

John Joseph leads one of his Rocks Off Walking Tours - photo credit: restassuredzine.com

John Joseph leads one of his Rocks Off Walking Tours – photo credit: restassuredzine.com

John Joseph leads one of his Rocks Off Walking Tours – photo credit: restassuredzine.com

If the urge strikes you and you’ve got three hours to kill… go ahead, bite the Big Apple, as the Stones would say. Don’t mind the maggots! Tour dates and times, and advance tickets, can be found here.

A portion of the proceeds of every tour goes to Hardcore Against Hunger – Feeding Vegan Meals to the Homeless. Joseph has been helping feed the homeless since 1980.


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  • Grover

    What a cool couple of guys! And I love that some of the money goes to help the homeless. If I ever make it to New York I’ll be sure to track these two down!

    Thanks for dropping by my blog earlier, too!

    • jesstopper

      Thanks for popping by – I hope they keep doing these tours indefinitely, it’s such a cool way to see a vital part of NY, through some real NYers eyes!

  • messymimi

    Ah, the things i missed, touring NYC with my dad years ago. Someday, i have to get back and see the deeper stuff.

    • jesstopper

      I hope you do get back some day soon! My very first trip was with my dad too, I was 16. I fell in love w/the city and I knew one day I would live there. And I did!

  • http://www.facebook.com/hartjohnson23 Hart Johnson

    Oh, that sounds like a fun tour! I haven’t spent nearly enough time in NYC.

    • jesstopper

      I don’t think there is ever enough time in NYC. Sometimes I think about whether a person could eat at every restaurant in NYC in a lifetime. (Yes, I think about strange things)