A New Exhibit Focuses on New Haven's Punk Past

Mar 7, 2014

Part of The Elm City's rock and roll past will be on display in an exhibit opening Friday night at Cafe Nine in New Haven. It's called The Early Years of Punk in New Haven, and features the work of photographer Tom Hearn.

Given its proximity to New York and Boston, New Haven became a mecca for early punk. The Ramones, Blondie, the B-52s, and the Talking Heads played in New Haven haunts like Ron's place, Toad's Place, and the Oxford Ale House.

Tom Hearn was a photographer's apprentice fresh out of high school, when a high school buddy, Eddie McNeil (later better known as writer and rock historian "Legs" McNeil) contacted Tom. "He came back one day," Hearn said, "and said, 'We've started a magazine, it's called Punk, and we just saw the next Beatles.'"

That band was called The Ramones.

"Like anyone who sees The Ramones for the first time, everyone has a story of how it changed their life," Hearn said. "It was the same for me. I could no longer listen to the music I was listening to before." When The Ramones finally played in New Haven, Hearn was there with his trusty Nikon Nikkormat camera. Some of those pictures on part of the Cafe Nine exhibit.

Hearn found himself in the right place at the right time to capture these bands as they came through the Elm City , and brought his camera to every show. "First of all," he said, "in those days, if you had a camera, no one stopped you at the door and said, 'You can't bring a camera in here. Also, they weren't that popular yet, so you could walk from one side and take a picture, walk to the other side and take a picture. Later it just got too difficult to take pictures."

A collection of Hearn's photographs of early punk bands taken between 1976 and 1978 are on display at Cafe Nine though the month of March. The opening reception is Friday night from 5:00 to 8:00 pmĀ at Cafe Nine, 250 State Street in New Haven.