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Name: Adam Bernard
Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States
About Me: Music journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie artists. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome.
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Exit The Cypher?
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Its name may have been changed to The 1Bar for its last few months of existence, but the faded awning above the entrance of the 1 Elm Street bar in Danbury still read Cousin Larry’s Cafe. It was one of the few places where local hip-hop had a home, thanks in large part to the Ant Farm Affiliates and their monthly Enter The Cypher event, which has been running for over six years. That home is now gone, as when The 1Bar’s owner, Patrick FitzGerald was given an eviction notice, it was an eviction notice for all the acts that once graced the stage there, as well.

Mirroring what’s happened in communities like the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the building’s owner, Joe DaSilva, decided he’d rather rent out the apartments above the bar than have a live music venue. Cousin Larry’s was notorious for being rumored to be closing, though, which is why AFA DJ Mo Niklz says upon hearing the news “my initial reaction was thinking to myself, ‘again?’” This time, however, it was for real.

Nemesis Alpha of d_Cyphernauts, and co-host of Enter The Cypher with his fellow d_Cyphernauts member Othello, says he was “not shocked, but saddened” by the news of the closing. What’s even sadder is the fact that they had to find out about the closing on their own. According to Othello, “we never got a phone call or anything from anyone representing the bar.”

Dirt E. Dutch notes that ever since Tony Yacobellis moved the Sub Rosa events out of Cousin Larry’s, and took the soundman with him, things had been going downhill. “Tony was the glue that held the place together as far as show booking and promotion.” If Tony was the glue, the AFA and Enter The Cypher were the nails that secured hip-hop’s voice there.

The stage at Larry’s not only, according to Sketch The Cataclysm, “helped unite the original Waterbury Ant Farm folks and the Danbury/NY heads,” it also gave birth to a lot of careers. Mo Niklz goes as far as saying his own career was born there. “The venue really gave me a reason to practice and try and work on my craft,” he explains. “I’ve made almost all my connections from doing shows at Larry’s and the rest are a direct result from somebody who I met at Larry’s.” Mo Niklz even met his current roommate there.

Another artist whose career was given a tremendous boost by performing at Cousin Larry’s is Pruven. Dirt E. Dutch notes “Pruven has rocked the mic at Larry’s probably more than even the hosts of Enter The Cypher. He has always made an effort to show up and get his time on the mic to spit a few new written verses, freestyles, or songs off his latest release.”

There was something special about vibe at Larry’s. Sketch says “it was always a room where I could just get loose - walk on tables, grind on an audience member, act out a crying fit - while performing. I am definitely going to miss that.” He’s not alone. Nemesis Alpha seconds Sketch’s feelings, adding “you could just go there, relax and be immersed in a true hip-hop experience without fear, hassle, or stress.”

Enter The Cypher didn’t just bring hip-hop to Cousin Larry’s, though, it also brought heart. Cousin Larry’s hosted numerous benefit shows and Enter The Cypher conceived of a few of their own, including benefits for the family of Matikhan the Great after he lost his battle with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and one for Dirt E. Dutch’s little brother, Baby Bus, who was struck by lung cancer. The latter was an especially deep moment for Dutch, who says “I have to say my favorite Larry’s moment was seeing my younger brother perform at his own cancer benefit, along with his group the Hot Shots. It is a bittersweet memory, as he passed away a month later, but it is one that will never fade.”

According to Nemesis Alpha, “we tried to be a force for good in CT. I think we succeeded for the most part.”

With Cousin Larry’s / The 1Bar now a thing of the past, Sketch says “it’s definitely left a void” in the Connecticut hip-hop scene. Othello points out “there is no venue in lower Connecticut that does a consistent monthly hip-hop show anymore.” Dirt E. Dutch is confident it won’t be long before Enter The Cypher is back on its feet, though, calling the closing of Larry’s “a kink in the chain,” and adding it’s “only a short term setback for live hip-hop in the Danbury area.”

Othello can guarantee one thing, fans haven’t seen the last of Enter The Cypher. “We love that event too much to just let it die in a whisper,” he says confidently, “there will be, at the very least, one more Enter The Cypher.” The only question now is - where?

Story originally ran in the FairfieldWeekly.

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