Photo courtesy of Wes Houston
The Wes Houston Trio will be performing at Neir's Tavern on Jan. 20.

Wes Houston became a household name playing gigs across Queens and Long Island during the 1970s and 1980s, but there was one historic venue that he couldn’t check off his list until now.

On Jan. 20, Houston and his band, the Wes Houston Trio, will take the stage at Neir’s Tavern, the long-standing Woodhaven watering hole founded in 1829. Over the years, Neir’s became well known as the backdrop in scenes from “Goodfellas” and “Tower Heist,” which filmed inside the bar. But to Houston it has a more personal significance as the spot where his grandfather was a regular performer with his orchestra in the early 1900s.

“It’s pretty crazy, and tough to put into words,” Houston, a lifelong Queens Village resident, told QNS. “When I say it’s like I’m closing the circle everyone looks at me like I’m going to drop dead the next day.”

Yet, full-circle is the only way to describe Houston’s upcoming show. He remembers his grandfather, R. Petersen, telling stories of playing at Neir’s and still has some of the programs from those performances more than 100 years later. Houston’s grandmother used to warn him about the financial struggles of being a musician, while Petersen told him about the joys of playing and performing. “I always went with his stories,” Houston said.

Photo courtesy of Wes Houston

Photo courtesy of Wes Houston

Neir’s has been a staple in the Woodhaven area for nearly two centuries, but it almost disappeared eight years ago. That’s when owner Loycent Gordon heard it was three days away from shutting down, so he took a chance on it despite having no experience running a bar, he said. Gordon thinks it would have been a “disgrace” if someone hadn’t kept Neir’s around, and he has been on a mission to promote its historical importance ever since taking over.

Houston’s performance is the latest example, he said.

“This is just another testament to the importance that Neir’s plays for Woodhaven and the New York City historical landscape,” Gordon said. “And family history is just as important.”

The gig came together on a whim, when Houston decided to stop at Neir’s for lunch after visiting his relatives’ graves in Cypress Hills Cemetery, he said. After striking up a conversation with general manager Yvette Cuevas, a 35-year Woodhaven native, Houston mentioned his grandfather’s playing days at the bar. The two immediately started talking about setting up a show.

“It’s what we’re all about,” Cuevas said. “Everybody that used to come to Neir’s used to come in to hear the stories.”

The Wes Houston Trio will hit the stage at 9 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 20. The trio is formed by Queens natives Ray Forgione on the drums, Steve Hawk on the bass guitar, and Houston on the guitar and vocals. Houston said that he is looking forward to adding to Neir’s history, his own history, and performing for the friendly people of Woodhaven, no matter how many come to watch.

“It should be a lot of fun, I just feel I have to do this one,” Houston said. “I told the guys if we don’t break numbers or get a big crowd, that’s OK, too.”

Photo courtesy of Flickr user The Whistling Monkey

Photo courtesy of Flickr user The Whistling Monkey


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