antiMUSIC is pleased to welcome aboard
Trent McMartin who not only has been filing special news reports but now
will give you the "lowdown" on various music related topics!
As always the views expressed
by the writer do not neccessarily reflect the views of antiMUSIC or the
iconoclast entertainment group
The End of an Era
As of August 31 of this year the lease
for New York City seminal rock club CBGB will expire. The club, which has
been around for over thirty years, does not own its own space and is looking
for a new deal with the Bowery Residence Committee (BRC). The BRC is in
charge of renting the space of the entire building CBGB is located in and
now the talks between the property owner and CBGB owner Hilly Kristal have
stalled over alleged unpaid rent and safety concerns.
With negotiations at a stand still and
time running out, an American musical institution is in serious danger
of closing its doors for the last time spelling a definite end to an era
that has long since passed. I sincerely hope it never shuts down...its
been one of my life long dreams to play there and I just hope I get the
chance to make that dream come true someday, said Billy Pettinger of the
punk band Billy and The Lost Boys. Literally everyone that we look up
to as musicians has played on that stage. To see such a rich history disintegrate
right in front of our eyes would be a shame, although Id predict it would
only help to in making the club that much more legendary.
CBGBs, which stands for Country, Blue
Grass and Blues was originally a venue for country and folk musicians.
As the seventies progressed many underground musicians would end up calling
CBGBs home playing there regularly establishing themselves as leaders
of a new movement. Groups that would frequent the club included The Patti
Smith Group, The Ramones, Blondie, Television and the Talking Heads among
CBGB was a dump and it was the only place
to see certain types of artists, said George Seminara, one of the producers
of the Ramones documentary End of the Century and local resident who grew
up around the club. Punk was literally born on its dog sh*t encrusted
floor boards. But Punk in turn spawned so many musical styles that
its reverberations will persist for generations, he added.
Many who were first hand witnesses to musical
history have their own personal stories and insights on CBGBs. Their favourite
moment. Their favourite band. Their favourite show. When asked which
were his favourite acts to play CBGBs George Seminara responded by saying
Ramones in 1977 of course, but guiltily I would have to say the Jam. The
fire marshals were there and only allowed the 103 patrons in the club of
which I was one.
Deborah Olin, who once lived with Chris
Stein and Debby Harry and was a regular patron of CBGBs couldnt decide
on any one moment since she witnessed many memorable gigs by many great
bands. I was very partial to Blondie because I knew them and I loved them
and they were great, Olin revealed. I did love the Ramones the second
I saw them thats almost as long as there first song lasted.
During its hey day CBGBs was a breeding
ground for creativity and a place where musicians could hone their craft.
Murray Ramone, webmaster of the Ramones fansite Hands
Across Your Face explained. The secret behind CBGBs success was
the twin combination of bands with cheap places to live and rehearse and
the policy of letting anyone play. No band arrives fully formed, they have
to learn someplace and CBGBs has been the place since it opened.
Rick Blanco, who runs a Flipper fan website
described recently how the club operated over the course of its existence
citing its inner workings and willingness to promote lesser known artists.
For years the venue has hosted new band nights twice a week, said Blanco.
The people at the door ask who you came to see. So if ten people walk
and came to see band A, band A gets paid $5 admission. If no one came
to see band B, band B makes nothing. Most bands see it as honor cause
so many bands have played that stage.
Moving into the eighites and nineties the
club fell on hard times and on numerous occasions was without proper plumbing
and heat. And recently the club has faced accusations of unpaid rent and
safety issues. In an online statement posted on the site www.savecbgb.org,
the BRC is claiming that CBGB has not paid their full rent for three years.
CBGB claims the BRC has not properly billed the club for those years and
did not even provide heat.
The statement than goes on to decree that
CBGBs simply wants a renewal of their 12 year lease, for the BRC to be
a good landlord and take proper care of the maintenance of the building,
for the BRC to provide information on rent increases in a proper and fair
manner, for the BRC to fulfill its mission of taking care of the homeless
and mentally ill, and for New York City and the neighbours of the Lower
East Side to take action before it is too late and this historic club turns
into a memory.
Many have offered support for the legendary
club donating money and their voice but there are a large number of people
who feel that even though the club has some historical significance, all
things must come to an end.
I grew up with the place (CBGBs) too in
the late '70's and early '80's but Im not really involved in whats going
on with the club now and frankly I think it's time to let go, said Jim
Fields, co-director of the Ramones documentary End of the Century. The
place is not really a vital spot for music anymore. Its really a museum,
more or less. Its not all that punk to cling to the past. Its hard
to let go but... go out while youre still fairly on top, Fields added.
Sonic 102. 9 FM radio Program Director
Jason Manning, who has made numerous trips to the club agreed. The problem
is the people who own the building want to raise the rent through the roof....well
CBs cant afford it....and as much as I hate to say it....all good things
must come to an end. I hope that if it does close....all the walls do not
get sold to the Hard Rock Cafe. It would be cool if they reopened
somewhere else.....NYC wont be the same without that place.
CBGB today is not just a victim of shifting
musical trends and tastes but a whole demographic change. The rest of
the area has now changed, the process of gentrification now means youre
neighbours are less likely to be tolerant of a band playing the same song
twenty times in a row trying to figure it out at 3 am, said webmaster
Murray Ramone. As most of the bands were the next nights audience in
the old days it meant there was a steady clientele there as well. Last
time I was in on a midweek night the band outnumbered the audience.
According to some online reports, owner
Hilly Kristal may be interested in taking the CBGB brand name to Vegas
and open a new club there. While many think it is a logical step to move
the club to sin city, others feel the contrary.
Of course moving CBGBs to Vegas would
lose its charm, Billy Pettinger remarked. Thats like moving Gilman Street
to Vegas. It really says something about the state of indie music when
even a club as famous as CGBGs cant afford to keep its doors open.
Now with only a few weeks to go until the
expiration of CBGBs lease, the club and its followers scramble to make
last ditch efforts to save an historical landmark where a musical revolution
Music is a crucial part of the New York
City landscape and yet every venue but CBGB and Carnegie Hall are gone
(Lincoln Center is relatively new), George Seminara explained in a recent
e-mail. And like Carnegie Hall, CBs is crucial to the citys musical
CBGBs became famous worldwide for being
the home of Punk rock - you could say that it wouldnt have worked without
the bands, but the bands wouldnt have existed without somewhere to play,
added Murray Ramone.
In Liverpool they tore down the old Cavern
where the Beatles played, only to reopen it nearby. New York shouldnt
make that mistake.