Locals weigh in on CBGB
With devotees frantic to save the club that introduced the world to the Ramones, the Talking Heads, and Blondie, we decided to ask for an opinion closer to home. Coincidentally, a few TC bands (come on, the Hold Steady are just as much ours as Brooklyn's) played their first (and maybe last) show at CBGB on Saturday for the CMJ Music Marathon.
class=img_thumbleft> Craig Finn , the Hold Steady
How was your first show at CBGB?
It was a lot of fun. It was a ragged set, a bit sloppy, but in hindsight it was the right set for the right moment.
Does the club have special significance for you? I don't feel very nostalgic about the room, quite honestly. I would come down from Boston to see shows there in the early to mid '90s, but since moving here about five years ago there have been very few shows that I have thought about attending there. It doesn't seem like they attempt to compete with the other clubs here that book national acts, put on cohesive bills, etc.
Historical value aside, how does it stack up against other venues? The sound system at CBGB, however, still seems like the best in town. I do think that with better bathrooms and a slight overhaul, the club could be amazing. It's a great location, nice stage, good size, etc.
What do you think should happen to the club? I'm not sure what should happen to it. If they can't draw people and pay their bills, then I think it should probably close. This may seem insensitive to the club's history, but there are other clubs within blocks of CBs that are thriving. And I do believe that the "magic" was brought to CBs by the Ramones, Television, Patti Smith, Blondie, etc., and not the room itself.
John Solomon, Friends Like These Does the club have special significance for you? I have to say the prospect of playing one of the last shows at the club made famous by the Ramones was enticing, but as for real world significance? I know CBGB as the club that makes those T-shirts, the ones that only 40+ year old record execs wear when they go to the "rock club" so they can look hip. I guess frat boys wear them too. I'm not trying to be a music snob or a hipster. Seriously, those shirts are the Urban Outfitters of club T-shirts. How can they not cover their lease when millions of people buy them? Go to any rock club in any city and you will see one. Usually the guy wearing it will have a ponytail and an earring (just one, left ear).
How does it stack up against other venues? It was like a bigger version of the 7th St. Entry, good sound too. And, yeah it was dirtier. I had been wearing the same clothes for two days so I was going to change in the bathroom. But when I got to the club and saw what we were working with, I went ahead and dropped my pants on stage. It seemed like the cleanest place in the bar.
What do you think should happen to the club? I hate to see rock clubs die, especially ones that have rock history. That being said, this isn't a First Ave situation in my opinion. The running opinion on CBGB is, if you like metal bands from Long Island, then this is your place. First Ave is still relevant and booking new, interesting bands, while CBGB has somehow turned into a sucker bar. It's either pay-to-play or metal. Bring on the metal band hate mail, but it's just lost its significance. They're talking about relocating, but seriously, if it's not on the corner of Third and Bowery, then it really isn't important to me. I don't go to the Disney store and say I saw the real Mickey Mouse. It's just a shell right now. If they got a good booking agent, it would be an awesome place again. By the way, I love the irony. CBGB was so anti-establishment and now they want the establishment to save them. That was pointed out to me by a 35-year-old bar owner in Queens who was 6 days late on his September rent. He had just gotten an eviction notice. How much did CBGB owe? 150,000? 300,000? I can see why some New Yorkers think that the Save CB's campaign is bullshit. All the same, if they got a booking agent one-fourth as good as any of First Ave's, then I would sing protest songs and chain myself to bulldozers as well.
Jeff Allen, the Plastic Constellations Does the club have special significance for you? I'm sure it doesn't have the same significance for us as it does for someone who grew up there and lives in New York, or someone who's old enough to remember the heyday of CBGB. But on a personal note, it felt very strange and very exciting to know that our little band from Minneapolis got to be a part of something so integral to the history of American music. We got to play one of what was probably the last shows ever at CBGB-where a lot of what we try to do all began. Pretty awesome.
How does it stack up against other venues? The sound was amazing-maybe the best of all the clubs we've ever played. The vibe reminded us a lot of the Entry-loud, dark, exciting, holds about 250 people. The drinks were way too expensive. $4.50 for a PBR, but I suppose that's New York for you.
What do you think should happen to the club? That's like asking the drunk fan in the nosebleed section who the Timberwolves should trade for this offseason. It might elicit an interesting response, but it won't matter worth shit. At this point, we're a little band from Minneapolis. There's almost three decades of experience, blood, sweat, and tears in that place that our miniscule experience with the club can't come close to encapsulating. With that said, I'd like to see them stay open with cheaper drinks and show prices. I bet they'd make a killing if they just made everything cheaper and more accessible.
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