Monday, October 16, 2006

A tragic decommissioning

Indulge me, please.

This place is an icon. When I was in NYC last year, Mrs. Salamander and I made our pilgrimage to have a few beers, update the t-shirts, and listen to what was "open mic" for local bands. There must have been 30 of us there. It is, to me, the same as Radio City Music Hall, The Kennedy Center, and all those cultural icons. And it is now lost. CBGB is gone.
CBGB hosted its final concert Sunday night after a 33-year residence in downtown New York as the iconic, grungy bastion of punk.

The concert, headlined by rock poet Patti Smith, was to be the final note sounded in a drawn-out battle to preserve the legendary club. A homeless advocacy group that owns the property, the Bowery Residents Committee, is not renewing CBGB's lease, which expired in August 2005. The club will close Oct. 31.

The club's run may be ending at its Manhattan location, but it will continue in different ways, Smith said.

"CBGB's is a state of mind," she said at pre-show news conference. "The new kids have to have their own places."

CBGB's closure has prompted protests, tributes and vigils for more than a year - a cycle ended when CBGB's owner, Hilly Kristal, gave up his legal fight to stay.

CBGB, hailed by many as the birthplace of punk, opened in December 1973 and over the years helped spawn the careers of such acts as the Ramones, Blondie, the Talking Heads and Television. Though the club's glory days are long gone, it has remained a symbolic fixture on the Manhattan music scene.

Blondie singer Deborah Harry performed at CBGB on Saturday, part of a weeklong send-off for the club.

With a capacity of barely 300, CBGB was founded as a place of freedom for different musical acts. Its letters stand for the music Kristal originally planned to present there - country, bluegrass and blues - but it quickly came to represent the physical epicenter of early punk and the storied downtown scene of 1970s New York.

Kristal plans to move the club to Las Vegas, and its store, CBGB Fashions, will move on Nov. 1 to a nearby location at Broadway and Bond Street.

"I'm thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next day and going on to do more with CBGB's," Kristal said Sunday.

The Bowery Residents Committee, which holds a 45-year lease on the building, houses 250 homeless people above the club. CBGB is its lone commercial tenant.
No Las Vegas show spot will do. A tacky T-shit stand will not do. Here is what burns me the most. I just live off taxpayer money; I am not rich. I paid cover, bought beers, bought t-shirts - did what I could do. In NYC and nearby (at least their CO-OPs they visit when in town) there are musicians and others who together owe the hundreds of millions of dollars they are worth to the movement that CBGB helped start. They didn't save her. Wrong. Pathetic. For shame.

I'm going to go put in my
Violent Femmes CD now. No. Vinyl.

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