CBGB is a name that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people.
CBGB might have been your church. A punk rock church that featured sermons from the likes of Alan Vega, Patti Smith, David Byrne, Richard Hell and Joey Ramone.
CBGB may have been your favorite club, with high-energy, uncompromising matinee sets from hardcore bands like Bad Brains or The Misfits. Maybe you caught The Beastie Boys there in their earlier, more punk rock-leaning days.
Or maybe CBGB is a slogan on a t-shirt you bought at Hot Topic or Spencer Gifts. A “cool” logo that suggests some sort of connection with underground music, with a limited understanding of the original idea or aesthetic.
Whatever the case, CBGB and its assets were purchased by a group of investors and is back as a music festival. The next couple of days will give us a taste of what’s in store for the brand’s future. The group has hinted at a possible re-opening of the club, albeit in a new location, though featuring many of the original fixtures seen in the venue’s original location on Bowery and Bleecker.
While the festival-producers have done an admirable job assembling a respectable lineup for the long weekend, there is some cause for concern. Both flagship shows are on Saturday; the first features Guided By Voices, Cloud Nothings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and The War On Drugs and the second lineup includes Superchunk, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and The Hold Steady. Both of those lineups are absolutely unreal, however, the venues have nothing to do with the CBGB aesthetic; the former is at Central Park’s Summerstage, and the latter is a free show in TIMES SQUARE of all places.
One has to wonder what fanny pack-clad tourists from Nebraska wandering bewilderingly into a Superchunk show has to do with CBGB, as they’ll likely make up a high percentage of the audience. I can’t see too much of the downtown crowd dealing with the pedestrian-mall hell of Times Square for that one (myself included.)
The festival also features panels and films (and a spirits festival with artisan adult beverages!), akin to larger music showcases like CMJ and SXSW, and our own Northside Festival. Krist Novoselic, the somewhat reclusive bassist from Nirvana, is a refreshing and somewhat ambitious choice as a keynote speaker, though one has to wonder if the festival would have been better served by a local music cornerstone like Patti Smith.
Novoselic and his former band, Nirvana, in many ways, personifies CBGB and what it has become; namely a legendary part of the underground and now an iconic brand which has become commercialized, merchandised for teenagers and accepted as such in the mainstream. Nirvana and CBGB both evoke the aesthetic of the grit and squalor of the underground music scene in an easily digestible and infinitely influential narrative. Novoselik and CBGB have both largely been absent in the music world (save for some guest work as a bassist on the recent Foo Fighters release) for some time and both are brands that are infinitely recognizable to the masses yet largely remain respected by those “in the know.”
Regardless of what appears to be a festival that has little to do with the original CBGB aesthetic, the lineup is pretty solid, featuring over 300 bands. And hey, My Social List is even represented: Oy Vey, a band that formed out of the My Social List Meetup group, are playing on Thursday at 8 PM at Tammany Hall! Besides that one, here’s my CAN’T MISS shows:
THURSDAY: Baseball Project, Craig Finn, Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan at City Winery; Violent Bullshit, Chron Turbine, Cave Bros at The Flat (Brooklyn.) Richard Lloyd (of Television) plays at The Bowery Electric at 1:10 AM, and that’s most definitely CAN’T MISS.
FRIDAY: Redd Kross, The Men, Labor Pool at Music Hall of Williamsburg; Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr, Lissy Truillie, Fawn at Highline Ballroom; JD Samson & MEN, PS I Love You, So So Glos at Gramercy Theater; Waking Heros, Yellowdogs, The Everymen, The Brooklyn What?, The Shipwrecks at Pianos
SATURDAY: Guided By Voices, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The War on Drugs, Cloud Nothings at Central Park SummerStage; D Generation, Romans, Brass Knuckle Evangelists, The Bamboo Kids at Bowery Electric.
SUNDAY: Fishbone, Paranoid Social Club at Brooklyn Bowl (though that’s the only show on Sunday.)
You can check out My Social List’s full CBGB Festival lineup here.
Peter Rittweger of My Social List