This article originally appeared in the 10.17.13 issue of Metroland
Country and Blue Grass Bar
seen the CBGBs movie yet, which makes this a perfect time to discuss it. I just learned that it was available as a
pay-per-view on DirectTV for the entire month of September. Nice of them to let me know. It “debuted”, sort of, last week in
NYC. And it doesn’t look like it’s even
getting normal theatrical distribution, just one night here and there. Mostly there. I see someone posted the entire movie on
YouTube two weeks ago and only 1000 people or so have bothered to watch
it. Which ought to tell you something.
box office, or lack of, matters, especially for music films. I remember seeing This Is Spinal Tap
the one week it ran at the Northway Mall in a
theater pretty much empty other than the members of Blotto (we were laughing
hysterically) and the members of Visitor (they weren’t). And look what happened to that one. It went to eleven.
about the CBGBs film is as dismal as it is predictable. Ummm, Sting’s daughter as Patti Smith singing
“Because The Night” two years before it was written? Bad lip-synching? It
wasn’t like that?
Yawn. I’ve read numerous reviews saying that Alan
Rickman was horrendously miscast as Hilly Kristal, and I’ve heard from several
friends who knew Kristal well who say Rickman nailed it. I’m guessing it’s a lot better than most
people say. But I’m also guessing it
lacks the substance needed to become a cult film with legs.
wasn’t a habitué of the sad little shithole on the Bowery. I know I went there to
see The Mumps, and maybe The Ramones. Or
maybe The Mumps opened for The Ramones?
Or was that at Harrah? Or did I just
go in, use the bathroom, and flee in abject horror? I remember driving by once in 1977 when
Television was playing there and decided to go uptown to the planetarium
instead. That was stupid.
By the time
my band hit NYC in 1980, CBGBs was long over, propped up mainly by hardcore and
out of town bands playing for little more than bragging rights. We could have played there for a fraction of
what we were getting paid elsewhere, and it just didn’t make any sense. We wouldn’t have fit anyway. It had become kind of a silly place. I remember seeing early photos of Guns and
Roses in their CBGBs shirts and thinking “what poseurs.” Somehow the club chugged
on till 2006, populated by declining numbers of tourists and the delusionally
faithful. It’s now a store for some
high-end fashion designer.
CBGBs is a brand! And last week, in
conjunction with the “release” of the movie, there was the second annual (how
did I miss the first one?) CBGB Music and Film Festival, touted as the largest
music festival in New York. Showcases! Curated exhibits! Industry panels, because nothing says punk
like a panel discussion about
corporate endorsements or song placements in television commercials!
I went down
to see the wonderful Genya Ravan, who was a major figure in the early days of
the club and in the movie. She scored me
a pass for the whole she-bang. Passes
performed at a joint called Leftfield’s in lower Manhattan, in a skinny little
room that held no more than 50 people with a tiny stage in the window. Her band basically stood in a line behind
her. Her dressing room was her car. This is what it’s come to? Trooper that she is, she turned in a fantastic
set, including the classic “I Won’t Sleep On The Wet Spot No More”. I wanted to stay for Cheetah Chrome, but it
was getting late and that skinny little room depressed me.
continued the next night at some “punk club” in Williamsburg. The front room was packed full of hipsters
(don’t get me started), and the skanky back room, the “music festival” room,
was empty except for a really awful hardcore band playing for four 40 year old
guys who attempted to mosh, knocked over a table, and stopped.
CBGBs iPhone app (yup) informed me that The Interlopers were playing in
Manhattan the next night. The core of
the band is three Berkshire kids who are all 2nd
year students now
at Berklee. They started the band in
high school and quickly commanded the respect of what’s left of the Berkshire
music scene. I hadn’t seen them in forever.
They’ve grown into a killer R&B band, snakey grooves, 3-part
harmonies, horns quoting Leonard Bernstein.
To a person they are virtuousos. They’re all around 20. They took the Bolt Bus from Boston that
afternoon and were taking it back that night.
They played in the dark in this basement club. They filled the room and they held it. People were screaming by the end of their
that’s really punk, my friends.
Paul Rapp is an ornery
intellectual property attorney who recently had a Manhattan cocktail at the
Algonquin while trading bon mots with an intellectual.