Punk’s not dead– it’s just super expensive. One of the very few CBGB awnings EVER made was sold at an auction this past weekend, and the prediction that it would cost a dumb amount of money was spot on. How much is a dumb amount of money, you ask? Approximately $30,000.
Over the weekend, a reader sent us a photo of the John Varvatos store, with the subject line “RIP JV?”
“WTF?” he wrote. “Just took this pic. Doors are boarded up.”
While wandering from gallery to gallery yesterday in the Lower East Side, soaking up a pair of museum-like nostalgia exhibitions focusing on at least one part if not all of a few-decades long span from Warhol’s Factory days through the ’90s club kid scene, I started thinking about a conversation I’d had with one JJ Brine, Satanic gallerist extraordinaire. Before JJ took off for Vanuatu (btw according to his Facebook page, he made it just fine), he explained he was departing indefinitely because he was frustrated with what he understood as New York City’s unusual fixation on the past at the expense of devoting energy to the future. I couldn’t have agreed more, but somehow The Last Party and Michael Alig’s appropriately-titled solo exhibition, Inside / Out succeed in drawing a line, however crooked, between the past and the present and making this nostalgia part of current existence. How? Well, I felt as though I could almost see myself in some of the blurry old party photos and even the creepy clown-like painted odes to various poisons of choice.
Once upon a time there were things called subcultures, that managed to thrive despite promotion through “social channels” or sponsorships from energy drinks. Since 1980, 156 Rivington Street has been a subculture enclave for activists, artists, counter culturists, and assorted noisemakers, providing a non-profit space to exchange ideas and physically interact. It’s not secret that the hardcore punk scene was once a magnet for such individuals, so when the storied matinee shows at CBGB became too violent in the late-’80s, punk turned off the Bowery to Rivington Street to ABC No Rio.
It’s not often you see Monty Python and John Lydon in the space of a week, but there was Britain’s other living legend at St. Vitus last night, chatting with Pitchfork’s Jenn Pelly about his new autobiography Anger Is an Energy. The book, out this week, tells how a childhood bout with meningitis shaped his personality (“I’m a shy, sensitive kind of fellow,” he insisted to the incredulous crowd at St. Vitus) and then goes on to recount his trailblazing and troublemaking with the Sex Pistols, Public Image Ltd., and, of course, his later dalliances with reality tv (that time he showed off his “fried-egg breasts” in I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!) and butter commercials (“the most anarchistic thing I’ve ever been presented with”).
No band is more identified with the East Village than the Ramones. The band’s performances at Hilly Kristal’s CBGB and other neighborhood venues defined punk rock forever. In 2003, the corner of the Bowery and Second Street near CBGB was officially named Joey Ramone Place. Over time, members of the group lived, drank and hung out in the East Village.
Last week we were psyched to discover that YouTube had teamed up with CBGB to import original elements of the club (the cash register, parts of the walls, etc.) into its newly opened YouTube Space in Chelsea.
When YouTube opened one of its public production facilities in Los Angeles, the head of the project cited CBGBs as the sort of community hub they were trying to create. “We like to say the new Debbie Harry will meet the next Ramones here and a great partnership will be born,” he told FT. Now a fourth YouTube Space has opened in New York with elements of the actual CBGB in place.
Few people personify the downtown New York aesthetic like Chris Stein. As the guitarist of Blondie, he’s helped to define—and defy—what people talk about when they talk about New York. Fortunately for us, he was documenting his adventures in the dangerous old New York, as proven in his book of photographs. These were shown at the Chelsea Hotel in September, and a new show opened yesterday on the other side of the pond at the Somerset House in London.
Let’s face it, CBGB is long gone — even if organizers of this month’s CBGB Festival are trying to bring it back in the form of a LES club and, um, a microdistillery. But across the street from its old location, rock and roll can never die — thanks to some ceramic microphones, drumsticks and bottles of Jack.