CBGB’s

Legendary Venues: CBGB

About 2 weeks ago I was hired for a gig at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ. My position for the show was since cut, but at the time I was super stoked to work a show there. For those who don’t know, The Stone Pony is a legendary venue known for launching the careers of famed New Jersey rockers Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen. It got me thinking about music venues. There’s plenty of famous venues across the country and I should probably write about them some time. So here we are. I thought at first I’d write one epic blog post about a bunch of them, but then I figured it would get too long. Instead, I’ll be doing a new blog series spotlighting each one. The first on that list is one of the most legendary venues I can think of, CBGB (& OMFUG).

The now defunct CBGB was founded in 1973 by Hilly Kristal. CBGB, which stands for “Country Bluegrass Blues” (& “Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers”), was located at 315 Bowery in the Bowery neighborhood of Lower Manhattan, NYC. CBGB originally was opened to house the genres it was named for but became a haven for late 70’s punk rock bands. It is often referred to as the birth place of punk rock. The venue gave rise to many bands who frequented it’s grounds like The Ramones, Patti Smith, Blondie, Television, Talking Heads, Misfits, The Dead Boys, and Joan Jett. It’s decor was somewhat legendary too. Graffiti covered the walls of the venue making CBGB look just as edgy and original as the bands who played there.

In the 1980’s it became a mainstay for hardcore bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front, Youth of Today, Sick of It All, Cro-Mags, and Murphy’s Law. By the 90’s, bands like Green Day, Sum-41, and Korn became synonymous with the famed venue.

CBGB operated until the mid 00’s when rent became an issue and forced its closure in October of 2006. Patti Smith played the final show at CBGB on October 15th of that year. Since its closure, the site where CBGB once stood has transformed into a John Varvatos retail store, but remnants of its existence still stand. Outside the store, the pavement is engraved with the marker “CBGB 73” to commemorate the venue’s existence and the year in which it was founded. The store itself pays homage to the venue through its decor as well.

I first learned about CBGB shortly before it closed in 2006. At the time my music of choice was from alternative genres like indie, emo, punk, ska, and hardcore, so the venue had a significance to me. Although I listened to more modern bands from those genres I went through a period where I listened to classic punk bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and The Clash. Besides the music, the culture of punk rock really stood out to me, making the CBGB seem like the coolest venue ever. After learning about The Ramones and more about punk rock history, I added The Ramones classic logo band tee along with a CBGB t-shirt to my collection. I wore both with pride. By the time I realized I wanted to visit the CBGB though, it was about ready to close its doors. After it closed, I remember thinking I should just go see it, even if it was only from the outside, but I didn’t visit NYC much then so it never happened. In fact, even though I visit NYC more now, I always forget that I still need to make a stop at 315 Bowery even if it is just a John Varvatos store.

Though the venue ceases to exist, it’s still a prominent tourist spot in NYC. There was also a music festival honoring the legendary venue from 2012-2014. I actually had CBGB feels while writing this because I just watched my favorite band play a “Blitzkrieg Bop” cover last night knowing I’ll never get to see The Ramones play it in the place that made them famous. Even though the venue isn’t around anymore, its spirit is still alive and well making CBGB & OMFUG one of, if not the most legendary music venues ever.

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The Film Playlist: Bandslam

So far, every movie that has been a part of The Film Playlist has been an adult movie. By adult movie, I mean a movie that has a PG-13 or an R rating. The latest addition to the playlist is a drug, sex, curse word free coming of age film though. It’s rated PG. The first time I saw this movie was in the summer of 2010. I think I rented it from Blockbuster before all the Blockbusters closed. I decided on the flick because I occasionally enjoy the simple family style movie and this one looked pretty cool. It did have to do with music after all. To my surprise, after seeing it, I can say it’s the most underrated movie I’ve seen in the past 10 years. So if there are any surprises on the playlist, it’s this one, Bandslam.

Bandslam was released in 2009 and stars Aly Michalka, Gaelan Connell, Vanessa Hudgens, and Lisa Kudrow. It was written by Josh A. Cagan and Todd Graff and directed by Todd Graff. The movie also contains one of the final film appearances by the late great David Bowie. Yes, if you read my blog about David Bowie a few weeks ago, this is the film I was talking about. Bowie has a cameo appearance but plays a small role in the story line since the main character frequently writes e-mails to the legendary music artist and claims himself to be Bowie’s biggest fan. The first line of the film is actually “Dear David Bowie,” and then proceeds with a reading of one of the main character’s e-mails with “Rebel, Rebel” playing in the background.

In the film, the main character, Will Burton (Connell) is a new student at his high school after he and his mother (Kudrow) move because of his mother’s new job. Will welcomes the fresh start since he was teased and bullied at his old school. On his first day, he meets a girl named, Sa5m (the 5 is silent) (Hudgens) and discovers the importance of a local Battle of the Bands competition called Bandslam. He also meets a senior named Charlotte (Michalka) who takes him under her wing once she find out about Will’s love and knowledge of music. As a former member of the most popular band at school and Bandslam competitor, Ben Wheatley and the Glory Dogs, Charlotte convinces Will to be the manager of her new band. Charlotte plans on competing with her new band against Ben Wheatley and the Glory Dogs at Bandslam, since she wants to stick it to her ex-boyfriend and Glory Dog’s frontman, Ben Wheatley.

Despite the simple plot line, both Will and Charlotte have more history and depth to them than you initially realize. When I first saw the film, I was impressed at the turns the story takes throughout the film. It goes even deeper than School of Rock‘s plot, which is similar in the fact that it also involves a Battle of the Bands competition. To be honest, I feel like Bandslam is sex, drugs, and language short of what could be a PG-13 film. The movie even received positive critical reception, despite under-performing at the box office. Supposedly, Summit Entertainment, the production company who released the film was criticized for the poor marketing efforts compared to that of the Twilight Saga, which was also released by Summit around the same time as Bandslam.

The music selection featured in the film is also impressive. After I saw the movie, I looked up songs from it and downloaded several of them. The soundtrack/movie features David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Nick Drake, Wilco, Peter, Bjorn, & John, and several other great indie bands, along with covers of “I Want You To Want Me” and “Everything I Own” by Aly Michalka and Vanessa Hudgens that were featured in the film, respectively.

Much like a hidden gem of a song you find in the middle of a playlist, mixtape, or an album, Bandslam is the hidden gem of The Film Playlist. It’s that movie you may not have heard of but is so essential for any music fan to see. I mean, there’s even a scene where Will and Sa5m visit the closed down version of CBGB’s before the legendary punk rock music club was transformed to a clothing store. Bandslam is more than meets the eye whether you’re looking for a good movie to check out or underrated music movie masterpiece. I would recommend it to huge music fans and casual music listeners alike.