Manhattan

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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Coachella Band Preview: Grouplove

We are 2 months and 1 week away from Coachella Weekend 1. That means it’s the perfect time to start dusting off those flower headbands. It’s also the perfect time to check out another band playing the festival this year, Grouplove. This band is no stranger to the Indio desert having played Coachella in 2012 and 2014. Their 3rd and latest album was released in September making 2017 the year they make their return to the Empire Polo Fields.

Out of every band I’ve written about, Grouplove has the best formation story of any I’ve learned so far. Usually I’ll tell you where a band comes from, but with Grouplove the members come from all over the map. They officially formed in Los Angeles in 2009, but met before that in Crete at an artist commune in the village of Avdou. Members Hannah Hooper (vocals, keyboards) and Christian Zucconi (vocals, guitar) met on the Lower East Side of Manhattan after Hooper heard Zucconi’s band perform. She fell for him and ended up inviting him to the artist residency in Crete where they met future band members Sean Gadd (bass), Andrew Wessen (guitar, vocals) and Ryan Rabin (drums). Rabin and Wessen were also friends who grew up in Los Angeles. Gadd hails from London, England. The band formed a year after that fateful trip to Crete when Gadd, Hooper, and Zucconi decided to venture out to LA to pay a visit to Rabin’s father’s recording studio (his dad is Trevor Rabin, former guitarist of English rock band Yes).

The band played their first show in LA in 2010 and shortly after toured with Florence and the Machine and The Joy Formidable. Grouplove released their first self-titled EP in early 2011. That same year they joined forces with Foster the People on a co-headlining tour and played several music festivals including Lollapalooza, Glastonbury, and Reading and Leeds. After their busy and travel filled spring and summer, they released their debut album, Never Trust A Happy Song, in September of 2011. Arguably the group’s two biggest singles, “Colours” and “Tongue Tied” were a part of the record. Following the release, Grouplove embarked on a fall North American headlining tour in support of the album. The touring and travel life continued into and through 2012 and included the group’s first stop at Coachella.

They released their sophomore album, Spreading Rumours, in September 2013 almost exactly 2 years after their debut, which brought on another album support tour. This time though Daniel Gleason became a temporary replacement for Sean Gadd, but by the following spring the replacement became permanent. In 2014 the band again played the festival circuit hitting Coachella, Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Lollapalooza.

This past September (clearly the month for Grouplove record releases) Grouplove released their third album, Big Mess, and toured in support of it from August through November. It’s only fitting that the band would play Coachella again after releasing their latest album since they played the festival after their first two releases.

Grouplove is your standard indie band. They play an indie rock/indie pop style of music. I’ve always felt like their songs have this summery sort of vibe. In my opinion their records are the perfect soundtrack to a pool party, laying out on the beach, or taking a road trip along the California coast line with friends. It’s that kind of indie rock.

I first heard of Grouplove in 2011. I feel like that was a prime year for indie rock for me. However though, I never got into Grouplove as a whole. I’ve liked a song here and there, particularly the song “Ways to Go”, but I don’t own any Grouplove albums or have more than a few of their singles on my iTunes. So why am I previewing them for Coachella? Well the reason is I think they’re a great live band. I’ve never seen them in person, but I watched part of their Coachella set in 2014. Their set seemed like so much fun to be at. It made me want to see them in person at a festival. Ideally that festival would be Coachella because their music kind of embodies the Coachella spirit.

Grouplove plays Coachella on Sunday. I recommend going to their set because like I said their music and style perfectly represents the essence of the festival. Their music is good too! I just never got into it like I did with other bands. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it though. If I were attending this year, I’d probably be listening to their music more. Maybe even enough that I might get into them just in time to see them at Coachella. Here’s what you should check out to prep for their set:

  1. Tongue Tied
  2. Ways To Go
  3. Colours
  4. Let Me In
  5. Welcome To Your Life
  6. Itchin’ On A Photograph
  7. Good Morning
  8. Shark Attack
  9. Naked Kids
  10. Do You Love Someone