13 September 2006


It looks like CBGB, the punk rock shrine on the Bowery, which has been fighting for it life in the press for more than a year now, will not prevail. Halloween is the closing date, according to most accounts. So, if you want to feel edgy, or at least grungy, and stare at the stage where The Talking Heads, The Ramones, Blondie and Telvision once stood, or staggered, and where much lousier bands have held sway in recent decades, better go soon.

The reason for its death is the usual one: a rent dispute with its landlord, the Bowery Residents Committe, which is run by one Muzzy Rosenblatt—a colorful New Yawky name just suited to face off against CBGB's owner, Hilly Crystal. Hilly vs. Muzzy. You can't make this stuff up.

I wish it weren't so—if any place ranks as a musical landmark in the city, it's this dank hole—but I'm not as sad as I thought I'd be, for two reasons. One: rock palaces always have a clock ticking somewhere in the corner. Max's Kansas City, The Bottom Line, Studio 54, etc. The shelf life is brief. They live while the music they specialize in is vital, and die quickly after. It has to be that way, because nothing is sadder or more ridiculous that a rock club that stays open for tradition's sake. CBGB lasted longer than most, but even its supporters agree its prime rounded the bend somewhere in the early '80s. It's been riding on it laurels and t-shirt sales ever since.

The second reason is Hilly. I don't know him well, but everything I've seen and every quote I've read suggests this is a man who can precede you into a revolving door and come out the other side behind you. He comes off as a shyster, lying and cheating his way through life, plying yet another con so he can slide through another day. It's hard to support CBGB when Crystal is it's public face. It's also hard to root against Bowery Residents' Committee, which is actually a nonprofit that provides housing and social services to the homeless. (Even if their wish to increase the rent more than three times to $50,000 a month proves nonprofits can be greedheads as good as the best of them.)

Appropriately enough, given his penchant for selling merchandise, Crystal has said he may reopen CBGB's in, of all place, Vegas.

P.S.—I saw a kid in my son's kindergarten class wearing a CBGB t-shirt. It already seems very retro.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm not even a live music fan, but I'm not really a Leonardo Da Vinci fan, either, and I still understand that shutting down the Louvre would suck. Anyhow, I found this blog because I have to post about how much I now hate and despise the Bowery Residents' Committee before I start ranting about this at work.