The Capital of Punk
The story about one bar that changed the world and where you can find this bar today.
“Yes, I don’t remember everything from CBGB. I actually remember quite a bit, but that was fun.”
- Iggy Pop
If you will ask a British guy “Where was punk born?”, he definitely will answer “In UK with Johny’s rotten teeth and revolution of Sex Pistols.” People from the U.S will say that punk was entangled in Joey Ramone’s dirty hair on CBGB’s stage. However, the real story of punk began little bit earlier in a small basement in Connecticut, where two guys founded a magazine and named it “PUNK”.
First articles in this magazine described bands at CBGB and the whole atmosphere of this crazy place. What about me, I think that punk was born with sounds of New York Dolls’ high-hills in 1973, about a year before the CBGB’s opening. Anyway, without this bar, punk could have burned and died without having a playground for concerts.
CBGB. Opened in December 1973 on 315 Bowery, Manhattan. Closed in 2006. One of the most famous bars in the world and one of the most influential. Dirty and dusty place, too dark and too small to be fancy. The stage where punk was raised. Where the spirit of depression and disagreement collided to create a movement that changed the boring lives of a new generation. They didn’t believe in American dream any more. They wanted to change old stupied traditions. Fuck your responsibility and fuck your future. Fuck the society. They screamed and fought each other, did drugs and had sex in the dirty restrooms of local rock pubs. They brought people destruction and anarchy. They were slobs and losers. Don’t teach me how I have to live my own life. And never call me hippie again or I’ll hit you in the face with your silly smile. They were a symbol of new time. The Renaissance of human liberty. Do what you want and don’t care what others will say.
All these young and rebellious people came in the evenings to CBGB and listened to the pioneers of punk. Ramones. The Dictators. Richard Hell and the Voidoids. The Dead Boys. The Shirts. Iggy Pop. Blondie. Patty Smith. Misfits. The Damned.
Whole punk culture was based around one nasty bar. Just in case, CBGB means Country, BlueGrass, and Blues. The founder of CBGB Hilly Kristal wasn’t a punk. He could never imagine that one day his bar will be famous as the cradle of punk. Nobody could. Except Iggy Pop. In one of the first interviews for “PUNK” magazine he said, that CBGB is already part of music history, the question is how big this part could be.
CBGB’s had two rule: a band must move its own equipment and play original songs. No covers. No old fashioned music. Only new songs, that reflect the social mood of an average New Yorker. Maybe, this is a recipe for success for all music bars and pubs.
CBGB was a punk place, until the 1980s when hardcore happened and settled on the same stage with punk and post-punk. Hardcore, alcohol and drugs, young junkies. This brutal cocktail lead to violence and aggression in the small crowded bar. Thats how Mosh appeared. But CBGB was not the best place for hardcore concerts, so Hilly Kristal stoped inviting hardcore bands. Yet CBGB brought hardcore back at times.
CBGB continued to be one of the best live concerts place in New York. Until in 2005 CBGB was sued for $90,000 in rent. They normally paid monthly $19,000. The court decided in favor of Hilly, but he understood that the landlord wouldn’t stop his attempts to raise the lease. So, Hilly agreed that the rent has to rise, but not so much. However, the human greed has no limits, and the landlord was trying to push the price higher, until CBGB closed. The final show on October 15, 2006 was played by Patti Smith. In 10 months the founder of the legendary bar died and the whole epoch ended with him.
Did punk in the Big apple die with CBGB?
Of course not, but today we don’t have something as big as CBGB. Especially, after Market Hotel closed this year. It was one of the coolest stages for live concerts based in Bushwick with an amazing view of the subway behind playing bands.
And Don Pedro will close soon. It was the most famous punk stage for new bands.
So, what do we have today?
125 E 11th St, New York
It’s not a bar, but definitely is the biggest punk stage in New York now. From the classic punk to all your favorite bands of 2007 play here. Too big to feel the unity with a playing bands, but Webster Hall doesn’t pretend to be a new punk icon. It’s just a stage with good equipment and professional sound engineers. May and June in Webster Hall are:
Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes
Joey Ramone Birthday Bash
Taking Back Sunday
17 Irving Pl, New York
The Format of this place is very similar to the previous one. Good stage, good equipments, good light. Very different bands play and very different people come here. But Irving Plaza doesn’t have the punk spirit and you can see it in eyes of people that work there.
150 Greenpoint Ave, Brooklyn
Brooklyn Bazaar is a very famous New York place with art exhibitions, a market and live events. No, they do not focus on punk, but they have great punk performances sometime. A lot of small local bands, pop-punk karaoke and open stage for jam makes this place nice.
1120 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn
Maybe, Saint Vitus is the only one real punk stage in New York now. But they have punk and metal, and prog. Kind of everything. However, this place has a soul of punk. You can feel the vibes near the stage when an unknown band sweats and cries into a broken-down microphone.