The Formative Years – Iconic venues, Pt. 1
How could a series on iconic venues possible start without paying homage to one of the most legendary rock venues in the history of music, i.e. CBGB’s. With a history dating back to the early 1970s, it would be impossible to ever do justice to the significance of the place and what it meant for a myriad of artists and musical styles as a forum and maternity ward and launch pad for underground bands.
Having been socialised with punk and hardcore, what I learned about 315 Bowery from afar in the new world took on almost mythical proportions, framed and enhanced by live recordings, photographic evidence and specifically Bri Hurley’s Making a Scene: New York Hardcore in Photos, Lyrics, and Commentary, which painted a picture of CBGB’s as the third place for punk and hardcore protagonists.
Needless to say, upon my first visit to the US, I had to experience it myself in all its grimy beauty.
I vividly recall venturing there by myself, prepared for an evening dedicated to taking it all in as an observant. Upon stepping over the threshold, the first person I met was Army veteran, Hardcore/Punk rock icon, accomplished gentleman and CBGB jack-of-all-trades, Brendan Rafferty.
We only had met a few months prior during the European tour of his band SFA, where for one of the local dates he and his worthy constituents were accommodated in the woods not too far from my parent’s house, an occurrence which he immediately remembered. He introduced me to everyone, showed me around (including a tour of one of the most remarkable bathroom facilities, which have been immortalized in the Met’s PUNK: Chaos to Couture exhibition), and the next five nights of my stay in NYC I visited him and CB’s at the end of every night to watch whoever played there, meet quite a few of the characters of the NYHC scene and party with new acquaintances. On my last night after closing CBGB’s down for the day, Brendan and I shot the shit into the wee hours of the morning sitting at the front desk – I almost missed my early morning flight back and would not have made it without him giving me a lift to pick up my bags.
Many visits followed over the next years, all of which are associated with great memories, with the last one in 2004, two years before it officially closed its doors on October 15th, 2006.
CBGB’s was much more than a venue and a landmark, it was a cultural incubator, whose significance reverberates to this very day.
image (uncredited) from www.cbgb.com