In 1973, on Bleecker Street in the borough of Manhattan, a man named Hilly Kristal founded what was to be one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring music venues in the world. Originally intended to showcase bands of the Country, BlueGrass and Blues progression, as the selected name would suggest, CBGB quickly became a hot spot for underground bands like Ramones, The Strokes, Misfits, Blondie, and many more.
After a long legacy, on Oct. 15, 2006, Patti Smith gave the old club its sendoff before it closed its doors two weeks later. Through retail and preservation of the old location, the spirit of CBGB has been kept well alive long after its departure. Thankfully, in 2012, the CBGB Festival got started to showcase filmmakers, musicians, photographers, and moguls of the music industry, as a true testament to the ideals of the old location.
Music Showcases: At The Center Of Everything
While there are plenty of notable acts delivering the deafening and always energetic performances that we’ve all come to know and love, CBGB Festival is so much more than just a milking cow for quick profits.
700 performers, many of them unsigned and underground groups from the NJ/NY area, in over 150 venues between Manhattan and Brooklyn, will be making appearances and absolutely destroying the crowd.
Black City Lights will headline The Basement at Leftfield Bar on Oct. 9 before playing at Pianos on Oct. 12.
On Oct. 10, NJ natives Time Will Tell of South Plainfield and Waking Heroes will be appearing at Littlefield, Brooklyn, and the Cake Shop, respectively, and Boston-born band The Ballroom Thieves are scheduled to perform at the Rodeo Bar.
The Ballroom Thieves may be a far cry from the more mainstream effects of some of the other pop groups that will be headlining and tearing up shows this year, but they really bring something unique to the table, and only add to the festival.
Their latest edition, Calin Peters, is a Berklee graduate and had been involved heavily in the MA music scene long before filling the role of cellist left by Rachel Gawell in the trio. The raw elements of acoustic instruments and passionate sincerity gives them a really captivating sound, unrivaled by contemporary folk groups.
Irving Plaza will be hosting what is sure to be unmistakably incredible back-to-back performances by Atlas Genius and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. also on Oct. 10.
Coming from way Down Under in Adelaide, Australia, Atlas Genius is not your run-of-the-mill alternative group. Rather than rushing off to hit show after show, as is the general strategy of most new acts, the group worked for years as a cover band while writing and building their own personal studio.
When they finally did release their first single, “Trojans,” it was to such high reception that a month in, they were getting flooded with emails from record labels, many of them overseas.
Atlas Genius are easily one of the best alternative groups on the market today, and their live performance is something no one should ever miss out on. Fun, flawless and full of energy are just some of the words that can describe what you’re ultimately in for when these boys hit the ground running.
While the name may be a bit of a mouthful, Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. are by no means a group you want to miss either.
Often times pop music can come across as labored and generic, as there’s only so many ways you can make the same rhythm and effects hook your audience. However, this is an indie pop act that never suffers from a case of the mundane. “If You Didn’t See Me (Then You Weren’t On The Dancefloor)” is a track that will literally sweep you off your feet and give you a reason to stick around to see what else the duo can deliver.
Finally on Oct. 12, in the newly reopened Cutting Room on East 32nd Street, Lez Zeppelin are scheduled to perform three songs.
Film Screenings: The CBGB Story
While music is the prime focus on many minds for this festival, it’s also offering something for film enthusiasts.
On day one, CBGB: The Movie, the film based on the behind-the-scenes story of the beginnings of the Bleecker Street club and the U.S. punk movement, will be making its theatrical premiere at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, where it will be played in every theater.
The movie stars Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal, Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry of Blondie, Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters) as Iggy Pop, Mickey Sumner as Patti Smith, Rupert Grint as Cheetah Chrome of Dead Boys, and Johnny Galecki as record executive Terry Ork, among many others.
The ensemble cast is just one thing to stay for, as the film promises to chronicle the creation of the most easily recognizable names in underground music and the movement that spawned a generation of artists, all of which had a hand in the influence of our contemporary works being produced today.
While there will be other films making their East Coast and U.S. premieres during the five-day festival, this one truly stands out.
A look back through the eyes of everyone who was involved is just what we need to open up this party and ignite old flames, and with a cast of incredible actors playing the roles of some of the biggest names in music history, it promises to bring all that and more.
Seymour Stein And The Confab That Follows
On day one, the festival will honor Seymour Stein, co-founder of Sire Records and vice president of Warner Bros. Records, with the first ever inaugural CBGB Icon Award.
The award was created to honor those who support artists in truly meaningful ways. In his lengthy career in the record industry, Stein has signed multiple CBGB bands like Ramones, The Dead Boys and Talking Heads, and brought about an era of musical change the likes of which New York—and for that matter, the world—would be a far duller place without.
Van Toffler, president of Viacom Music & Logo Group, will be making a special appearance as the keynote speaker for this year’s confab, scheduled for Oct. 10 at Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
Following his address in the way of music conferences will be Dan Pelson (Pop Market), David Jacobs (Mark Music & Media Law), Erin McKeown and Dawn Kammerling (founder and CEO of The Press House), just to scratch the surface of multiple speakers that will be present throughout New York between Oct. 10-13. They will be offering priceless opinions about the state of the music industry and what it takes to make it in the business.
To open up the floor of film conferences, Joe Amodei, Ben Braun and Seth Needle will be speaking at an event called The New Movie Business: Help! The Young Folks Are Taking Over.
The speakers will mainly focus on how acquisition executives play a serious role in choosing what films the business wants to represent, and whether the young executives who track films, screen movies at festivals and do just about anything else asked of them is really the best way to break into the business.
They’ll be sharing their stories and giving firsthand accounts of what it’s like to be working in the film industry and in that regard.
Amongst others, there will informative and educational panels consisting of veteran photographers and filmmakers from the music scene and beyond, presenting workshops and sharing their stories with all that choose to attend.
Ultimately, every day of this festival will be a good one, because fans and patrons of the arts will get to experience the lasting remnants of CBGB and the warmth it brought to all the artists produced in its decades of operation.
Whether you were around for the beginning, entered right at the end, or never got the chance to experience what the legendary club had to offer, this festival will find you well. Art, film, and music showcases aim to celebrate not just the history of one of the most distinguished and celebrated happy accidents of this or any generation, but the life and times of current artists trying to break out in the industry.
CBGB gave life to some of the best work that ever spawned from the Northeast, and without it, the scene as we know it today might be a very different place.
With its spirit still intact, withstanding the test of time even after the doors have been closed for almost seven years, it will not soon be forgotten and surely will forever remain battered, but never beaten.