Back circa this post, I got in a conversation over on social media about how bringing certain New York City live-music venues back from the grave wouldn't really work, because their survival would be contingent on a cultural climate that doesn't really exist anymore, or at least not in the same manner, in 2018. Obviously, it'd be nifty if spots like the Mudd Club and Danceteria were still going, but the particular aesthetics that fueled those endeavors are now completely dated and anachronistic, by today's standards. Thus, they would have to re-invent themselves, inevitably shedding everything that previously defined them as "cool" … whatever that term means anymore.
In any case, while discussing the notion of "what places would you bring back?", my friend Elizabeth summed it up nicely…
My answer is utterly predictable as well but it's like if you were asked which 20th Century figure would you go back in time and assassinate do you try and be clever to come up with something edgy or do you just say Hitler and get on with it? Longwindedly, CBGB.
CBGB -- above, as captured by me in 1995 -- was a shoulda-been-landmark whose troubled, acrimonious demise was both specific and symbolic. Not only was it the loss of yet another storied venue wherein to see live music, but its removal from the cityscape of downtown Manhattan almost poetically signified the death of an era. That its place was swiftly taken by a bespoke boutique selling Green Day shirts for $88.00 only cemented the fact that -- yea verily -- times had changed.
But I responded with my "technically, Stalin killed more people than Hitler"--style confession that, as much as it deeply pained me to see CBGB go, I'd be lying if I said I'd attended a show there in the last five years before it closed.
Now, granted, in those years shortly before CB's was forcibly pushed off its perch on the Bowery, my life had indeed changed pretty dramatically. I'd gotten married and had a couple of kids. I wasn't out on the tiles quite as much. But, by the same token, with the fleeting exceptions of the all-star commemorative shows in the weeks before its closure (Bad Brains, Dictators, Blondie, etc.), CB's generally stopped hosting bands I cared about. My reasons for not going had less to do with any lack of enthusiasm for the venue, and more to do with the fact that there was no one playing there I wanted to see. Essentially, the club was flying on fumes -- no longer actively supporting any semblance of a thriving scene or specific aesthetic so much as just gradually becoming less discriminating with their booking policy. Some friends of mine suggested its untimely demise was a merciful act of euthanasia, freeing the club from its otherwise slow descent into irrelevance. I think that's a bit harsh, personally, but I suppose it's a harsh world.
Anyway, the official (?) Facebook page of Lubricated Goat (yes, I am a follower) posted the vintage ad below today, and it wholly reminded me of why CBGB is still worth commemorating and - yes, goddammit - missing. With the exception of the Smashing Pumpkins (who were, are and always will be …. crap), it's an amazing and endearingly frenetic line-up of bands. I assumed this was from about 1989 or 1990, but my intrepid friend Ted discerned it to be 1991. Go know.