Late last week, our own Jane Van Arsdale chimed in with John Varvatos’ overtaking of iconic rock club CBGB with his boutique store. Seymour Winterbush remembers the CBGB of old.
CBGB. I have memories of a dirty, gritty, sleazy venue that identified with the lower east side of the past. A place that hosted New York City hardcore bands like Warzone, Sick of it All, 108, V.O.D, Murphy’s Law, Fahrenheit 451, No Redeeming Social Value, Stillsuit, Shift, Die 116, Mind over Matter, H2O, Crown of Thornz and 25 ta Life (to name a few). A place with the most horrible bathroom in New York. A place that hosted a real scene with bands that were (gulp) relevant to the time. Most importantly, I remember a place that had history.
I remember the Sunday matinee shows that lasted the whole day- just so many bands for the price of one ticket. The best part was that if you didn’t like a certain band that was playing you could walk out and roam the neighborhood, maybe grab a 40oz, drink it outside the show, and enter back in whenever you wanted. Man, was New York different back then.
The bands I saw here were tough, raw, full of energy, and ignited the crowd. Those bands never held back and neither did the crowd. I saw the Hare Krishna hardcore band, 108 perform there and the place nearly exploded. To this day- it is still one of my favorite shows. I saw Lifetime, the punk, emo-core band from NJ rip it up here too. The same with Stillsuit. Dancing (or as most know it now- “moshing”) was a must. Punches and kicks were thrown but never (usually) purposefully at you. It was a place and scene where you could release all of your frustrations from everyday life and really emerge as yourself.
For me the memories have faded away just like the New York of those days. Grit has now become glitz. Cheap to overpriced. The squatters have vacated the premises to set up shop somewhere else. Even this author’s musical tastes have changed (I am going to She & Him shows now!). I guess time definitely changes people and places. Just like the New York City hardcore scene has vanished, so have the memories of CBGB’s. Now a John Varvatos store, the venue is preserved but do the people visiting the store know the difference?
- Seymour Winterbush