CBGB, the legendary club which was a stomping ground for the original New York City punk scene of the mid-1970s, is back in the spotlight with a feature film starring Alan Rickman, plans for a traveling festival, and possibly a new venue.
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter) will star in CBGB, a feature film about the NYC club due to start shooting late summer, directed by Randall Miller and written by Jody Savin. According to the BBC, Rickman will play the club’s owner Hilly Kristal in CBGB, which will tell the story of how he opened the venue in 1973.
CBGB closed its doors in October 2006 after 33 years, but it’s now going on the road to scores of small clubs in Manhattan and Brooklyn this July as part of a four-day festival named in its honor, according to The New York Times. The festival, which will sport film screenings, panels, and over 300 bands, will eventually culminate in a large Central Park Summerstage concert on July 7th and will showcase acts like post-post-post punks Rocket From the Tombs and 80’s hardcore group The Cro Mags, and other lesser known bands as well. The organizers modeled this new festival after Austin’s SXSW annual gathering.
There’s also talk among new investors of reopening a new version of CBGB (which stands for Country, Blue Grass, and Blues) in a new location in Lower Manhattan. (The original club nested itself on Bleeker Street in Manhattan from 1973 to 2006.) With the death of its original owner, Hilly Kristal (a progenitor in essence of the original wave of punk music to some degree) in 2007, a few red herrings emerge here in making the new version of CBGB come to fruition for this new generation. The original club was marred with plenty of ownership troubles, eventually closing down a few years ago. A storage facility in Williamsburg, Brooklyn has most of the items from the original club from the actual bar itself to some set lists. The new group of investors, some of which were part of the original club, remain staunch in their approach that the new club would not be a “museum piece” to curious tourists, but would try and retain the intrinsic value of the old CBGB, which would basically provide a physical forum for original bands. And last but not least, there’s also been talk of making a film about the club, done in the same vein as the films about the club Studio 54 were made two decades ago, using actors to tell the story as opposed to making a straight documentary. Casting has been underway since early May and the BBC News in England has reported that Alan Rickman (Die Hard) is set to play Kristal.
The original club showcased, cultivated, and eventually introduced to the country bands like The Ramones, Television, The Dead Boys, The Heartbreakers, The Dictators, Talking Heads, and Blondie among countless others, and it also became a headquarters for all the members of those bands and scores of fans from all around the city and even the Tri-State area. In its wake after that first wave, CBGB’s became one of New York City’s most storied clubs, a haven for musicians and bands to add as a benchmark to their resumes if they had played there.
However far removed the new club and festival is from the great music, flavor, and attitude of the original club remains to be seen. One thing is for sure, as more information becomes available, the perception of the new CBGB versus the old is going to be as divided as the attitudes towards the punks and punk music were all those decades ago.
[Source: BBC | NY Times via AV Club]