It’s hard to get nostalgic about a place that smelled like piss and beer, but CBGBs, I’ll miss you. I’ll remember fondly how the house soundman asked loudly through the stage monitors, during the middle of an eleventh dream day encore, “Are you guys gonna be up there much longer?”
It was the classic New York rudeness a Midwesterner expected. Now everyone there in the city is so damned nice. The microphone was used by at least five bands a night and smelled like it. Many bands I know got their vans broken into by the crackheads around the corner while they played inside. The bathrooms required wading boots. But I loved hanging out backstage. I loved seeing a Tom Verlaine solo show in the early eighties as I kept getting burned by the hot water pipes next to the stage. My favorite thing though was hanging out after the show next to the Bleeker and Bowery street signs where an image of Patti Smith will always live in my head.
I haven’t been around there much in the last ten years, but I understand things look different. The first walk I took down there in 1980 took me past the Bowery flophouses that the Bowery was long known for. When punk rock moved in it was frontier land; where else can a scene start, but in a place no one else wants. Ask Sue Miller in Chicago, who booked clubs at locations that would be hard to imagine now as anything less than the high rent gentrified frat houses that they turned into. At one time the West End, Cubby Bear, and Lounge Ax all had the kind of vibe that made CBGBs a home, not a house. But neighborhoods change. Wicker Park? Ouch. So the new CBGBs is coming to Vegas. Just promise that when you use the bathroom, take aim a few inches beyond the urinal for old time’s sake.