After a 33-year residence as an iconic, groundbreaking venue in downtown New York, CBGB’s
has officially closed its doors. The city’s music scene will continue to thrive, and – admittedly – CBGB’s hadn’t “launched” a worthwhile band in years. Still, the nightclub will be remembered as a pioneering venue, one that offered shows to virtually unknown bands during a time of economic recession, high crime, and urban decay. In the 1970s, most New York venues wouldn’t even book a band without a recording contract. CBGB’s booked them anyway, and many groups scored contracts after
their time there.
Although owner Hilly Kristal originally envisioned his club as a home for C
rass, and B
lues music, CBGB’s quickly turned into something else. Television played a Sunday-night gig in early ’74, a full three years before debut album Marquee Moon
put their name on the map. That same summer, an unsigned punk band called the Ramones scored a residency at the nightclub. As the years progressed, CBGB’s started featuring shows by such newcomers at Patti Smith, The Talking Heads, Alex Chilton, and Blondie. It became a launching pad for new music, emerging genres, and improved relationships between music venues and the bands they booked.
In the age of the Internet, underground bands have a tremendous advantage over their 1970s counterparts. Grimy rock clubs are no longer the sole perpetrators of new music. But as new websites materialize and offer exposure to emerging bands, it’s important to remember places like CBGB’s – places that took a chance, stood by the music it believed in, and fought the good fight for 30+ years. New music will live on in its absence.