On the Bowery in New York City in the 1970s, a crappy little bar would become a monument in the history of rock & roll. For 33 years, CBGB & OMFUG, or Country, Blue Grass, Blues, and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers, was located at 315 Bowery & Bleecker Street. The club was founded in 1973 by owner Hilly Kristal, who originally intended to host artists in the genres that the title implies, but in bands like The Ramones and Television, who were the first punk bands to play the venue, Kristal found a pleasant surprise – not only a new breed of rock music, but a new anti-establishment attitude and a fashion and performance style that would be remembered and emulated for decades to come.
Other groups like The Talking Heads, Blondie, and The Patti Smith Group made the club famous, but as punk died CBGB still functioned as a popular venue for emerging artists up until it closed down.
Kristal owed tens of thousands of dollars in back rent to the Bowery Residents Committee, and after a legal battle ensued and rent was eventually doubled, keeping CBGB open was simply unaffordable. On October 15, 2006, the club hosted its final show, and on October 31, the CBGB store closed down, eliminating an important landmark from the Bowery forever.
Ideas to reconstruct CBGB in Las Vegas were not materialized, as Hilly Kristal passed away in 2007 from lung cancer at the age of 75. The original awning and many other artifacts from the club, such as some sound equipment, some of the walls, and a urinal can be found at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Annex NYC, located at 76 Mercer Street, about a ten minute walk from Bowery & Bleecker. The website, www.cbgb.com, is still up and running, and provides interesting information about the history of the club, links to the online store, a cool 360 degree virtual tour.
Today, 315 Bowery & Bleecker Street is home to a John Varvatos store, which opened in 2008. It’s a great place to go if you’re in the market for all things leather and grossly overpriced, or if you just want to take in what remains of the walls of CBGB, which were covered in graffiti, fliers, stickers, and possibly a decent amount of blood and other bodily fluids (rock & roll!).
Though the infamous club no longer remains and the street seems to have mellowed over the past three years, Bowery & Bleecker Street is still a highly recommended area for the music fanatic or the modern day beatnik looking for something to do over the weekend. Some of the gems in the immediate vicinity include the Morrison Hotel Gallery of music photography next door to the Varvatos store, he Bowery Poetry Club across the street, and Think coffee shop, a quaint shop with Fair Trade shade grown and organic coffee that is open daily until 11:30 p.m.
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