Will CBGB’s Ever Really Come Back?

News comes that CBGB’s will be revived as a festival and then a club. Investors and even old CBGB’s hands will try to bring it back to life. Whether it will be a glorious resurrection or a Frankenstein-type thing remains to be seen. CBGB’s couldn’t shine Max’s Kansas City’s shoes on most nights, but it was where I gathered to shoot the shit, mingle, and find love. It always had new blood, new wannabe groupie-types being bad in the big city. Yeah, back then I was always looking for love in the wrong kind of places…and in the wrong kind of faces.

It was long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I was at the Academy of Music—now the Palladium Housing on 14th street where Irving dead-ends. I weighed in at a buck 35, wore ripped jeans, pointy boots, and a Ramones T-Shirt; no, not one of the ones you see every day on today’s streets designed by brilliant Ramones artist Arturo Vega—it was a T-shirt an actual Ramone had worn at a show. Yeah, I had washed it, and, yeah, I was down with that. I can’t remember the big band on the big stage, but I know I was bored. So bored that I did a line with an annoying Staten Island couple. It wasn’t coke. I didn’t do much coke or any other drugs for that matter, but I knew this wasn’t it. What it was made me loopy. I ran home. Home wasn’t my walk-up in the ’30s but CBGB’s. It was there that I would hang my head and bop my head and conduct a very raw social life. I was a regular. A regular that was the subject of much debate from parental units, and old friends but rock and roll is a drug I have never been able to get off of. A couple weeks before at the dirty, dingy, rock mecca, Marky Ramone had noticed some suits watching some mullet hair-band. He pointed out the way they were standing was in the formation of bowling pins and he attempted to strike with a trademark large beer mug. I got him away before it was eight on two, which would have turned into thirty on eight, as the cavalry surely would have arrived. It was like that.

I arrived at CB’s on wobbly legs and a confused brain. I told Don, the door guy, the condition my condition was in. He put me up against a wall and told me to stand there so he could keep an eye on me. A Coke kept me occupied. As the world swirled and a rotten band screamed about how bland their suburban lives were, I noticed two hot girls chatting about me with Don. It was all eye contact, giggles, and fun, and I wanted one of them more than the Coke and the wall. The small one, all leathered and laced and bursting with…energy, came up to me and pressed up against my punk profile. Sharp black nails made her point. She looked up at me with black eyes surrounded by smeared black makeup and asked me, "Are you some sort of rock star or something, or are you just good in bed?” I replied very cleverly that "I was no rock star" and she concluded that I "must be good in bed" I won’t bore you with the next few hours. It was a typical CB’s story. A typical wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am story. My golden rule of the time was to never, ever go home with a girl whose hair could hurt you. But…rules were made to be broken. The Bowery was a littered shoreline of broken rules and hopes and dreams.

Sure, some came for the bands, and a few among the thousands who came and had their dreams shattered on the rock chops of that Manhattan stage did break on through to the other side. You know their names—they are legendary. Everyone came through CBGB’s. The good, the bad, and the ugly all had their place.

A hundred places still have a stage and a room and the ambitions to replace it, but none have come close. None had Hilly Crystal. CBGB’s without Hilly is like Casablanca’s Rick’s Café American without Humphrey Bogart’s Rick. Clubs have leaders and personalities at their helm. McDonald’s can fly without Ray Kroc and Kentucky Fried without the colonel, but Studio without Steve Rubell was never Studio. John Varvatos occupies the old space and does so without being an occupier or invader. When CB’s ended over a rent dispute, it wasn’t near as relevant as the T-shirts still seen everywhere. Everything looks good after it’s gone. Shoot, when Jim Croce died he sold zillions of records. Everyone needed his junkyard dog track after he passed—not so much before.

The CBGB’s Festival talk is about Guided By Voices and that’s a wow. Three-hundred bands will play NYC venues large and small in a CMJ Music Festival-like format. The Cro-Mags will headline a hardcore show at Webster Hall. Williamsburg venues will be included. It sounds like a great idea. Time will tell whether it will just be a bunch of entrepreneurs picking at the bones of a brand or if Hilly’s spirit will somehow be felt. Will the new CBCB’s venue capture that spirit? Is it possible to recreate spirit? I remember all those lame attempts to recreate Woodstock, which of course never happened. The energies of places happen organically. I hate that phrase—it’s so fucking crunchy—but in this case I think it applies.

The success of CB’s, the spirit of it, came of course from the boldface bands that made it famous, like The Ramones, The Talking Heads, Blondie, The Police, and such. I believe that a great deal of its spirit came from the forgotten bands who put it all in what sometimes was the pinnacle of their careers, even though their audience was sometimes nothing more than bored staff and a few drunk regulars. They had loaded up the van with dreams of super stardom and stadiums and all the trappings of fame riding with them. They mostly left those dreams and that energy and their hopes on that stage. It remained there, and those who paid attention could feel it like grandmother’s ghost at Thanksgiving dinner. How many hundreds of thousands loaded in and out? How many trips home were in silence or heated arguments? Everyone left a little behind. I suspect that the rebirth will be merely OK. It’s hard to make money on live music, so there’s a danger that the place will just flitter into a glorified T-shirt store for the tourist trade. I don’t think it will do well if it tries to go back. Tim Hayes, a principal, said somewhere, “We want to make room for some of the legends that came from CBGB, but the primary focus is to support new music.” I think that makes sense and could turn that OK into a WOW.

They’re looking to buy a building so that they aren’t plagued with big rents when they reestablish the big brand. A rent increase closed CBGB’s a year before Hilly passed. All the king’s horses came to perform at benefits to keep it going, but the neighborhood had changed and is now home to new high-rises, fine dining, and scenester bars. Only Bowery Electric, a handful of panhandling stragglers, and a sign that calls second street Joey Ramone Place remind passers-by of the glory. I can’t see neighborhoods in Manhattan relishing this type of venue near their bedrooms and suspect Greenpoint or Williamsburg will provide the answers. Manhattan and certainly the Bowery are not the creative cauldrons that fed the CB’s scene. Brooklyn can provide that.

A Sound-Check Chat With Eternal Summers

Though they’ve been favoring the road for the past year in support of Correct Behavior, that ballet of beautifully choreographed noise of a sophomore record they put out in the middle of 2012, Eternal Summers are looking forward to keeping that up for the foreseeable future—and it’s because they’ve got a brand new record that they haven’t even named yet and that they’re dying to share with you live and in the flesh.

Currently on tour with The Presidents of the United States of America (of “Lump” and “Peaches” fame) and previous show mates to Nada Surf, Eternal Summers have been perfecting the art of the uplifting rock song in good company as they hit some major milestones in between records. With Correct Behavior, Nicole Yun and Daniel Cundiff expanded their endeavor to include bassist Jonathan Woods, and they enlisted the help of Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes when it came to mixing the final product. Now, they’re putting the final touches on its to-be-titled follow-up with Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices, making this the first time they’ve ever worked with a producer.

I feel like Correct Behavior hadn’t been out too long when we were like, let’s start thinking about our next record,” says Yun. “Honestly, we waited nine months for Correct Behavior to come out. It was like a literal baby; there was a gestation period. There was some overlap time there. It’s not that soon for us to put out another album, even though release date-wise it looks like that. I feel like we’re always thinking about the next record.” Before taking the stage at Irving Plaza last night, Eternal Summers brought us up to speed on big changes afoot for the Roanoke, Virginia-based indie power trio—and bigger, bolder moves we’ll get to hear long before this album’s got a title.

Welcome back to New York, guys! You’re no strangers to the road. When you’re opening for someone like this with such an established fan base, how is that for you? Does this feel like rock school every night?
Nicole Yun:
With The Presidents of the United States of America, they play their self-titled album front-to-back, which has “Lump” and “Peaches” on it. The second the first chord drops, people just go insane and jump around. Late 30-year-old people moshing … it’s awesome. (laughs)
Daniel Cundiff: No matter who you’re playing with, hopefully you’ll learn something from them that you can benefit from and understand how to perform. They’re definitely a different band than us—and at the same time, they’re great performers and great musicians, too. We did a tour with Nada Surf not long ago, and it was the same thing where we were with a band that’s been around for twenty years. It’s really inspiring that they’re not just doing the same set every night. They’re all great, and great musicians.

NY: I think also, it’s clear that these are both bands—Nada Surf and The Presidents of the United States of America—that are so involved with the fans. It’s like, they’re always doing special stuff to meet their fans and do something above and beyond. There’s so much energy! They don’t just play a show and that’s it; they do meet-and-greets and play special acoustic songs after the show is over for whoever’s left. It’s definitely inspiring to see people who work so hard in every aspect. It’s definitely like going to rock school, for sure.

I think the timeless nature of Correct Behavior—especially considering it’s barreling chord progressions in 4/4 time and the hooks that go along with them—makes a lot of sense on a bill with The Presidents of the United States of America and Nada Surf. Y’all love guitars! (laughs) How has this leg of the tour in particular breathed new life into these songs?
For me, it’s about being as tight with it as we can be. We’re playing so many new songs off of what will be our third album on this tour.
NY: It’s a bit of a transitional tour for us. We’re trying to play what we consider the most memorable songs on Correct Behavior, but we’re trying out new material. I think it’s uncomfortable to do that on this tour, as opposed to a small tour by ourselves. I think it’s really fun to test it out on random people. As far as the older stuff, it changes because it’s definitely more dynamic. When you play a song so much, the nuances come out, as far as how to make it more gentle or driving at certain parts. It’s definitely more fun to play now because we know it so well, so we can just let the chemistry of the three of us take control and read each other and just play it how we want.

What’s an aspect of Correct Behavior that you’re looking to embrace or replicate on future releases?
I don’t think we ever think about direction; it just kind of happens organically. What happened on Correct Behavior, the songs that are rock songs, we’re still doing those rock songs but they’re even more defined as rock songs. The really pretty, soft delicate songs are even more soft and delicate. Everything is just becoming more defined I guess. It’s dreamier; it’s more rocking.
Jonathan Woods: I think we were more confident in doing those things than we were on that record. Some of the new songs, there’s one called “Windows” that’s been really good live—that and “Never Enough.”
NY: The last record was the scariest jump. We went from a two-piece to a three-piece, and we went from a homespun production to having outsiders involved. This next record, I’m excited to be like, “Okay, we’ve made all the jumps we’ve wanted to make. Let’s feel comfortable enough to express what we want and not feel like anything’s holding us back.” I think this next record is going to rock.

Do you have a name for the new record yet?
We’ll unleash the beast soon, I guess. Unleash the Beast! There’s a name!
JW: What was the one we came up with the other day? Savage? Savage? But in French?
NY: We met up with the guy who was going to mix our album, and he was like, “What are the themes of the album?” and I said, “Well, savageness, but, like, struggle that’s … good?” “Say all that in French and you’ve got a record.” I was like, “I don’t know man! I don’t know if we’re that band.”

I know that you worked with Sune Rose from The Raveonettes on Correct Behavior, and you mentioned the transition you made between working on your music entirely on your own and bringing other people into your creative process. What did you take away from that experience? What was it like, bringing people in on your creative endeavor? 
As hard as it is to give up control, you just have to trust yourself. No matter what, this is a record that I know we did a good job on. I’m not going to let this album come out if I’m not proud of it. Therefore, when we work with other people, we can be like, “Cool! They’ve got talents and the cumulative product is going to be awesome!” it’s just using everyone’s talents in the best way. I felt like we were a lot more open with this next record. 

Dayton, Ohio, Declares July 2012 Guided By Voices Month

Guided By Voices, that band that your stoner friends in college listened to on long car rides, has earned the distinction of all distinctions: prestigious Dayton, Ohio, has declared July 2012 official Guided By Voices Month.  

Dayton Mayor Gary Leitzell issued a proclamation on Guided By Voices Month for representing "the spirit of innovation and creativity that has defined Dayton for generations." And in the most rocking-est line of the proclamation, the band is honored for "rocking our world."

Groovy, guys. Congratulations. It almost makes Dayton sound like it might not suck. 

Listen to Guided by Voices’ New Single, ‘Keep It In Motion’

Since the "classic" lineup of Guided by Voices reunited in 2010, fans have been wondering whether they would begin producing new material with the same speed of their halcyon days. The answer is clear: After releasing a new album called Let’s Go Eat The Factory on the first day of 2012, the reconstituted GBV has no plans to slow down, releasing a new song today called "Keep It In Motion" while announcing a new album entitled Class Clown Spots A UFO, out in June. That’s on top of a solo album from singer Robert Pollard called Mouseman Cloud, which is out on April 3. How unbelievably prolific. You can stream "Keep It In Motion" after the click.

It’s pretty standard GBV power pop, featuring Pollard trading off those high vocals with guitarist Tobin Sprout. Who knows if they’ll ever collaborate on something as perfect as Alien Lanes but it’s worth a try, right?