PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Reviews

CBGB Festival: 5 - 8 July 2012 – New York

Photo Credits: Jake Seymour

Resurrecting the brand if not the venue to promote new music consumption, plus music/film conference and screenings.


CBGB Festival

City: New York
Date: 2012-07-05

With the songs of the Ramones, Blondie and Joan Jett floating over the audience at the Landmark Sunshine Cinema in New York’s Lower East Side, the first ever CBGB Festival was set to begin. Keynote speaker Krist Novoselic arrived a bit late, like a rock star, opening his remarks with a big congrats to the organizers for bringing back the spirit of the place in supporting music. He spoke wistfully of being a little boy growing up on the west coast, listening with his Dad on a 4-track system to the early rock and roll of Chuck Berry and Dick Dale. He acquired a vinyl collection, which included Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, but was exposed to punk rock working at a fast food joint as a teen.

“Music saved my life,” Novoselic stated emphatically. He found himself in a subculture, which adhered to the Henry Rollins notion of “Living life in the main stream is such a lame dream." Big riff bands such as Mud Honey, Sound Garden and Pearl Jam were local favorites and he began following them through the old school fanzines along with other pre-internet information channels such as word of mouth. During this time, he met musically like-minded Kurt Cobain who had a guitar, so Novoselic began playing bass to accompany his new friend. D.C. area native Dave Grohl joined them soon afterwards to change music history as Nirvana.

“I could talk about Nirvana for hours,” Novoselic admitted. He is proud of the band and his role in the alt rock world known as grunge. When fans come up to him to thank him for the music and say how much it meant to them, he uses the opportunity to remember Cobain. With a slight choke in his voice, Novoselic shared how “that’s for you dude.” Before moving on he explained, “Kurt Cobain was a wonderful person and deserved a rewarding life.”

Novoselic’s political activism began in the 1990s with the Washington State Liquor Control Board’s Teen Dance Ordinance, which placed restrictions on music clubs. He reacted by supporting pro-music legislation and creating a PAC to begin “playing the game as it’s played.” He continues to be involved in political groups such as Fairvote, which supports a national popular vote. “I do it because I know things could be better in the U.S.” If you want to do something about something, he told the crowd, do it collectively. Some say the notion of association is dead, but Novoselic said it is actually exploding with social media such as Twitter and Facebook. If an individual thinks politics are out of whack, then coming together with like-minded people will bring change after a lot of work.

With his talk over, Novoselic let out a big sigh of relief, admitting he was glad he no one walked out. During the Question and Answer period, he was asked if Nirvana ever played CBGBs. They went to many shows there but only played at the Pyramid Club and Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey. Other questions focused on politics, but while Novoselic gets the “pomp of politics” he would not want to run for office. Since he doesn’t really need a job with what he calls “all these blessings,” he plays a lot of accordion. He was recently back in the studio playing the instrument for the Foo Fighters, and said it was great to see Grohl since they always have fun together. “He deserves everything he has,” Novoselic responded to the notion of jealousy over the ex-band member’s spotlight. “He has stayed focused, he works hard, and the Foo Fighters rock.” This simple vocal embrace was met with cheering and applause.

The first music panel of the day followed with a discussion about communication, reflecting the tagline for the festival: communicate, collaborate and create. With online tools evolving, a website and YouTube channel were deemed critical for bands to build a relationship with core fans in a “post label society.” The new notion of crowd funding through programs such as Kickstarter were viewed as an advanced tip jar, with opportunities to advance the musical cause. However, it all seemed to revolve around basic time management, for example, making use of down time during sound check to make use of social media.

A panel on the “Music Industry: Today and the Future,” was comprised of ex-record label executives which sent a message in itself. With the recent mid-year report by Neilson Sound Scan finding album sales dropping 3.2% (they had increased in 2011), recorded music is not the “breadwinner” anymore. In a singles world, songs are now a calling card or business card of sorts with live tours and publishing providing core revenue streams for bands. If recordings are seen as a promotional tool, how it is monetized becomes the choice of the artist. Discussion ventured into subscription based services and the lack of proper payment to artists, especially those scrambling for attention. There was also a lament for high quality recordings with most consumers content with substandard mp3s, as if the days of music discovery on basic equipment like radios didn’t count anymore.

Later in the day, CBGB alumnae were on stage to reminisce for the “CBGB – Tales From the Club” session. Artist Mickey Leigh, brother of the late Joey Ramone, recalled how the first time he went to the club, there was three audience members: a member of Hell’s Angels, the bartender, and a dog. But he felt right at home. The Ramones Manager Danny Fields declared, “It was wonderful ‘cause the sound was wonderful. It was like being in the music.” He went on to say how bands never sounded so good anywhere else. Former employee Jackie Luther thought the best part of working there was seeing all the talent - on stage and off. “Hilly [owner Hilly Kristal who died in 2007, one year after the club closed after 33 years] hired great people,” Luther said. They were all performers and artists, not just bartenders, and they referred to the club as the land of misfit toys. There was an audition night where everyone got a shot: before, during, and after it “became the mecca of punk,” according to Leigh.

Other panels addressed the surge of DIY options, from recording and releasing albums to publishing, publicity outreach, or marketing music for film and television. Basic advice about doing your homework and researching wherever a musician is contacting was repeated throughout the sessions. Utilizing quick links to music without downloading via Soundcloud or something similar was deemed preferable in order to reduce the steps necessary for a quick listen. A basic paragraph write up and photo puts the spotlight on the song, no novels or complicated photo shoots needed. Whether finding fans or a platform such as music licensing that will also find fans, a band needs to focus on letting the music do the talking. Maybe the CBGB Festival tagline should read "create, collaborate, then communicate."

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.