The legendary CBGB goes out with a bang

Jimmy Vielkind and Bill Hutchinson
New York Daily News

NEW YORK--The birthplace of punk, CBGB, where bands such as the Ramones and Talking Heads got their start, threw its own headbanging funeral Sunday night.

With rock poet Patti Smith offering the expletive-laden eulogy to the grungy Bowery icon, mohawk-wearing mourners took one final twirl in the mosh pit.

"You know what's sad? Turning New York City into the suburbs," Smith said. "The whole thing's sad. This is just a symptom of the empty prosperity of our times."

But the 59-year-old singer tried to be Zen-like about the demise of the graffiti-scarred landmark, where she launched her career in the early 1970s.

"CBGB is a state of mind," Smith said. "We can have CBGB in our heart, but the new kids have got to have their own places. What's going to happen to CBGB is young kids all over the world are going to have their own f-----g clubs and they won't care."

As more than 200 people lined the Bowery for the final show, a group calling themselves "The Hungry March Band" gathered on the sidewalk to play a New Orleans-style funeral dirge.

"It's crazy," Brian Alvarez, 18, of Queens, said of CBGB's swan song. It's emotional, and we're in shock."

Alvarez, a drummer, said his band, "My Distorted Image," played three gigs at CBGB, the last one in April. "It's a weird feeling because we never thought we would play there. We got more gigs after we played there. Now it's a crazy feeling because we never thought it was going to go."

Owner Hilly Kristal, 75, who named the place for country, bluegrass and blues music, said he was resigned to the fact it was closing time.

Kristal, who has cancer, had battled in court and in public to keep the doors open, but the landlord exercised his right not to renew the lease. He vowed to resurrect CBGB in Las Vegas next year, and plans to take most of the distressed decor with him. "We're taking everything," he said. "The urinals, the toilets even."

Check out photos from the last CBGB weekend from Brooklyn Vegan. [last night | last Saturday]





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