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NYC - East Village: CBGB & OMFUG | by wallyg
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NYC - East Village: CBGB & OMFUG

CBGB & OMFUG (short for "Country, Bluegrass, and Blues and Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers") stood at 315 Bowery from its opening in December 1973 until it was closed on October 15, 2006. Founder Hilly Kristal intended the bar, which replaced his earlier Hilly's on the Bowery, to feature country, blues and bluegrass music, but it ended up becoming the birthplace of American punk. CBGB's had only one rule for a band to follow if they wanted to take the stage: all original music, no covers.

 

Since the Mercer Arts Center collapsed in August 1973, there were very few locations around New York for unsigned bands. Mercer refugees like Suicide and Wayne County quickly migrated to CBGB's for one-off gigs. The seminal moment in CBGB history, though, became the Sunday night residency of Television, which began on March 31, 1974 and started a flood of early punk performances including the Patti Smith Group, The Stillettoes (featuring Blondie's Debbie Harrry), Blondie (under their original name of Angels & the Snakes) and most famously the Ramones. Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, Tuff Darts, The Shirts, The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and many other bands followed in quick succession.

 

In the 1980's, New York's underground hardcore scene kept the bar in the black. Sunday at CBGB was "thrash day" or "matinee day." After incidents of violence, Kristal imposed a ban on hardcore and punk that didn't last. Bands that launched to stardom from the matinees include the Gorilla Biscuits, the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Sick of it All, Reagan Youth, Warzone, and Youth of Today.

 

In 2005, the Bowery Resident's Committee billed Kristal $91k in back rent, but Kristal claimed he had never been notified of his $19k per month rent hike. Kristal sought legal recourse and attempted to obtain landmark status for his club, but to no avail and ultimately reached an agreement to evacuate fourteen months after the lease expiration. TSirius Satellite Radio listeners who tuned into the live broadcast of the final show by Patti Smith were treated to a midnight birthday serenade of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, Smith's rattling off names of musicians who have passed since the last time they played CBGB's, and a rousing finale alternating choruses of the Ramones' "Hey Ho, Let's Go!" and "Gloria."

  

Explore: Jun 10, 2006

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Taken on June 10, 2006