Burning Down the House

CBGBNO Covers!

That was Hilly Kristal’s primary rule for CBGB’s on Bowery and Bleeker in New York City. Replacing Hilly’s on the Bowery, CBGB & OMFUG (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. It was built as a venue for new and upcoming bands to the new york music scene, and ended up becoming the birth of American punk rock scene and was a jump off point for the careers of some of music history’s greatest bands and singers: Patti Smith Group, The Stillettoes (featuring Blondie’s Debbie Harrry), Blondie (under their original name of Angels & the Snakes) The Ramones, Mink DeVille, Talking Heads, Tuff Darts, The Shirts, The Heartbreakers, The Fleshtones and even the Police played here.

The Gorilla Biscuits, the Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Sick of it All, Reagan Youth, Warzone, and Youth of Today were all part of New York’s underground hardcore scene started at CBGB’s and kept the bar a float through the 80’s. In 2005, however, the Bowery Resident’s Committee had enough of Hilly and the CB’s crowd and worked to get them removed from the property without compromise. Succeeding in closing the venue for good on October 15, 2006.

I moved to NYC in 05, and never got a chance to experience a show in CBGB’s but I did participate in the ralleys and free shows in Washington Sq to help spread awareness and get support for keeping the venue open. I went last week to the Tribeca Film Festival and watched the only movie of the fest (for me): a documentary called ‘Burning Down the House” The Story of CBGB‘. The show was April 30th, and I had the opportunity after the show to hear a Q&A hosted by Matt Pinfield, with the director (Mandy Stein), Chris Frantz of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club, Jesse Malin of Heart Attack and DGeneration, and Tommy Ramone of well… The Ramones.

Mandy Stein is the daughter of eymour Stein, president and co-founder of Sire Records, who launched the recording careers of the Ramones, Talking Heads, and The Pretenders, among many others so it made sense she get access to all the people featured in the making of this film.

I sat solo in the theater surrounded by guests, friends and participants of many of the two dimensional people portrayed or interviewed in the film. It was a good film, not great, by film standards, however, the heart of watching the progression of CBGBs from hole in the wall nothing to, punk glory, to hole in the wall franchise and finally demise was a roller coaster of intense laughs and tears from an audience that was there and lived again vicariously through the digital frames.

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The Ramones – Teenage Lobotomy

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Sick Of It All – “Take The Night Off”

Top Club in America is in Denver?

Is it the banging sound of tracks not to be released for weeks even months on the best sound systems, the continuous crowds contributing to a positive vibe weekend after weekends, the sunshine terraces with hot sweaty dancers, clubland holds the night owl draw for many of us. It’s

DJ Mag produced on March 25th, their “definitive” list of Top Clubs of the World for 2009, but I just saw this about a month ago and wanted to comment. There’s not much listed as to how this list is compiled except that it’s voted on by readers of the magazine. I’ve always questioned these voter polls legitimacy, because there’s no criteria except for attendee (or listener, in the case of DJ polls) preference and rightly so at times.

No surprise that clubbing meccas Ibiza, Berlin and London are at the top and I’ve had the pleasure to experience at least 4 of them (bold):

01. Berghain – Berlin
02. Fabric – London
03. Space – Ibiza
04. Womb – Tokyo
05. Amnesia – Ibiza
06. Ministry Of Sound – London
07. Pacha – Ibiza
08. Watergate – Berlin
09. D-Edge – Sao Paolo
10. The End – London

Unfortunately as of press time, The End has reached its end so 11 moving up would be: Cocoon – Frankfurt, Germany.

Of the 100 list, the following are the top American clubs:

23: Beta – Denver, Colorado
25: Ruby Skye – San Francisco, California
28: Space – Miami, Florida
30: Pacha – New York, NY
34: Cielo – New York, NY
40: Avalon – Los Angeles, California
53: Vanguard – Los Angeles, California
60: Mansion – Miami, Florida
65: Vinyl – Denver, Colorado
83: 1015 – San Francisco, CA

There’s some interesting tells of this top US clubs list from the global Mag offering. First, Denver is the top US Club? What? I didn’t see that coming. Not NY, LA, Miami or even Chicago… but Denver. I’m still curious to know what’s the voting criteria here. I understand the DJs and mag subs voted on this but really, what are the standards? Club layout? Sound? Crowd? Lighting? Set up? Back stage perks?

I’m ecstatic to see my home hood of SF represented here, and somewhat malcontent that Ruby Skye is the top club still of the city. I would have thought someone else would have stepped up in the scene and created a contender.

The usual suspects from LA, SF, NY and Miami are represented, I’ve been to all of them except those in Denver, and they all seem to have a repeatable formula in layout, sound and dance music styles that don’t venture too far clubbing mainstream. Space for it’s terrace and Cielo for it’s sound and minimalism are unique in separating from the formula. Conspicuously missing are any venues from Chicago or Las Vegas (the self proclaimed mega club venue of the US).

One thing is clear, America’s club scene is well behind that of the global community according to DJ Mag with Germany, UK, Spain, Brazil, Canada, Singapore, Holland, and Argentina all topping the list; most with multiple clubs representing. These are all countries where electronic, dance and house music are just as popular as other genres and even more so in some areas as you hear it saturated in every aspect of life: stores, radio, internet and even elevator musak. At least we still have an auto industry and their commercials to help support the scene…

Failure to Launch in Trump’s World

Privé literally translated to English from French is “Private” but for me the association of Privé has always been with the Opium Group, and their first (?) club in south beach by that name. I went nearly when it first opened in late 2002, and several times since, the last being in 2006. The club was hot, music bumping the underground and always a line even up till it’s closure just recently. The OG crew have gone on to create some of the best high end clubs in America with Mansion Miami and Privé Las Vegas.

Recently I received and invite to a “Launch Party” for Privé NYC:

Accompanying the invite was the pitch, this was “at the Trump Towers” and “will be posh and selective meaning, a strict door policy with New York’s upper echolon in attendance” (misspelling intact). Further, instructions were included on proper dress attire, as typically the “upper echolon” have trouble deciding on wardrobe. Videographers, ballet dancers, tabla men, and musicians in sync were all to be included (although I didn’t see em). DJ’s were to play a mix of contemporary electro/house, which aside from the “contemporary” part appealed to me, and that I was invited by a good friend. If the RSVP invite description sounds more of the antithesis of “contemporary” then you’re not alone.

The World Bar opened 2001, in the Trump Towers residential building across from the UN near the East River in Midtown (owned by Mark C. Grossich who coincidentally also owns one of my favorite business cocktail lounges The Campbell Apartment in Grand Central Terminal). The World made news when it was featured in Forbes as one of the spots bankers go to blow their bonus (on the World Cocktail for $50 a glass), which everyone in New York, knows is shit; bankers blow their bonuses on escorts and yeyo. Even on paper this doesn’t sound original, let alone chic.

I with two ladies arrived early at 10:30 and was expecting free for the ladies and myself on the discounted list, which neither were offered we rolled through. Being a promoter before I understand there’s a few glitches, so I asked to negotiate with Sanjay regarding our earlier arrangement and with reluctance agreed to my compromise for the ladies free if I paid. My first impressions were, “What the Fuck is that huge pillar doing in the middle of the room” and “are the speakers big enough for this room?”

After checking my coat with the DJ (apparently coat check guy was on a break), I got a $12 jack n coke and settled in the corner to take in the crowd….Nice! I’ll give the crew this much: It was all women. However, unfortunately the women didn’t find it that appealing as the vibe felt more like an Indian or High School dance than a party – cliques of girls grouped in corners, at tables and guys looking around nervously wondering which women they should attempt to talk to.

My last and biggest pain being a DJ was the sound was shit…. I spoke with Francis and he too admitted it If you’re going to promote and dj a gig like this, you need to be on top of your game and the sound for both the DJ and the audience needs to be right…. having garage speakers with shitty acoustics turned up loud to compensate for the bad mids is just a horrible decision. Please, Please, Please, go buy or rent some Mackies next time!

It’s a first party so I’ll give them a hall pass. The space size was appropriate, all be it not conducive to dancing, and they had the hot crowd down (my single friends would have been shootin fish in a barrel) but if they are going to play in the exclusive party game, this needs to come together in the details better.