Downer at the Rock and Roll Club

As CBGB takes its victory laps, a lifer reminisces about the death of an era

"You can't put your arms around a memory," sang one of the club's most famous alumni, Johnny Thunders. And pretty soon, within a month or so, neither will you be able to sit in CB's dark and down-homey environs and see what dysfunction-at-the-junction has enough nerve to get up on stage and test its mettle. To speak of an era ending is to witness the passing of the classic Manhattan rock dive, a tradition that probably has now truly slid into historywith the imminent demise of the Continental,and before that Coney Island High, and the Scrap Bar/Cat Club, and the long line of other watering holes that were as much hangouts as performance spaces. (There's always Don Hill's!) The question of whether CB's is still "relevant" is out of the question—ask the band playing there tonight. Feedback exists as long as you hold the guitar in front of the speaker, and the amplifier spits back its own call-and-response.

I'll miss the joint, even if it moves down the street or becomes a theme restaurant based in Las Vegas, or just exists as an impetus to re-create its root system in another exotic locale. It doesn't have to be rock and roll. The shape of music never stands still—all it needs is a place to grow, like an invasive spore invading an ecosystem once thought sacrosanct. Let there be many CBGBs, each with its emblazoned T-shirt and wannabe hordes, ready to overturn the past. Be careful what you wish for; it just might come full circle.


CBGB's string of high-profile bon voyage shows will continue well into October, cbgb.com.

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