I often wonder if the legends born out of CBGB ever get tired of talking about CBGB. Certainly, at last night’s Tribeca Film screening of Burning Down The House: The Story of CBGB, the “Behind the Screens” panel of Tommy Ramone, ex-Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz, director Mandy Stein, and Jesse Malin fielded the same old questions from moderator Matt Pinfield. (Unbeknownst to us, Pinfield would announce the next morning that he was headed to rehab, and so we got questions like, “What are some of your fondest memories?”) Aside from Malin, who recalled going to a CB’s tryout when he was 12, there was a slight been there, done that to the discussion of the actual venue. How many times can you say, “Yeah, it was dirty!” and get excited?
The film depicts the turmoil that surrounded the club’s final days: from numerous cutaways of Little Steven talking and showing off his chest hair to the Save CBGB rally in Washington Square Park and the subsequent gutting of the club, when we see Jim Jarmusch and Luc Sante go on a sort of archaeological dig of the place. But the real, more subtle, and interesting story lays in the founder/owner Hilly Kristal himself–and his life as a supporter of the arts. But during Kristal’s final days, battling lung cancer, that desire in trying to keep his place alive for so many other people who, in the end, seemed to genuinely care and support him and his life and not just a brand or a shit-hole. As Tommy Ramone put it, “He had the sensibility to let people create original styles.”
Asked whether or not the film had a distributor yet, Stein said no, and humbly pleaded her case. “I was really trying to focus on this organic fight,” she said of her intentions to capture what went down on film. So while the film might not be heading to a theatre near you anytime soon–the audio right alone would probably break the bank–it’s a decent little Behind the Music-style piece, quick and punchy, for all those young Against Me! fans who don’t know their history. Cheaper than an afternoon at the Rock and Roll Annex, right?