Hey Ho, Let’s Go!: The CBGB Festival


“I certainly didn’t love every band that played CBGB, but I did love to encourage them to do their own thing, to challenge the establishment,” asserted late CBGB founder Hilly Kristal. “I’ve always felt the stronger you are about yourself and your own ideas (in this case musical ideals), the more satisfying your success, hopefully, the more rewarding your future.”

It’s been seven years since Patti Smith performed the final show at the legendary club at 315 Bowery, and 40 years since the first act, country singer Con Fulham, played opening night—CBGB’s name having always stood for “country bluegrass blues.”

And the music continues.

The second annual CBGB Festival features about 700 established and emerging artists showcased over five days in more than 150 venues, not to mention guest speakers from every realm of the music industry. And, oh yeah, a free concert in Times Square on October 12 featuring My Morning Jacket, The Wallflowers, Grizzly Bear, and many more.

How many of those musicians will be “challenging” the establishment in the vein of CBGB alumni such as Television, the Ramones, and Richard Hell, per Kristal’s wish? Louise Parnassa-Staley, CBGB’s booker from 1986 to closing, who chose much of the talent for this year’s festival, says, “Our criteria was quite in the CBGB spirit: originality, songs, and live shows. We spent a lot of time reviewing each band, making sure they are actively gigging.”

While some bands capture the essence of CBGB (or are veterans of its stage), others, like Lisa Loeb, come from further afield. Here, we offer a few picks for bands and speakers over the course of the festival. See them all, or die knowing you pissed on the doorstep of the home punk rock helped build.

Genya Raven and Cheetah Chrome

Leftfield Bar October 9

Genya Ravan (aka Goldie) famously fronted Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who toured with the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, and the Kinks, and had a hit with “Can’t You Hear My Heart Beat.” Ravan also produced the Dead Boys’ 1977 album, Young Loud and Snotty, and supports old and new music via her Sirius/XM radio show, Chicks and Broads. Not so coincidentally, ex-Dead Boys guitarist, the legendary Cheetah Chrome, shares the bill with Ravan.

Duff McKagan

Landmark Sunshine Cinema October 10

The most punk Guns N’ Roses alumnus, bassist (and sometimes drummer) McKagan has morphed into a super-smart businessman and journalist who’s seen it all and lived to tell. Here, he offers the festival’s keynote address.

The Spanish Channel

Trash Bar October 10

Brooklyn’s own Spanish Channel describe their sound as “melodic power pop—catchy up-tempo rock with harmony-heavy vocals, and lyrics that tell the stories of life in New York City.” Featuring the shredding guitar stylings of Berklee graduate Lauren Stockner, The Spanish Channel manage to be both commercial and cool.

Carry On Band Series

Bowery Electric October 10

Here’s one in the true spirit of CBGB (and on the Bowery, no less). Not exactly sure what this is, but you certainly know who it is, which is why you should go if you know and like any of these CBGB heavy hitters: Andy Shernoff, Cheetah Chrome, Glenn Matlock, Lydia Lunch, Syl Sylvain, The Waldos, Sick Fucks, Tuff Darts, Lenny Kaye, Richard Lloyd, Rob Duprey, Ivan Kral, Certain General, Dee Pop’s Private World, Faith, The Planets, and The Rattlers.

“Producers, Studios

& A&R—A Lost Art?”

Landmark Sunshine Cinema October 10

These men know music and business, and the stories will be epic. Featuring Michael Alago (Metallica, White Zombie, Cyndi Lauper); Steve Greenberg (S-Curve Records; discovered Hanson, the Jonas Brothers, and Joss Stone, and won a Grammy as the producer of “Who Let the Dogs Out” by Baha Men); Eric Ambel (Del-Lords, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Steve Earle); and Tony Bongiovi (cousin of Jon Bon Jovi and producer of Talking Heads and the Ramones).

“Artists & Their Attorneys”

Landmark Sunshine Cinema October 10

For the “business” of music, forewarned is forearmed. Get advice from Julie Swidler, Jake Friedman, Michael McDonald, David Jacobs, and Elliot Groffman.

“Book ‘Em—The Transition

From Writer to Author”

Landmark Sunshine Cinema October 10

Featuring, ahem, Louder Than Hell authors Katherine Turman and Jon Wiederhorn, Jacob Hoye from MTV Books, and literary agent James Fitzgerald.

Puss N Boots

Bowery Electric October 11

Norah Jones sold more than 26 million copies of her debut record and has won nine Grammy Awards. She can sell out Madison Square Garden, but chooses a smaller venue for her side projects. This one, Puss N Boots, features Sasha Dobson of Ryan Adams and the Cardinals and Catherine Popper of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.


Niagara October 11

In 1981, New York hardcore punk rock band Kraut made their first public appearance, opening for The Clash at Bonds. A Kraut reunion show in 2002 at CBGB yielded the album Kraut—Live at CBGB’s, so it’s only appropriate they’re playing the festival. Bonus: This show is curated by music-and-club-man-about-town Jesse Malin (D-Generation), so it’s a safe bet that the other bands on the bill—High-Teen Boogie, Ingrid and The Defectors, and The Threads—are rockers to be reckoned with.

John Sinclair

The Cutting Room October 11

All you need to know: John Sinclair founded the White Panther Party, managed the MC5, and John Lennon wrote a song about him. Along with Carlo Ditta (who produced Willy De Ville), the pair present a “mystical fusion of folk, funk, blues, soul, and passionate beat poetry.”

Saint Rich

Bowery Electric October 12

When a band claims their song “Officer” is “jubilant post–T.Rex,” well, investigation is called for. And damned if they’re not lying. Precious but dirty and transcendent, Saint Rich—fronted by songwriter Christian Peslak and guitarist Steve Marion—also record under the moniker Delicate Steve, and have released two albums on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records. Saint Rich’s new one, Beyond the Drone, is just out on Merge.

Honorable mention for best band names: Fancy Regan, Krunk Pony, Flux Capacitor, Pants Exploded, The Oxford Coma, Bass Drum of Death, Logan’s Run, Brunch of the Living Dead.

The CBGB Festival takes place October 9–13 at venues around the city. Visit for more information.