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New York's CBGBs Faces Uncertain Future

Author: Jonty Skrufff
Monday, May 16, 2005
Manhattan nightlife institution CBGBs is facing a massive rent hike from US$20,000 to $40,000 per month and could be forced to close, the Village Voice reported this week, despite being currently considered for official landmark status by city officials.

The Bowery venue first opened in the 70s when its surrounding area was known as New York's Skid Row, a decrepit, dangerous neighbourhood populated by street people, hookers and down-at-heel artists, and immediately became a key club for underground New York bands. Hosting gigs by bands including The Talking Heads, Blondie and The Ramones, the club later became synonymous with the punk revolution it helped spawn though in recent years has become something of an anomaly following the Bowery's relentless gentrification. Chatting to Skrufff three years, owner Hilly Krystal recalled paying monthly rates of $700 in the 70s and spoke proudly of what punk still means to him.

"Punk rock is music for young people to spout off to say what they feel, to explain what's bothering them, that's very important and that's what punk is, though of course, I'm not young," he said.

"It's not necessarily deep thinking but it's an emotion based on what they feel as an individual or as a group, that's its legacy. When you think of rock, punk is less calculated and formulised, even though it seems to end up with its own formula. But it's punk's simplicity that makes it clearer. It's easier for young people to grasp, and it's not pretentious, not in its best form. There's a certain simple drive that touches people," he suggested.

British punk fan turned superstar techno deity Dave Clarke put it differently this week, telling Skrufff "punk means two fingers to authority, kicking against the pricks, being a spanner in the works, not towing the music mafia whip's line and being independent. I still vibe intensely off the music and the ethos (not the McClaren/Westwood fake shit)," Dave added.