About a year ago, I was scrolling through Netflix and came across the film “CBGB.” Initially, I put it on to play in the background as I tried to take a nap – clearly, that’s not what happened.

What is CBGB?

I love punk, and punk wouldn’t be where and what it is without its intransigent pioneers – Blondie, The Police, The Ramones, etc. CBGB is where punk was given a chance to thrive, and that’s exactly what happened.

In 1973, CBGB founder Hilly Kristal opened a “New York City music club” in Manhattan’s East Village. The notoriously hardrock club was originally born to play the role of a Country Bar. “CBGB” stood for Country BlueGrass and Blues. Prior to punk rock, CBGB was even the go-to hangout for bikers! So, in one sense, you could say the club has always favored a more eclectic following.

Men’s Restroom at CBGB | via “Pal Nordseth” on Flickr

After years of payment disputes regarding the rent, CBGB said its final goodbyes. In 2006, following a final performance by Patti Smith, CBGB closed its doors for good.

Though the doors may have closed, the memories that were made behind them are ones which sculpted our favorite punk musicians. Something that deserves celebration and recognition!

 

Hilly Kristal

Hilly Kristal, owner of “CBGB” | via Wikimedia

Hilly Kristal is the man who always knew that there was “something there.” He also knew the lifestyle of the “struggling musician” as he once lived that way himself. Not so much Rock music, however – Kristal took part in a choral group! Nonetheless, he still experienced that difficulty. In opening CBGB and believing in the artists that came through those doors, punk rock as we know it was born. For that, we have Hilly Kristal to thank.

Kristal passed away in August of 2007 from Lung Cancer – he was only 75-years-old.

 

The Movie

In 2013, Hilly Kristal and the most legendary artists in Punk history had a significant piece of their story told.

First off, the cast of CBGB was just as legendary as those they were portraying! Consisting of Alan Rickman (rest in peace), Ashley Greene, Estelle Harris, and Rupert Grint  – all actors who bring this story to life!

 

The film goes through the struggle of maintaining CBGB and the rowdy musicians who came through. Additionally, snippets of famous memories are scattered throughout this underrated film.

“CBGB” also has comic-book styled transitions which adds to the eclectic “atmosphere” of the film. Additionally, on-screen messages happen pop up every now and then and serve as “fun facts” regarding important figures in the punk movement.

It’s just a fun, feel-good movie that everyone who loves music – especially punk – and music history should watch! CBGB played such a crucial role in the birth of Punk Rock, educating yourself on that is both a rewarding and entertaining experience. So my only question is – what are you waiting for?

 

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2 responses to “CBGB | The Film Every Music Buff Needs to See”

  1. Thanks for your (for me) totally accurate comments on this film. I was privileged to work on the film (there is even a minor character based on me since I am part of the history). The filmmakers were great to work with, totally respected by every single person on the cast and crew, and they hired an amazing cast to tell the story of the CBGB club. Film critics savaged it and it so it has had a difficult time but I always felt its reputation would be repaired over time, and your review supports my idea! It’s a light-hearted musical comedy of sorts with a lot of great bits, I think. But punk fans had unrealistic expectations… It is truly an indie film, very low-budget, and most of the historical details are dead-on!

    • This means a lot to me! Thank you for your comment, CBGB – both the movie and the history itself – is a legend and has a beautiful story that was told artistically and in a very entertaining matter. Godspeed and best of luck to you, John!

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