CBGB Sendoff

CBGB & OMFUG, acronyms for Country Bluegrass Blues and Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers, never quite got around to featuring what it advertised before it closed October 15th, ending a historic 33-year run that introduced the Ramones, Patti Smith, Talking Heads, and Television to NYC audiences.

There is no “P” in CBGB, but the name virtually meant “punk.”

Smith headlined the club’s farewell show, with guests Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea (who turned 44 that day) and Television guitarist Richard Lloyd.

Hundreds of music fans packed the small downtown club while reporters hovered outside. “This place is not a … temple,” Smith said during the concert. “It is what it is.”

She refused to wax nostalgic, instead claiming at a pre-show news conference that doubled as a sound check that “CBGB’s is a state of mind” that will carry on elsewhere for a new generation. She later noted with relish that CBGB, at 33, was the same age as Jesus, and closed out a medley of “Horses” and “Gloria” with the declaration, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, But not for CBGB’s.”

The closer was webcast, aired live by Sirius Satellite Radio and recorded for a future DVD.

The club was founded by Hilly Kristal in 1973 and over the years helped spawn the careers of many acts. Though its glory days are long gone, it has remained a symbolic fixture on the Manhattan music scene.

The crowd paid tribute to many of the bands forever connected to the club – including several chants of “Hey ho, let’s go!” from the Ramones’ classic “Blitzkrieg Bop.”

Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads were on hand, as was E Streeter Steve Van Zandt, who had battled to keep the club open during the protracted dispute with its landlord, the Bowery Residence Committee.

Though weary from his battle with lung cancer, Kristal remains combative about his club’s exodus from the Bowery to Las Vegas, where he will reopen CBGB. He said he was “very disappointed” in NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not saving the club.

While the club will be resurrected in Vegas, Kristal will transplant its store, CBGB Fashions, to a new Gotham location a few blocks away on November 1st.

“I’m thinking about tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and going on to do more with CBGB’s” Kristal said.

Frantz said he and his wife, Weymouth, had to attend the finale because CBGB is like the “center of gravity for us.” He reflected on the club where the Talking Heads got their big break.

“It just had a super cool ambiance or electric vibe … even though it was pretty much a dump,” Frantz said. Smith said Kristal “always gave us a job, just like tonight.”

“He was our champion and in those days there were very few,” she added.

Smith’s final encore was a quiet poem listing many of the musicians who have died in the years since they played CBGB.