The first CBGB Music Festival kicks off in New York Thursday, promising an energetic lineup of music acts reminiscent of the punk and hardcore bands that once performed at its eponymous club. The four-day event, produced by a group of investors who last year purchased the rights to the legendary East Village club's name, will take place at more than 30 venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The festival's promoters hope to revive the spirit of the original CBGB, the tiny Bowery venue that provided a home for early punk pioneers such as the Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads and Patti Smith.
CBGB closed its doors in 2006 (with Smith performing its last show) after a rent dispute arose between owner Hilly Krystal and the building's landlord. Six years later, the club continues to occupy a peculiar place of fascination for New York underground culture enthusiasts as well as punk music fans around the world. Evidence of the club's legendary status can be seen not only in this week's festival, but also in an upcoming movie that retells the story of the club's 1970s heyday. The film, slated to hit theaters next year, will star Alan Rickman as Krystal, who passed away in 2007.
Of course, CBGB isn't the only performance venue that influenced the sounds, attitudes and cultural mores of its day. And while old-school punkers may argue that CB's influence could never be surpassed, it is not the only venue with a permanent place in music history. Here are five that managed to make some ample -- and amped up -- waves of their own.
Le Chat Noir (Paris, 1881-1887)
Located in Paris' Montmartre district, this diverse nightclub is often credited as the birthplace of cabaret. Catering to the growing Parisian middle class, it was an artistic breeding ground where poets, musicians and performers of all stripes could converge and try out new material. (You might say it held open-mic nights before the age of microphones.) The potpourri-style format evolved into the modern cabaret we know today, while the now-iconic poster, designed by the Art Nouveau painter Théophile Steinlen, has made its way into every Bed Bath & Beyond this side of the Eiffel Tower.
The Cotton Club (New York City, 1923-1940)
The cornerstone of the Harlem Renaissance, this pulsating jazz nitery provided an exciting showground for Depression-era black performers whose mark on American culture would be indelible. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Bessie Smith, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday -- name an important jazz artist from the era, and chances are they tore the roof off the Cotton Club on several wine-soaked occasions. Prohibition be damned.
The Fillmore (San Francisco, 1966 - 1968)
Poised for its place in counterculture history, this trippy auditorium at the corner of Fillmore Street and Geary Boulevard became a hotspot for jam bands such as the Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix and others. Gonzo giant Hunter S. Thompson described its strobe-lit psychedelic ambiance to a tee in his signature book, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The club reopened for a time in the 1980s, but the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 forced its eventual closure.
Whisky a Go Go (Los Angeles, 1964-Present)
L.A.'s live-fast-die-young answer to the trippy-dippy Fillmore, this staple of the Sunset Strip hosted '60s rockers such as the Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and, of course, the Doors -- that is, until Jim Morrison's Oedipal musings in the song The End famously got the band booted out. The Whisky enjoyed a renaissance in the 1980s, when Aqua Net-soaked hair bands from Mötley Crüe through Gun 'N Roses found a home here.
The Crocodile Café (Seattle, 1991-Present)
Early-90s grunge rockers came as they were and stayed until last call at this scrappy venue located in Seattle's Belltown neighborhood. A home away from home for local heroes such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains, the indomitable Croc was the perfect spot for catapulting the coming age of flannel from the backwoods of the Northwest into the mainstream. Word on the street is that you can still wear cut-off jeans with long johns here without getting laughed out of town.
The CBGB Music Festival runs from July 5-8 at various Manhattan and Brooklyn venues. Visit cbgb.com for more information.