Previously at the ICA - Films

Burning Down The House: The Story of CBGB

16 Oct 200917 Oct 2009

When Hilly Kristal opened CBGB in New York's Bowery district in 1973, he'd intended to showcase the music that those letters stood for; country, bluegrass, blues. From the time Television played their first gigs there, it was revered as the birthplace of punk, and the place from where The Ramones, Blondie, Patti Smith and Talking Heads all emerged. Described by Joey Ramone as 'the womb of creativity', it became a rock 'n' roll mecca that was mythologised unlike any other. Never mind the tales of needles in its toilets and shit on its floor, or that every joker from Spinal Tap to Vanilla Ice would play there over the years, when it closed in October 2006, it did feel that part of pop music's history had been abandoned.

Mandy Stein's brilliantly realised documentary presents the history of the venue, featuring contributions from CBGB employees, punters and, of course, a number of the artists who played there, from Sting to Henry Rollins. It also relates the story of the failed campaign to keep it open, which, as it involves a feud with the non-profit homeless charity which owned the building and an attempt to move the club as a franchise to Las Vegas, is fittingly bizarre in itself. As much as anything, the film emerges as a touching tribute to Kristal, whose passion and charisma made CBGB what it was.

dir Mandy Stein, USA 2009, 90 mins

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