By Lincoln Anderson
While hundreds of fans were still rocking in punk ecstasy to Patti Smith at her closed-to-the-media farewell show inside CBGB early Monday morning, there was no mistaking the feeling among those who couldnt get inside. Maybe for them, at a remove from the Smith bands driving three-chord rhythms and feedback, reality had set in earlier.
Rubbing it in, in CBs Gallery next door, Michael Jacksons Thriller was playing on the stereo system.
Right now Im grieving, said Seaton Hancock, a.k.a. Raven, the saxophonist for the Stimulators. CBGB is closing and listen to what theyre playing. Not appropriate, dude. Its almost sinful.
The Sunday before, Hancock had played sax for Murphys Law at their farewell CBGB set. On Wednesday, hed watched the Stimulators open, followed by the Bad Brains the show hardcore music fans dubbed CBGBs real closing night.
Hancock, 51, has the feisty intensity of a Don Rickles, whom he resembles a bit, if Rickles were black and wore a black sweater with a skull and crossbones on it and a large silver cross earring. Hes been into hardcore since its beginnings.
When I saw my first hardcore show at Maxs Kansas City, I said, this looks dangerous, this looks like fun! he recalled. I started coming to this place the first band I saw was the Talking Heads when they were a trio. They had just released Psycho Killer. I said, I dont know what theyre doing, but I hope they keep it up.
Although the last night was bittersweet, it was also a time for reunions.
Alison Harvey, who did lights at the club for a five-year stint, saw Hancock and threw an arm around him and they hugged.
Its been like this all night, Hancock said with a smile.
It was amazing, Harvey reminisced of her CBGB days. It was wonderful to be a part of history, to be a part of a place that was part of a music scene.
Other employees from years past returned to help hawk CBGB T-shirts and other wear, which was selling briskly, but which will still be available at CBGB.com.
Kevin Freeman, 30, who plays in a punk band called the Karloffs, flew up from North Carolina for the Bowery legends last gasp. He said its not just CBGB thats closing, but rock clubs like it all over.
It seems to be happening everywhere, he said, swigging a Budweiser in CBs Gallery. Its a gentrification of America; its all whitewashed.
By now, Patti Smiths show had ended and the crowd was spilling out onto the Bowery, tumbling into yellow cabs.
It was intense, said Russ Turk, 38, a huge man with a shaved head wearing a black Kiki & Herb T-shirt, displaying some photos of the concert he had on his digital camera. Its an iconic place. Ive seen bands here. Ive played here, he said. Manhattans turning into Disneyland. Youll never see another Blondie or Patti Smith or Dictators, because this was before everything turned into videos and what youre wearing. I mean Jessica Simpson is a pop star.
Jaime Lees, 25, flew in from St. Louis to see the closing show. She enjoyed Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who joined in for some of the two-and-a-half-hour set. Flea had visibly reined in his usual Chili Peppers exuberance for the historic occasion, she said.
She rocked, Lees said of Smith. She cried at the end. Her eyes welled up she didnt cry but her eyes were very wet.
David Peel, an early punk rocker whose album The Pope Smokes Dope was produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, standing outside CBGB, remembered how he had performed in all three places the club, the gallery and downstairs at the gallery. And now on the closing night, he said, hed also performed on the sidewalk out in front singing Goodbye CBGB.
As Peel was waxing poetic about something about a candle and its light going up into the sky in commemoration I will come back here and place a candle here
. the metal gates came slamming down on either side of the clubs door. Two raw-boned bouncers shouted, Lets go people! Clear the block!
Web designer Forest Mars couldnt help but see the abrupt ending in the context of the Bowerys booming development.
I could see this coming, he said. Maybe one of these wrecking balls will come and clear us out.
But Andy Lukac Jr., a music writer, wearing a jacket from the Stone Pony in New Jersey, put things in context.
Part of rock and roll is the unceremonious decadence of it, he observed. The whole concept was in your face. Theres nothing about ceremony here.
Over the weekend, security guards were stationed around the clubs interior to keep people from stealing parts of it. Later on Monday, a CBGB employee said that as much of the clubs interior as possible even the bathrooms, including the one with the layers of all the performers signatures will be removed. Hilly Kristal, 75, the 33-year-old clubs owner, had gotten a chemo treatment on Monday for lung cancer and didnt come in, she said. Where all the remnants of the club may wind up Las Vegas or a new CBGB in New York City she couldnt say. As an ad for CBGB in another local weekly said, Hope to see you soon.