CBGB Fest Day 3: Festival Headliners
New York City, Central Park
8th July 2012
The final day of the CBGB festival for our reviewer featured live music showcases over two stages in Times Square.
On the headlining day of the CBGB festival, live showcases commanded the Saturday schedule. With the music and film conferences having wrapped up on Friday afternoon, festival goers were left with an opportunity to see big names like Guided By Voices, Duff McKagan, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Superchunk play at landmark locations across Manhattan. Most of the showcases were free and open to the public, making the anticipated attendance numbers high.
The early show kicked off midday in Times Square, in what felt like a impromptu performance. Of course, it was carefully planned, but judging by the mix of CBGB festival patrons, confused tourists, and the strange absence of a huge crowd, it was obvious that a large group of people were unaware of the concerts taking place in New York’s commercial epicenter. CBGB organizers kept the Times Square lineup under wraps until finally hinting at a “record setting”Â show last week. In addition to the vague announcement, rumours on blogs and websites were the only early hints at a prospective lineup of artists. Despite that, the crowd grew as the set carried on. Two stages were set up just blocks from each other, and audiences walked back and forth to catch each band.
Zulu Wave, an indie-rock band from Florida, kicked off the set at noon. Their time on stage was short, but their ambient alternative-pop music was a great way to start the show. The second band, Upper West, took the 52nd Street stage at 12:20 p.m. The three-piece band featured a guitarist, DJ and vocalist. Their club-rap sound felt a little out of place in between Zulu Wave and the edgy rock of the two headliners, but their style (that sits somewhere between Mac Miller and LMFAO), and colorful, hipster outfits had a pull.
The headlining performances of the early Times Square set were Loaded, a project of Duff McKagan, and North Carolina based indie-rockers, Superchunk. Duff McKagan’s set kicked off at 12:40 p.m., and featured Sex Pistols member Glen Matlock in the roster. The show was fun and punchy, and featured all of the expletives and rock n’ roll splendour one might expect from the Guns n’ Roses bassist. The band closed with The Stooges‘ track, “I Wanna Be Your Dog.”Â Just after, Superchunk’s show started at the 52nd Street stage. Their performance ended the early Times Square set on a high note, and the modestly sized audience seemed engaged and excited.
Part two of the Times Square showcase began at 4 p.m., just one hour after Cloud Nothings began their set at Central Park’s Summerstage. GLINT, the Hold Steady and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were slated to play the afternoon bill at Times Square, but I opted to stick around Central Park in the end. I’m glad I did. In addition to Cloud Nothings, the lineup featured War on Drugs, Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Guided By Voices. It was an incredible showcase. Like the Times Square shows, the Central Park Summerstage was free and open to the public. Unlike the Times Square show, the concert area was packed. Despite the intense heat, the atmosphere was just right. The Summerstage was full of energy.
Showcases continued into the night. They included a sold out show featuring Romans and D-Generation at the Bowery Electric, with additional showcases at Webster Hall and Hank’s Saloon. Saturday wrapped up my tenure with the CBGB festival, although a small handful of shows and screenings are scheduled for Sunday. Among them are two documentary showings and a two-band performance at the Brooklyn Bowl.
Despite rumors about a future CBGB opening somewhere in New York, the thought of revamping Hilly Kristal’s East Village club in today’s Manhattan feels paradoxical. Regardless of whether or not a CBGB venue opens once again, Bloomberg-era New York City simply does not have the same vibe of its 1970s and 1980s incarnation. Manhattan is safe, it’s wealthy, and it’s clean – which I have no problem with, though I recognize the far-removal from decades passed. Regardless, taking the weekend to celebrate CBGB, underground rock and a New York City of yesteryear made for one hell of a weekend. The spirit was definitely there, and a big thanks to festival organizers is in order.
All words by Maren McGlashan. You can read more from Maren here.