CBGB Festival Part Two: Willie Nile, the Ramones and Violence
New York City, Webster Hall
Day 2 at the CBGB festival featured some more great live music, an excellent film, some talks & a pretty serious fracas. Maren McGlashan was on site for us & here’s her report,
Conferences and panel discussions opened up day two of the CBGB festival, which began mid-day. Noteworthy sessions were “Eleven Things You Need to Know to Shoot a Musical Performance,”Â led by photographer Tony Jannelli, as well as “Celebrity Rehab,”Â with speaker Bob Forrest. Other topics included marketing for TV and film, the future of the music industry, and funding film productions. The conference ended around 4 p.m., leaving a couple hours of downtime before the night’s music and film showcases kicked off.
Having purchased a 8:15 p.m. ticket to the Ramones‘ documentary screening, End of the Century: The Story of the Ramones, I was left with just a handful of gig options. Opting for a venue close to the Anthology Film Archives, I headed to Joe’s Pub in lower Manhattan for the Willie Nile show. Sure enough, the concert sold out, leaving me just enough standing room in the very back of the club.
The effect that Willie Nile had on the audience was incredible. The Buffalo-to-NYC transplant, whose influences draw from the likes of the Byrds, Bruce Springsteen and the Clash, had his audience in full celebration. The cheers that followed the lead singers banter (especially when he asked, “How’s my hair?”Â) were incredible, and a few patrons removed themselves from their tables and danced at the stage front. The experience of seeing Willie Nile in Joe’s Pub felt authentic. It screamed New York City underground rock culture.
In order to arrive at the Ramones screening on time, I left Joe’s Pub at 7:45 p.m. I headed up to the corner of 2nd Avenue and the Bowery, where a mixed-generation of Ramones fans were waiting in the theatre lobby. Inside, original Ramones drummer and early manager Tommy Ramone (Thomas Erdelyi) and tour manager Monte Melnick were standing nonchalantly, surrounded by a group of people who seemed to have no idea who they were. As the crowd waited for the screening room to open, a few people began to ask for autographs and pictures, and the previously oblivious patrons began to take note and follow suit.
The film, End of the Century, ran nearly two hours and was first released in 2003. It follows the Ramones’ career, from inception to decline, using interviews, archival footage, and statements from Debbie Harry, Joe Strummer and Glen Matlock, among many others. Placing special emphasis on personality conflicts, the struggle to gain commercial success, and life on the road, End of the Century offered an entertaining, sometimes melancholy look into the world of the Ramones.
The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Tommy Ramone and Monte Melnick, who shared stories and experiences they’d both had with the band. Among the most interesting: Melnick recalled a time when the boys “had beer pitchers ”Â¦ and pissed in them,”Â before serving a glass to Malcolm McLaren. In an unneeded attempt at clarification, Melnick matter-of-factly stated that “Johnny didn’t like McLaren.”Â The two also remembered a pre-concert interaction with the Sex Pistols in London. Afraid that McLaren had a publicity stunt up his sleeve (and presumably before the beer incident), the Ramones were nervous that a fight would erupt for the sake of media exposure. That never happened; instead, a humble interaction between the bands took place. Melnick remembered a “kid”Â Sid Vicious anxiously waiting to meet the band backstage.
After leaving the theatre, I caught a cab. Though it was past 10 o’clock, I was hoping to catch the Cro-Mags at Webster Hall to round out the night. When I arrived, I discovered that the show had been cancelled. I heard a half-developed story about violence in the crowd, but wasn’t sure of the details until hours later. As reports have stated, former Cro-Mags member Harley Flanagan stormed the dressing rooms at Webster Hall with a knife, causing a panic in the VIP section of the venue. Before police could restrain Flanagan, he slashed and bit current Cro-Mags members William Berario and Michael Couls. Berario and Couls were taken to a nearby hospital to treat their wounds, which are non-life-threatening. Flanagan broke a leg as six security guards finally subdued him, and was removed from the venue strapped to a wheelchair. Webster Hall was shut down for the night, with the remaining concert bill being scrapped.
Here’s the official statement from the CBGB organizers:
We are saddened to learn about the events that occurred last night at Webster Hall. Our primary concern is always the safety and experience of New Yorkers, music fans and the general public. Naturally we will fully cooperate with law enforcement while hoping for the speedy recovery of those injured.
Live music can be incredibly uplifting, empowering and positive. We don’t feel the actions of one person should overshadow four amazing days and nights of events that include today’s historic and unprecedented free concerts in Times Square and Central Park.
-The CBGB Festival
The CBGB fest will carries on Saturday with two free showcases. The first is unprecedented – it will take place on two stage set-ups that are both located within five blocks of Times Square. The second will happen in Central Park’s Summerstage. This is the headlining moment of the festival, and will feature performances from Guided By Voices, Superchunk, War on Drugs and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
All words by Maren McGlashan. You can read more from Maren here.