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  • Fred

Maybe Punk is Dead...

If I asked the average person to describe the picture above, I'm sure they'd say it's a photograph of a guy buying an album. But to me this is one of the most upsetting photos in the history of punk music (and please let me elaborate.)

The gentleman above is the illustrious Stephan Moses, drummer and trombonist for the punk band Alice Donut. By all accounts he's a good guy (he let me join the Alice Donut fan site online) so I'm not upset with him, I'm upset with the symbolism of the photo. In his hand he is holding the Alice Donut album Dry Humping the Cash Cow: Live at CBGB. Recorded live at THE historic CBGB in the Bowery of New York City back in 1993, it was Stephan Moses himself who pressed the trombone to his lips and played Helter Skelter by the Beatles in front of throngs of adoring NY City Punks. Stardom was not in the cards for Alice Donut and they broke up in 1996. CBGB closed in 2006 and the owner of CBGB, Hilly Kristal, died in 2007.

So if the picture was taken last week at CBGB's, what happened in the past 10 years? Well thankfully Alice Donut re-convened in 2003 with the underrated Three Sisters release. They still do stuff on their timetable, bands break up and get back together all the time. The club closed in 2006 and re-opened as a high end boutique John Varvatos. But it's the name, the CBGB brand, how is Stephan Moses at CBGB in 2017? Well apparently Hilly Kristal willed the name to his daughter Lisa Kristal Burgman and then she sold the name to "investors" in 2012. Who are these investors? Who knows? (I spent the last 2 hours looking for specific names. Article after article simply said "investors.") But next thing you know there's a CBGB music festival, a CBGB website, and <gasp> a new CBGB restaurant at the Newark Airport in New Jersey. Now for our little article here, I went to see who was playing at the 2017 CBGB Festival and I got the dreaded Website Expired page. I went to the CBGB website and found boatloads of merchandise I could buy with CBGB stamped on it, but minimal content. Wikipedia actually had more facts. And lastly, the restaurant. The shiny new CBGB restaurant, at the airport, with an average of 1 1/2 stars out of 5 on Yelp. It is here where the picture was snapped. CBGB had somehow evolved into a nameless, faceless corporation. The spirit of the original concept long since gone.

Now the Donut crew named their album Dry Humping the Cash Cow as an absurd tribute to bands cashing in on Live Albums when it was clear that they, themselves, weren't cashing in at all. (Think of 1993's Kiss Alive III as an example of a band cashing live album checks.) But it's a perfect allegory of what happened to a once living, breathing punk club....

Again, and I can't stress this enough. An airport! In the gift shop!



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