New York City's legendary CBGB punk-rock club, which helped launch the careers of music greats Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie, and the Talking Heads, is to be reincarnated as a festival -- which organizers hope will revive the original venue's avant-garde spirit.
The first "CGBG Festival," which runs Thursday through Sunday, nearly six years after its namesake shuttered, will showcase 300 groups on 40 stages across Manhattan and Brooklyn. The festival will also feature music business conferences and film screenings.
"Focusing on new music and emerging young bands, the CBGB Festival will stay true to the original mission of the CBGB & OMFUG club that once lived on the Bowery," (in southern Manhattan) the organizers said.
American club owner and musician Hilly Kristal founded CBGB & OMFUG in 1973, using an acronym that stood for "country music, bluegrass, blues and other music for uplifting gormandizers" -- the sounds that he intended to feature.
But in the 70s and early 80s, as the disco era reached its height, CBGB became the temple of New York's underground rock scene. Its tiny stage, perched at the end of a narrow, graffiti-covered bar, became the "in" place for punk and rock groups.
The Ramones debuted there, as did Blondie, and The Talking Heads. Brit group The Police also had its first US concert at the legendary music club, which closed in October 2006 with a Patti Smith performance.
In the spirit of the original club, festival organizers say their goal is "to help new artists grow, gain visibility and be seen by the music industry."
Concerts will combine performances from established artists, such as the New York Dolls lead singer David Johansen, or Glen Matlock, the Sex Pistols' former bassist, with rising acts like "Clap Your Hands Say Yeah" and "War on Drugs."
"We are thrilled to provide bands the opportunity to open for a headliner or one of their musical inspirations," said festival promoter Tim Hayes.
Former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic made a keynote address at the opening of the conference on Thursday, and a concert is planned on Saturday at Times Square.
The film screenings, over two days, will feature "some of the best rock films and documentaries ever made," organizers said, noting that several have never been seen in New York before.
Full details are available on the festival website: www.cbgb.com