Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cheap Wine and Loud Music

At no time was I ever punk.

About the closest I ever came was at a D.C. club called Poseurs back in the '80s and the name says it all. Poseur, not punk.

Despite an appreciation for the DIY ethic and a fondness for loud music, I think my taste always skewed less angry.

And certainly with age I've lost whatever punk rock attitude I may ever have had, if any.

Surely part of the reason is that I now have friends who message me late in the day asking if I would like to accompany them to Lemaire for wine drinking.

No punk gets her drink on at a four diamond hotel. But as a non-punk, why would I not?

Walking to the Jefferson, I stop at a corner and two skater kids join me to wait for the light.

"You look nice," one says, looking me up and down. He can't be more than 17.

"I like your top," the other says, pointing at my $3.25 thrift store find, a black sweater with leather trim.

I thank them and they take off down the hill on their boards. Live fast, die young, boys.

Wearing someone else's cast-offs, that's sort of punk, isn't it? Being complimented by under-age skater dudes, that counts for something, right?

Inside, I find my friend and it's discovery wine night so bottles are $15, meaning there's no reason on earth to drink a glass, not that this guy and I ever make do with a glass.

We order a bottle or two of Four Bears Chardonnay because he is devoted to both Chardonnays and California wine and it will go well with my crabcake.

He's not fond of Lemaire's crabcake (preferring Acacia's), but I find it full of lump crab meat and with a well-spiced remoulade, so I have no complaint beyond a slight excess of mayo as a binding agent.

First world problem.

We happily spend several hours catching up on his recent business dealings, what new places he's eaten at lately and what I've been up to.

Obviously, he's too busy to read the blog or he'd already know.

Midway through the second bottle, I have to say so long so I can get to the Criterion to see a one-night only screening of "CBGB."

Arriving at Criterion, I am amazed to find a line for tickets almost out the door.

Looking at the crowd, though, most of them don't look like the kind of people there to see a film about a defunct punk rock club.

I do some racial/sexual profiling and approach a middle-aged white guy with a beard, asking if he's there to see "CBGB."

He is, but as it turns out, 95% of the line is there for another movie.

Inside the theater are more middle-aged people including a guy wearing a ratty-looking CBGB t-shirt.

This must be the place.

It takes four tries for the projectionist to get the film started, and the film starts almost fifteen minutes late, but then what punk show ever started on time?

The movie begins with a caveat, "This story is mostly true," and a look at NYC's Bowery circa the late '60s.

I'm always happy to see an Alan Rickman movie, although I'm still not quite sure why they got an Englishman to play Jewish New Yorker Hilly Kristal, the man who started CBGB.

Here's where it gets personally embarrassing. I had no idea CBGB stood for "country, bluegrass, blues."

Please say I'm not the only one.

At this late date, it seems laughable that Kristal ever thought those genres were the next big thing, but luckily he had trouble booking those bands while local punks like Television showed up begging to play.

Kristal's only rule for bands was that they had to play original music. People accused him of trying to avoid paying ASCAP fees, but he claimed it was just a philosophy.

And thank god for that.

After Television gets some local press and David Bowie said Television was the real deal, bands start coming down asking to play, bands like Blondie, the Police and the Patti Smith Group.

"The name of our band is Talking Heads and we live across the street," David Byrne says when they audition for Kristal.

When the Ramones audition, all bad attitude and bangs, Kristal says to them, "No one is going to like you guys but I'll have you back."

Wise move. In 1974, they played CBGB's 74 times.

"Hey, isn't that the guy who made that awful feedback album?" a musician says to a friend when he spots Lou Reed in the crowd.

We see where Iggy Pop does the first stage-diving at CBGB's. Where even the local resident bikers are repulsed by the filth of the bathrooms.

All part of the legend.

The film didn't try to tell the whole 33 years of CBGB history, just the crucial early years when punk was being born.

The final credits had as much to see as the film, including footage when Talking Heads were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and David Byrne had Kristal up onstage so he could tell the world what a key a role he'd played in the birth of a scene.

There were some hilarious credits, too, like, "Special Thanks (the asses we want to kiss)" and "No animals were harmed in the making of this movie. The cockroach guts were Fig Newtons."

Considering there was a running gag of Kristal killing roaches in his litter-strewn office, that's a lot of Fig Newtons.

Was the movie well done? Not particularly. Did it tell an interesting story I hadn't known much about? Sure did.

When we went to leave the theater, a manager was standing there, handing each of us a certificate for a free movie, her way of making up for the delayed start and technical difficulties that began our evening.

Accepting a freebie for having to put up with a movie about the punk scene not starting on time seems kind of soft.

Poseur-like even. Sheena may have been a punk rocker, but clearly I wasn't.


  1. whew!! exhausted after all that. musta been that hero from Nick's. selective racial/sexual profiling (maybe).. poseur punk wannabe? maybe a dry, clear white with that crab..yeah truly not a punk...maybe a bohemian, bourgeoise with a touch of reverse narcissus, [narcotic]..I'm not complaining..


  2. Definitely a bohemian, cw, that's the word I always use to describe my lifestyle.

    And speaking of, I'm overdue for a sub from Nick's...