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HILLY KRISTAL - R.I.P.

By malcolm Published: August 29, 2007

A few months after the final death of the legendary but long desolate punk rock mecca CBGB & OMFUG, it's proprietor Hilly Kristal died of long cancer at 75.
CBGB's closed last October after a string of great shows featuring old-timers such as Bad Brains, Blondie and Patti Smith who told the audience that Kristal was ‘‘our champion and in those days, there were very few.’’
Kristal who opened the club in 1973 wanted it to be some sort of Lowery Bowery mecca for the music he loved, namely the country, bluegrass and blues of the club's name. But he was smart enough to read the prevailing winds (and the many rock articles on the crazy new punk rock scene happening at a dirty, dingy club in the Bowery) and he rode the punk zeitgeist turning "CBGB's" into a recognizable logo whose shirts you can now buy at Target (CBGB's shirt = I like punk!).
After the club was finally shuttered, Kristal said he planned to take everything out of the original club including the legendary bathrooms and open a Vegas version of the club.
Let's be honest, that would have sucked.

I'd say it was the end of an era but the era actually ended nearly 30 years ago.
Frankly for several years, the club had been living off its reputation, seemingly booking any band that asked.

Nevertheless, I can proudly say I made my pilgrimage to the club a few years ago while in NYC for the The Pretenders induction into the Rock Hall (c'mon DEVO! Get me back to the big apple!)

It was a late monday (i.e. off) night, the club was near closing and there two screamo bands playing for their girlfriends.
They sucked.
The soundman was bored out of his mind and the bartender seemed mad at me for asking for a beer and making her work.
It was, of course, nothing like being there in the 70s when you might find Sid Vicious vomiting on somebody's daughter or Television sweating it out on stage as they tear through Marquee Moon, but it was strangely satisfying.
Just to stand in that tiny room with its better-than-I-expected sound, look around and see and smell the history all over the graffitti and poster covered walls.
Ya damn right I bought a t-shirt.
Yep, it's the exact same design anyone with $15 can pick up at Target, and there's no way to know, by looking, where it was purchased.
But I know where it came from.

R.I.P Hilly Kristal
You did a good thing.

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