By Brendan Kennedy
Looking back at August 2005, most people think of Hurricane Katrina, not about the time CBGB was in danger of closing. Not me.
The footage in this clip is from the Tribeca Film Festival contender “Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB.” Oh, and I shot it. Wait, what? It looks like some MTV News footage, right? Apparently the filmmakers licensed the footage that I shot for MTV News to flesh out their movie, which means — awesome! — I worked on a movie that’s in the Tribeca Film Fest.
The best part? Had I not been walking by a co-worker’s desk when she was watching the clip, I never would have known. (Thanks, Rachel.)
By the time I was old enough to go to shows, I had missed the peak of CBGB’s attraction. Don’t get me wrong … I love the aesthetic: the posters and stickers everywhere, the tiny stage, the world’s smallest “green room,” which was just a wall that bands autographed before or after their sets. There was just no reason to go see any shows there — for lack of good booking — until the place was going to close down.
One of my favorite shows ever was one of the last shows there. Miss Debbie Harry sang some oldies, and I got to pretend I was living my dream in an episode of “TV Party”. In fact, that whole time period was kind of amazing, for New York and for music in general. People were coming together to save a rock venue. More importantly, the people who actually came to play included the likes of Blondie and Public Enemy. And that was only one of the events that took place to save CBGB.
The footage I shot that they used in “Burning Down the House: The Story of CBGB” is from a concert in Washington Square Park. After the show ended there was a press event at the Hard Rock in Times Square, which was too ironic to talk about. I was having lunch at the Hard Rock when I heard the news that there was an awful hurricane in New Orleans. My producer asked me if I was “living in a bubble.” I like to think that I was: a bubble where aging rock stars could come swoop in like superheroes to the rescue a piece of rock history.