New York City is known throughout the world for the music it has produced: be it Phil Spector, The Velvet Underground or the numerous genres created in the outer boroughs during the 1970s, from LL Cool J and Run-DMC to the New York Dolls and the Ramones. It was the latter—the first US punk rumblings—that made Hilly Kristal's Bowery hole-in-the-wall bar, CBGB's, into a household name.
But for a town that fosters an image as a hotbed of interesting music, there are alarmingly few places to see live music outside an arena setting—and the number gets smaller every few months. Venerable, if outdated, punk club CBGB's recently became locked in a high-profile fight with its landlord over increased rent; the club will close its doors later this year.
A few blocks north of CBGB's, the owner of the Continental, another dank rock club that has played host to all manner of punk and hardcore shows over the years, is closing the venue and reopening it as a bar catering to the yuppies now stepping over the few remaining gutterpunks on St. Mark's Place. Once again, steep rent increases were cited for the decision. Look back just a few years, the number of Manhattan clubs tossed onto the trash heap of history is staggering— Wetlands, Brownies, Tramps, The Ritz, Coney Island High.
As Jim DeRogatis, pop music critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, recently proclaimed: “The whole secret is real estate. It's all about real estate. You can't be a city that produces good garage bands when garage space is $850 a month to rent.”
Still, even as the clubs continue to close in downtown Manhattan, New Jersey and Brooklyn are beginning to sport the interesting scenes, bands and clubs that attracted music fans to New York City in the first place. If you want music in Manhattan—and are in the market for a new condo—Seal and John Legend have recently taken to playing at open houses in an attempt to lure thirty-something fans of middleof-the-road music.