Even though CBGB is now a John Varvatos store and the original four members of the Ramones are all dead, New York City still celebrates the CBGB legacy by showcasing hundreds of bands in dive-y music venues and showing rock n’ roll films. We are aware that DeeDee Ramone isn’t a straight teenage hustler and heroin addict on 53rd and 3rd anymore, and we know that Patti Smith played the last show at CBGB in October of 2006. Whether or not you believe punk is dead, the annual festival reminds us that in a music industry driven by money and record labels, there’s still an underground community thriving on friendships and love for the ever evolving genre of rock n’ roll.
This past Thursday, four diverse bands gathered downstairs in the dingy, graffiti-clad Lit Lounge on the Lower East Side. Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor from Detroit, Michigan took the stage first, and delivered a set clearly inspired by 1960’s and 1970’s psyche rock. The trio’s material fused poetically grim lyrics, repetitive riffs and spooky keyboard, with outbreaks of consciousness-expanding experimental feedback. I talked with Shawn, Eric, and Richard over a drink during their break in-between sets, and they told me about their 10 years as a band, shared some tour stories, and explained the importance of their DIY ethic. They’re best friends and that’s all it’s ever really been about. They screen print their own merch, record their material, and do everything else in-between as a band, by themselves. Their support system comes from other bands with the same values that make up the DIY community.
The second band, Brooklyn based Bootblacks, used simple stage lights and a fog machine that was also used by each subsequent act to enhance their stage presence. Complete with a singer/synth keyboardist, guitarist, and drummer, Bootblacks provided synth-infused, dance-worthy goth rock. They’ve achieved a brilliant juxtaposition in that they’ve managed to make music that sounds quite insufferable and ominous while simultaneously catchy and melodic. The performance itself sounded great; the singer’s deep voice was complimented by haunting, atmospheric sounds, cold, distant guitar riffs, and structured, rhythmic drumming.
It’s difficult to put a finger on Dead Leaf Echo’s sound. It’s chaotic and hectic, but all swells together in the end. The foursome is rooted in dream, noise, and ambient rock, and is part of the resurgence of the alternative subgenre shoegaze. Distant, romantically gloomy lyrics were sung by both male and female band members, and were accompanied by a swirling, distorted-but-catchy sound. I spoke with guitarist/singer LG, and he was nice enough to give me a copy of their latest EP true.deep.sleeper. After a second listen, I confirmed my original thought, and associated the band with My Bloody Valentine.
The fourth and final band, Diavel, played an energetic, fast, intense show, simply combining two bass players and a drummer. The mic was placed to the right of the stage and was only used for in-between song banter, including, “I never went to CBGB but I heard it was cool.” Any lyrics or drowned wailing done during the performance was merely screamed over the aggressive, powerful noise coming from only three people. They covered the Pixies’ Where Is My Mind, and I was pleasantly surprised with their unique, harsh rendition. This line up at Lit Lounge reminded me of when I was in high school going to see a friend of a friend’s local band. It’s important to be reminded that in a place as large and commercially driven as New York City, a humble underground culture and community can still thrive and be cultivated.
Article by: Jenna Pinch