Friday, July 6, 2012

Photos/Review: CBGB Festival Day One (Krist Novoselic, American Hardcore, Agnostic Front)

Agnostic Front @ Webster Hall
CBGB Festival (Day One) – July 5, 2012
Photos/Review: Chris

CBGB Festival is in full swing here in NYC, which means thirty venues throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn are hosting music showcases, and the entire Landmark Sunshine Theater is holding numerous panels and film screenings. To kick things off, legendary bassist Krist Novoselic gave a keynote speech at Sunshine yesterday at noon, which was hosted and moderated by walking music encyclopedia Matt Pinfield.

Novoselic’s speech focused mainly on his life as a musician and his tenure as bass player for Nirvana, but he also emphasized his involvement in social activism after the demise of the band. Novoselic was active in lobbying against laws such as the Erotic Music Law, which would have prevented minors from purchasing music deemed obscene, and the Teen Dance Ordinance, which stopped minors from attending many shows. After his speech, Matt Pinfield moderated a Q&A with the audience, which generated some oddball questions and responses. The most interesting exchange occurred when someone asked him what it was like working with Butch Vig again on the latest Foo Fighters record, which Novoselic made an appearance on. He took this as an opportunity to express his admiration for Dave Grohl, exclaiming that when people ask him if he’s jealous of everything Grohl has achieved he tells them, “How could I be jealous of that? Dave has worked so hard for everything he has, and he deserves every bit of it.” The response drew a lengthy applause.

Krist Novoselic @ Sunshine Theater
After the speech, I killed some time in the area before heading back to the Sunshine Theater to catch a screening of the documentary American Hardcore. I saw the film when it was first released in 2006, and figured an encore viewing wouldn’t hurt. The director of the film (Paul Rachman) and the writer of the book in which the film is based on (Steven Blush) appeared with Harley Flanagan of Cro-Mags fame to speak briefly of what the film was about, and how it relates to the CBGB Festival. The consensus being that CBGBs represented the beginnings of the DIY ethic, which has persevered throughout independent music ever since.

Harley Flanagan, Steven Blush and Paul Rachman
The film itself is an entertaining and thorough examination of the American hardcore punk scene from 1980-1986, featuring performances by Bad Brains, The Adolescents, Minor Threat, MDC, Black Flag, Gang Green, Flipper and interviews with punk icons such as Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye, Mark Arm, HR and Keith Morris. Being a fan of many of those bands, it’s quite fun to witness how the scene came about and what it represented, but I do have a couple problems with the film. First, there are a lot of bands that are completely overlooked such as Husker Du, Dead Kennedys and The Misfits. It’s possible the rights to their music could not be obtained to use in the film, but not even the slightest mention is made of them. Second, the film tries to mark the moment of when Bad Brains began playing reggae as the “death of hardcore.” I understand that Bad Brains did make a radical shift towards metal, reggae and funk around 1986, but they use their song “I Luv I Jah” as an example of their change of style, which is a song on their debut record released in 1982. It just seems like the filmmakers were looking for a scapegoat as to why the scene sort of fizzled out in 1986.

Personally, I feel like the death of hardcore came from too many bands sounding exactly the same (something that becomes more and more apparent as the film goes on), and had they made some mention of Husker Du and their foray into expanding the hardcore genre, it could have left the film on a higher note. A sort of, “well, that type of hardcore may have died, but look at what great music rose from its ashes!” But again, it’s a great and informative film, and well worth watching.

Apparently hardcore was in my blood yesterday, so after the film I walked over to Webster Hall to catch the very hardcore lineup of Maximum Penalty, Murphy’s Law, Madball and Agnostic Front. Now, I’ve never been the hugest fan of NYHC (I much prefer the early hardcore sound of The Germs, X and all of the original SST bands), but I did spend some time as a teenager at matinee shows at Coney Island High, Wetlands Preserve and of course CBGBs in the late ‘90s. So I was well aware of what I was getting myself into by attending the show. Point being, I hung out in the balcony during most of the showcase so as to avoid getting slammed in the face with my own camera. It was a good decision.

Murphy's Law @ Webster Hall
All in all, the show was great and I’ll never get tired of watching kids mercifully beat each other in the mosh pit in the name of fun. One question though: is it customary at NYHC shows for there to be 50 people on stage? It seemed a bit obtrusive to the performers at times.

Check out some photos from my first day of CBGB Festival below, and stay tuned for more coverage of the festival in the coming days.


  1. How could I be jealous of that? Dave has worked so hard for everything he has, and he deserves every bit of it.” The response drew a lengthy applause.

  2. Ooohh, Just wanted to respond. I thoroughly loved your post. Keep up the great work. :)