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Rock the Casbah: Famous Music Venues

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The spirit of the infamous but now defunct New York music club CBGB will be reborn this summer, in the form of a music festival and movie. Originally intended to showcase the music styles it was named after (Country, BlueGrass, and Blues), CBGB became a breakout forum for Punk and New Wave bands like The Cramps, Ramones, Misfits and Talking Heads after it opened in 1973. Many mourned its closing in 2006 – but six years later, its death inspired a movie (coming to theaters in 2013) directed by Randall Miller and starring Alan Rickman as owner Hilly Kristal, Rupert Grint as Dead Boys guitarist Cheetah Chrome and Malin Akerman as Blondie’s Debbie Harry. The first CBGB music festival was also born this year, which will take place July 4 - 8 and will feature Cloud Nothings, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Guided By Voices and The War on Drugs. Here’s a look at some other infamous U.S. rock venues: Whisky A Go Go Location: Los Angeles, California Opened: January 16, 1964 Notable Acts: The Byrds, Alice Cooper, Buffalo Springfield and Love were regulars, and The Doors used to be the house band (until the debut of the oedipal lyrics in "The End" got them fired). Many British bands invaded the Whisky for their first headlining performances in the area, including The Kinks, The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin and Oasis. One night…: The Doors opened for Van Morrison's band Them during a two-week residency in June, 1966. On the last night of the residency, the two Morrison bands (one headed by Jim, the other by Van) jammed together on "Gloria," a song written by Van Morrison that The Doors did their own sexually-charged cover of years later. Fillmore East Location: New York City, New York Opened: March 8, 1968 Notable Acts: Classic rock legends Jimi Hendrix, Van Morrison, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and Led Zeppelin (opening for Iron Butterfly!) played this historic venue during the brief three years it was open. The Allman Brothers Band played so many shows there that they were sometimes called "Bill Graham's House Band," after venue promoter Bill Graham. One night…: Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys was recorded live at the Fillmore East on New Year's Day 1970. What some people wouldn’t give to have been there… Red Rocks Amphitheatre Location: Morrison, Colorado Opened: 1906 Notable Acts: From opera singer Mary Garden in 1911 to The Beatles in 1964 (the only concert not sold out during their US tour), this natural amphitheatre has hosted many bands throughout the years. Many more bands have recorded live albums there, including U2, Neil Young, R.E.M., Phish and Coldplay. There’s just something about Red Rocks… One night…: During a 1971 sold-out Jethro Tull performance, about a thousand fans showed up without tickets and were directed by police to an area behind the theater where they could still hear the music but not see the band. Growing unsatisfied with what they were given (as humans often do) the fans charged the amphitheatre and were met with clouds of tear gas from the police. The winds blew the tear gas over the gates and into the amphitheatre. This "Riot at Red Rocks" led to a five-year ban of rock concerts at the venue. But they couldn’t keep the rock out of Red Rocks for long…

Be sure to check out

The String Quartet Tribute to the Doors Available now at VSQ Online Store, iTunes and Amazon

and also:

The String Quartet to the Who's "Tommy"

The String Quartet to Led Zeppelin

The String Quartet Tribute to Coldplay

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Is Rock & Roll Dying? A Response to Patrick Carney

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If you've been in a long supermarket line recently, you've probably seen the leather jacketed members of The Black Keys gracing the cover of this month's issue of Rolling Stone. You may even be privy to the attention-grabbing lede: "Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world. So they became OK with the idea that the biggest rock band in the world is always going to be shit – therefore you should never try to be the biggest rock band in the world." That was Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney's quote, which the author used to start the profile piece. The article was about much more, but the easy, pot-stirring soundbite was the driving force behind the retweets, reblogs and shares, so let's talk about it. Is the great rock & roll dying? However you feel about Nickelback, one of those bands that is simultaneously hugely popular and hugely dismissed, is irrelevant to the underlying idea Carney is getting at: rock & roll is the big time, and the big time is no longer cool. The sub-culture and/or counter-culture has always been present in music, whether it was jazz or punk. But it seems the recent rise of the internet has made it a viable place to live; now, more than ever, you can stay off of the radio and refuse The Tonight Show and still make enough money to live. Indie has become a self-sustaining ecosystem and community. As a result, kids picking up guitars for the first time can aspire to get big – but not too big. Maybe big enough to get on the cover of Rolling Stone, at best. But is that killing rock & roll? There's an idea out there in the fandom that mainstream popularity and coolness are usually mutually exclusive. Just look at any misguided discussion about “selling out.” Carney seems concerned with making straight rock & roll, and the fame that comes with it, a positive thing to the rebellious youths turning away from rock & roll and toward alternative or indie. Because what kind of world would we live in if rock & roll was no longer hip? What I think Carney is picking up on isn't that rock & roll is dying, but it is definitely changing. It's now an umbrella term for a wide variety of music – just look at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame's definition of the genre. Rock & roll has always branched out from its point of origin, but with technology providing a low barrier to entry and easy distribution, it has splintered out even faster. So any of the big guitar acts, like indie chart toppers Arcade Fire, don't really identify as simply “rock & roll,” leaving that territory for the Nickelbacks. Despite this, it's hard to imagine that Arcade Fire doesn't fit in the big world of rock somewhere. If they identify as an indie band, or some kind of alternative, or some derivative of folk and chamber pop, all of that can still be traced backwards through time to a rock & roll tradition. It's not that rock & roll is dying – it's just that the term isn't helpful in today's mass music access, because it doesn't describe the difference between Radiohead and Papa Roach. It's important to note that people have always claimed that rock & roll was dying. In 1968, the King of Rock & Roll himself, Elvis Presley, gave credit to these new bands like The Beatles and The Byrds, but felt that they were straying away from rock's roots in gospel and R&B. Maybe it's changing faster now than ever, but it's always been changing, and that's far from death. In a culture where there's something for everyone, where every band – even Nickelback – has a niche and an audience, how can that be anything but survival?

Be sure to check out:

Vitamin String Quartet Performs Modern Rock Hits 2011 Vol. 2

Available now at iTunes and Amazon


Vitamin String Quartet Performs Breaking Dawn Part 1

Available now at iTunes and Amazon

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