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Joan Jett, Tom Morello Open Punk’s Refurbished Birthplace


“This is going to be a motherfucker of an evening,” designer John Varvatos declared at the opening of his shop at 315 Bowery, the once seedy, prostitute and junkie-ridden locale of punk’s kicking and screaming birthplace, CBGBs.

The upscale retailer cleared out his pricey wares and welcomed a crowd of downtown music lovers after taking over the famed venue’slease from now deceased original owner, Hilly Kristal. The new tenant paid tribute to the building’s storied past by hanging record sleeves and framed posters of the Rolling Stones, the Ramones, and the Velvet Underground on the walls, which surrounded a bustling chatter of flashing cameras and small-talking fashionistas sporting tattered leather jackets and plenty of eyeliner.

But despite the celebration, the star-studded affair (which raised proceeds for the VH1 Save the Music Foundation) also drew its share of critics. “We feel luxury retailers are pushing out real culture from the city,” asserted local musician Rebecca Moore, who was among the protesters outside the venue. “Luxury retailers need to boycott these rents,” she maintained, while waving a sign that read “$800 Pants Kill Music in NYC.”

Back inside the newfangled shop, the howling tots of Care Bears on Fire kicked off the rock showcase. The shaggy-haired mini-punks delivered high-pitched renditions of “Everybody Else” and “Jack Brown,” both off 2007’s I Stole Your Animal, followed by four-piece Pop Girls Etc. and their surging, pensive grooves. Next, the D Generation took the stage for the first time in ten years, delighting the audience with their skuzzy musical styling, as frontman Jesse Malin climbed the monitors and hopped around the tiny stage, barely large enough to contain his child-without-meds antics.

Shortly thereafter, illustrious house band the Losers Lounge stole the spotlight. Joined by Joan Jett, Ronnie Spector, Clem Burke (Blondie), and Ian Hunter (Mott the Hoople), the supergroup performed a series of classic punk and rock hits. Slash, Perry Farrell, Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains), and Tom Morello subsequently roused the crowd with a rendition of MC5’s “Kick Out the Jams,” and by the end of the night, it was clear that whether you were outside protesting the event or inside hanging off the rafters, Varvatos delivered on his initial promise.

We asked: Now that CBGBs is closed, what is your favorite musical landmark?

Jett sonically seduces / Photo by Jackie Roman

Tom Morello strums along with the Losers Lounge / Photo by Jackie Roman

The Dictators’ “Handsome” Dick Manitoba caught in a moment of Deja Vu / Photo by Jackie Roman

John Varvatos introducing Care Bears on Fire / Photo by Jackie Roman

A vigil to the fallen CBGBs / Photo by Jackie Roman

CBGB hardcores protest the Varvatos takeover / Photo by Jackie Roman

Patrons mingle between sets in the venue’s revamped bar / Photo by Jackie Roman