I’ve been thinking about CBGB’s lately. Back in the 90’s during my Doc Martin years, we played there a bunch of times.
I always liked playing at CB’s – they were really well-organized about the musical acts. You had your own dressing room (or shared one), so there was a place to keep your cases. And they had the onloading/offloading process between acts down to a science. We usually made a little money, too, and met some terrific musicians.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows; the ladies’ room was among the scariest I have ever dealt with. It’s hard to capture in words exactly what it was like, but let’s just say it really encouraged me to rethink this whole going to the bathroom thing. Thanks in part to that place, one of the skills I’ve picked up during my musical career is how to use the facilities without touching anything.
One night at CB’s, for some unknown reason (probably a little stage fright), I experienced what can only be described as temporary hysterical mutism. Nothing was coming out of my mouth. It happened mid-song, and I had to think fast.
What do you do when you’re in the middle of a gig and your voice gives out? You think fast. I made a split second decision to continue mouthing the lyrics, even though no sound was coming out. I did this for about a song and a half, when my voice came back online.
The poor soundman was going nuts. Every time I looked over at him, he was frantically working the knobs and faders, trying to turn up my nonexistant voice. I always felt bad about that, but in retrospect I think it was the right thing to do. If we’d stopped for a few minutes, I probably would have freaked out and stayed mute for longer.
Later on, reflecting my advancing years, I began to do gigs at CB’s Gallery, which was also a fun place to play. Much cleaner bathrooms, too. And I never went mute during a gig there – actually, the CBGB gig was the only time that happened.
Here’s a song by Syd Straw about CB’s. Her memories are different than mine, but it was the kind of place where memorable things happened. RIP CBGB OMFUG.
Image by Jeremy Keith.