The 2013 CBGB Music and Film Festival has unfortunately come to an end. It's been an eventful couple of days that all came to a head for the free music showcases on Saturday, October 12 in Times Square, NYC.
Hundreds of thousands of people packed in from 46 Street all the way up to 52 on Broadway to see Lisa Loeb, The Wallflowers, Divine Fits, Grizzly Bear, My Morning Jacket, a DJ set by LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy, among others. Not exactly the lineup one would imagine to represent the spirit of the legendary CBGB, but an eclectic bill of amazing artists nonetheless.
The festival began with opening sets by "Stay (I Missed You)" singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb and LA rockers The Wallflowers. Loeb played an intimate set of her hits while an under-the-weather Jakob Dylan braved his way through the Wallflowers' notable songs like the '90s radio-smash, "One Headlight." It was one for the nostalgia record books as these two acts took Times Square back to an earlier decade and much simpler musical times.
Alt-rock supergroup Divine Fits took the after lunch time slot and powered through songs from their acclaimed 2013 release "A Thing Called Divine Fits." Spoon's Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner joined forces just a few years ago to form this relatively new musical outlet. The end result is a blistering new group who was arguably the most appropriate to be headlining a festival under the CBGB name. Daniel's raw vocals and Boeckner's high energy wouldn't be out of place at Hilly Kristal's gritty rock club.
Brooklyn's own Grizzly Bear was definitely one of the festival's standout musical showcases. After a short, 30 minute DJ set by James Murphy, the dynamic rockers showed off an impressive musical range as Ed Droste's and Daniel Rossen's technically proficient voices soared over fuzzed-out guitars and catchy, experimental rock soundscapes. Playing alongside the Ed Sullivan Theater, Droste joked about how reassuring it was to see David Letterman's smiling face staring back at him while the band played.
Immediately after Grizzly Bear took their bow, ex-MTV VJ and rock personality, Matt Pinfield, introduced closing act My Morning Jacket as "one of the greatest live bands in the world." Considering the way they stopped the show and blasted Times Square into the stratosphere, that statement definitely holds weight.
The eccentric Jim James enlisted the help of Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard, the TuNeYaRds’ Merrill Garbus and Antibalas’ horn section for a beautifully rousing and soulful rendition of "Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am" from the Fela Kuti tribute compilation "Red Hot + Fela." Jakob Dylan also made his way on stage for an inspiring take on The Band's version of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don’t Do It."
It was most definitely a unique and unifying experience for music fans, New Yorkers, and tourists alike. Festival cofounder, Tim Hayes, commented on the festival saying that “We want to make every Columbus Day Weekend a time when the whole world can celebrate Hilly Kristal’s dream of presenting live music to the largest audience possible."
Though it's impossible to imagine bands like Grizzly Bear or Lisa Loeb performing within the divey walls of the old CBGB, the spirit of the legendary venue remains intact with this festival. The name alone represents more than just the hardcore, punk, and new wave scene that it became known for. It transcends genre association and is a mere platform for creativity and honesty in music. As long as the festival continues to spread the gospel of great live music what better way to honor the CBGB spirit?