NEW YORK (Reuters) - CBGB, the grimy punk rock club that spawned acts like Blondie, is about to join the list of fabled New York music venues forced to shutter their doors.
The club's lease on its premises in the city's grungy East Village neighborhood ran out on Wednesday and the landlord has refused to renew it after a rent dispute.
"It's a real shame. It's the last bastion of independent rock music," said Max Weinberg, the drummer in Bruce Springsteen's E Street band and on Conan O'Brien's late night talk show.
"There's really a danger in not recognizing the cultural importance of such places," he said outside CBGB. "You don't start tearing down your monuments."
As the club's last hours wound down, hundreds of punksters sporting tattoos, spiked hair and body piercings milled around a nearby park to hear musicians including Blondie's Debbie Harry sing in a rally to save the club.
"It hit me pretty hard when I found out," said Bryan Kinelen, bass player of a punk band called the Bouncing Souls. "It's like the world of jeans without Levi's, and all you're left with are the Diesels and Sassoons."
"Coming to CBGB is a pilgrimage for any punk-rock kid," said 17 year-old Steve Ciccarelli, who took the train in from New Jersey for the benefit show on Tuesday night.
Other New York music joints with a cult following have succumbed to soaring rents and tougher regulations. This year alone clubs like Fez and the Luna Lounge have closed, while the Bottom Line shut its doors last year.
"A decade ago, nobody wanted to live down here. It was raw space. And look at it now," said David Schroeder, director of jazz studies at New York University. "It's definitely much harder now for a club to survive."
CBGB, whose full name is CBGB & OMFUG for Country Bluegrass Blues & Other Music for Uplifting Gormandizers, once fostered the Ramones and no hosts dozens of bands each week.
It may move to another space, but that is hardly any solace for die-hard fans like Kinelen.
"It's a cozy place and it's sort of personal. Everybody's locked into that same little dark box," said Kinelen. "Part of what makes it irreplaceable is its history."
The club has vowed to fight the eviction and has shows scheduled through September.
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