Unseen Photos of CBGBs by DJ Jason

Many years ago these photos of CBGBs were taken before the bands played on a wednesday when DJ Jason did lights for the club. They have been in storage for many years, but here they are for you to enjoy today.

The outside facade with it’s iconic CBGBs logo and awning… note the homeless person standing on the left from Project Rescue. They commonly would come in and start trouble. One time, the new night manager, Drew, got stabbed in the neck by one of them, but usually they would be manageable and the benefit to being next to Project Rescue was that they didn’t complain about the noise.

Here’s a detail of the Project Rescue entry and signage

On the other side, there was CBGBs Gallery. It was much larger than it’s parent, CBGBs, at 5600 square feet compared to 3200 sq. feet. (note: the basement level was the combined space of the other 2 clubs, so it was like 8800 square feet minus a little for the downstairs office, ice machines, recording studio, etc)

Not the best window display this time, but it changed regularly

This is the front office entry and that is Milo doing security and Brendan, the Nighttime General Manager

Here is Rodney Speed (RIP) on the computer in the upstairs office entry area across from security and door duty. Security and other idle staff would spend a lot of time watching The Simpsons on that TV with “Kill Me” on it.

Some office details including the playbill for the night

This is a curtain by the entry that was put in to deflect some of the noise since police would drive by and take readings when the doors would open. It often wasn’t in use.

This is looking backwards from the bar to the raised platform near the door entry

This is the view looking towards the stage in the distance from the front. The long bar is on the right and the pool table area is on the left riser. The pool table was removed years earlier after suffering much damage over the years.

A bar area… there were lots of stickers and posters that would routinely be torn down for more. These spots were the most coveted for flyers.

The “pool table area” (raised platform) at CBGBs near the entry. This was a good place to see bands on stage from a distance, if it was insanely crowded like during many of the “Save CBGBs” shows that happened before the club closed.

Here is another view from the pool table area that includes the bar and neon signs (each would be sprayed with black spray paint as soon as it came to the club, since they needed to be muted for it to be properly dark)

Here are some old Alchemy and Absolution club flyers on the bar post closest to the stage. Note the many layers!

Here is the beer list and many other signs at the bar

More details of the wall behind the bar

This is the employee-only fridge and second cash register

Here is the bar area closest to the stage

This is the main CBGBs cash register

Here is the soundman, Gabby (from the punk band Molotov Cocktail) in the sound booth

Gabby and his girlfriend in the sound booth

A sound booth detail including the Suckometer 3000. Everyone loved it, since it was so funny for bands that weren’t appreciated, although I think the red light had burned out by the time of this photo.

Here is the soundman’s view from the booth with the lights out

This is part of the new camera system that Hilly had put in for live streaming.

This is the view of the lighting booth “crow’s nest” and the ladder that goes there. Note the Action Cat Productions poster (RIP Steve Mach) with Cult of the Psychic Fetus and other bands to the right. Their iconic cat logo was drawn by Sara Landeau at CBGBs Gallery during Alchemy.

This is a ceiling view from the lighting booth looking back towards the soundbooth over the seated area

Here is a view of the stage from the lighting booth

This is the last lighting board that CBGBs used. There used to be a really old dimmer pack that was leftover from the Allman Bros. It would sometimes shock you when you plugged things into it, and it was rumored to have been lined with asbestos, so the newer equipment was a relief at the time.

This is the view looking back towards the front entry from the lighting booth over the bar’s beer storage area. (only bottles, no drafts)

Here is a closeup of the ceiling’s peeling paint and leftover insulation

Here is another detail with some of the many exposed pipes. One time a singer swung by one in CBGB’s basement and it broke. The whole basement was flooded. I had a Goth event, Absolution, there the very next day, so I was concerned, but it actually ended up being ok in time and the club was the cleanest it ever was for it’s bath.

Here is the view from the side of the stage near the backstage and stairs to the bathrooms

Here is one of the huge side fill stage monitors that were hung by chains for the stage

Here are some of the parcans over the stage

This shows much of the colored lighting. There were several different lamps there and some dated back to the 1970s.

These are the bathroom stairs. For many years, the men’s room had no door, which made it unfavored by the employees who would go next door to CBGBs Gallery to use the employee bathroom there instead.

This is the infamous CBGBs Men’s Room. In actuality, it was much cleaner than the majority of east village places at the time. Mohammed and Rodney cleaned it everyday, unlike the most foul nearby bathrooms at Mars Bar or Korova Milk Bar… and countless other places back then. It just had a different aesthetic.

This is another detail of the flyers and posters on the way to the exit

A shot of some of Hilly’s memorabilia and other things above the exit

The exit doors… to the right are the back stairs to the basement level

Here’s a poster for Joey Ramone’s birthday, as well as the ATM on the way to the lower level. People that weren’t staff weren’t supposed to use that stairwell at all, but frequently Goths and Punks used to sneak into Absolution via that unlocked back entry, since the crowd going into CBGBs was thick and the security couldn’t always catch them

Bonus shot; This is the employee bathroom at CBGB’s Gallery. The blue plastic bag holds the mirror ball that was used at Alchemy.

I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Cheers, DJ Jason

, , , , ,

33 Responses to Unseen Photos of CBGBs by DJ Jason

  1. Aaron Sylvan April 5, 2020 at 11:54 am #

    Wow, fantastic! Thanks for posting all these 🙂

    • DJ Jason April 5, 2020 at 3:51 pm #

      I am glad that you enjoyed them. <3

  2. Nia April 5, 2020 at 1:30 pm #

    Well, I am happy to see this rather official chronicle of CBGBs here! Thank you so much for the memories, friend 🙂

    • DJ Jason April 5, 2020 at 3:49 pm #

      Thank you Nia. It was always nice seeing you at Alchemy

      • Brian Daley aka H.C April 6, 2020 at 2:35 am #

        Played here a few times in US chaos and seen so many bands over the years and the matinee’s thank you Dj for posting just as I remembered so we’ll home away from home

        • DJ Jason April 7, 2020 at 10:06 am #

          You are welcome. Yeah, I did lights for some of those matinees. Crazy times!

        • Bobby Dean April 7, 2020 at 11:13 am #

          Hey Brian! How ya doin? been awhile.

  3. Necromos April 5, 2020 at 1:30 pm #

    That was great!

    • DJ Jason April 5, 2020 at 3:48 pm #

      Thanks Necromos!

  4. Dominique de Merteuil April 5, 2020 at 4:04 pm #

    Jason, thank you for sharing the pictures with all of us!

    Miss Alchemy so much!


    • DJ Jason April 5, 2020 at 4:06 pm #

      You are very welcome Domi! It was great having you at Alchemy… <3

  5. Kenn April 5, 2020 at 4:57 pm #

    Very strange seeing it empty and lit up.
    Looked worse than i remembered.
    I will forever be grateful for CBs though.
    And these pictures are a beautiful reminder of days past and a timeless era that I’m proud to have been a part of.
    Thank you for what you do!

    • DJ Jason April 5, 2020 at 5:09 pm #

      haha, yes, the darkness of clubs always helps improve their appearance. Every club looks worse lit up brightly.

  6. JeffS April 5, 2020 at 5:08 pm #

    These were so much fun! Never saw the place so brightly lit, though.

    • DJ Jason April 7, 2020 at 10:00 am #

      There are some things that only employees saw. You should have seen the space with the lights out and the downstairs lights on… it looked like a planetarium from all of the holes in the floor. I regret not taking a picture of all of the metal patches on the ground there.

  7. picky yasa April 5, 2020 at 9:18 pm #

    missed the place dearly, missed watching david johansen/the dolls

  8. Tom Fury April 6, 2020 at 7:41 am #

    Well done Jason….. nice stroll down memory lane.

    • DJ Jason April 6, 2020 at 11:25 am #

      Thanks Tom. I really thought I’d never get around to resizing all of the pictures and putting this up, but with this COVID 19 stuff going on, I suddenly had ample time and motivation.

  9. Seth April 6, 2020 at 9:37 pm #

    Thank.you! I used to leave Boston at 9pm and get to Absolution with a decent amount of time left. Parking was east then, too

    • DJ Jason April 7, 2020 at 9:53 am #

      Yeah, Parking became so crazy over the last ten years. Thanks for coming to Absolution. The years at CBGBs were the best. It’s too bad that the stupid cabaret laws made us have to move, even though Flamingo East was still pretty great.

  10. Allen April 7, 2020 at 3:03 am #

    What a fucking treat for me, a 57 year old man that was born and raised in the mountains of East Tennessee and never got to attend a live show at this legendary music cathedral in NYC. Living it through the pictures and stories of others, now.

  11. Ezekiel Whateley April 7, 2020 at 6:23 am #

    The guy who swung from and broke the pipes downstairs at the Gallery was Tim of The Polecats.

    • DJ Jason April 7, 2020 at 9:49 am #

      That was really frightening, since the event was so well promoted and I feared that 600 people would be angry with me for it not happening, but luckily the event went as scheduled and all was well. I remember standing there that afternoon looking at the water and being full of dread though

  12. Bobby Dean April 7, 2020 at 11:25 am #

    i flew into the City in 2001 from Scottsdale and met my friend who flew from Colorado Springs. Arturo got me 2 tickets to Joey’s B.B. i was surprised that none of the Ramones were there, i thought maybe they were at CB’s, i was drunk and my friend convinced me to walk down there. by the time i got there it was closed but the manager let me in and wrote on the back of a flyer that The Ramones weren’t there so i could prove to my friend i had indeed went there to check it out. that was my last time in CB’s. i still have the flyer and i laminated it. had great times there, will always remember it.

  13. Brian Surgent April 7, 2020 at 12:37 pm #

    I remember one of the urinals in the Men’s room was wrapped like a hundred times with duct tape and the sign said “Stevie Wonder could see that this urinal is out of order Don’t Piss In It!” …there was huge puddle of pee under it.

  14. Leif Kindler April 8, 2020 at 4:52 am #

    I do respect the legacy og CBGB’s, but I have to say, “what a dump”.

    • DJ Jason April 8, 2020 at 8:17 am #

      Like an old pair of sneakers, yeah. tbf, the sound system was the best in the city for a club that size, and nowadays no mid-sized venues even have a dedicated live lighting person or lighting booth, as they just have the soundman run lighting preprograms (badly).

  15. revenco alexandru April 13, 2020 at 5:19 am #

    Amintiri formidabile Gabby !

  16. Priya Fury April 13, 2020 at 6:15 pm #

    Memories…thanks for these, Jason! I still know Brendan, and knew Gabby when I lived in NYC. I’ve seen the place with lights on (yeesh), and man,I will never miss those bathrooms though. I spent so much time there. Thanks for letting me relive my 20’s!

  17. Larry April 19, 2021 at 6:29 pm #

    I worked there from ‘77 to ‘83

    • DJ Jason April 19, 2021 at 6:45 pm #

      There was another Larry that worked there during the last decade it was open too.

  18. Craig Atkinson October 30, 2021 at 5:42 pm #

    This is amazing. I went once in ‘98. I’m trying to find out who was on, February I think. Also we ended up in the basement, more relaxed and lots of drag queens. No idea why we went down there but I can’t find anything online at all about the basement. Any ideas?

    • DJ Jason October 30, 2021 at 9:09 pm #

      The Basement was new in 1998… before that it was just full of crates of skeletonized rats, old music gear and random debris. There also had been a wall that separated the part that was under the main club from the part that was under the gallery. After the renovation, the space became as big as both clubs above combined… over 8800 square feet.
      As for your drag queen night, I have no idea. It was probably a one time thing… possibly a record release event. The main events that happened there were Absolution (my night), Organic Grooves (a sort of hippie drum thing) and Classic Fridays (an old school rap night with DJ Cool Herc).

Leave a Reply