Anyone who’s ever stood in the dark, dank recesses of the legendary Bowery punk club CBGB knows its unapologetic bleakness as the antithesis of a typical day in South Florida. So what to make of the revelation that the first spin-off of New York’s sprawling CBGB Music & Film Festival will be in Fort Lauderdale in 2015.
Cynics will say it is just the next logical step in the brand’s devolution from the original club (now a John Varvatos boutique) to the festival’s home this week in Times Square, which isn’t really a part of the New York that New Yorkers inhabit.
On the other hand, the music lineup for the third annual festival, which began Wednesday, does include desirable Sunday performances by Devo and Jane's Addiction, with a lead-in performance by West Palm Beach’s own Surfer Blood, all free admission. Book and film discussions on the schedule include sessions with Daniel Lanois, Billy Idol and Duff McKagen.
That’s the blueprint for what’s planned in Fort Lauderdale, though the details on who’s performing when are still being worked out. CBGB reps, slightly busy with their own festival, confirmed the Fort Lauderdale edition of the event, but directed questions to locals.
Noelle Stevenson, commissioner of film, music and entertainment at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, says the festival, which she casually refered to as CBGB Fort Lauderdale, is the result of the same kind of laser-guided effort that has attracted the Tortuga Music Festival, Lauderdale Live and the Driven Music Conference.
“It’s been a very strong initiative of the [film, music and entertainment] division to very aggressively target the live-music industry,” Stevenson says. “And we feel very strongly that the live indie-rock genre of music is a great fit overall for Broward County.”
The CVB has taken over a block of Times Square during the CBGB Music & Film Festival, from 48th to 49th streets, to stir up some buzz about the area. The festival is expected to draw more than 350,000 visitors to multiple locations around New York City.
CVB officials also scheduled a VIP event to premiere its “Duende” video, a short film that showcases “the images, the vibe, the soul, the energy” of the area, Stevenson says. It was created to acknowledge the three-day grand finale of Broward 100 festivities, Oct. 2-4, 2015, celebrating the county’s 100th anniversary.
“Underground Lauderdale” is a page on the CVB’s Sunny.org website that characterizes greater Fort Lauderdale as “an underground/indie rock music hub secret,” citing such locales as FAT Village and Himmarshee.
“If you have experienced the Williamsburg music scene, you really know what we are talking about!” the page gushes.
Stevenson says Fort Lauderdale’s reputation as a destination for independent film also played a role in creating the “great synergy” needed to attract CBGB.
Organizers are trying to find a space in the calendar for CBGB that doesn’t conflict with other music festivals, both local and national, she says.