Punk Features

From CBGB to The Marquee: Exploring Ten Punk Venues That Helped Define Punk

These ten legendary punk venues became hallowed grounds for the punk movement around the globe

The punk movement of the 1970s and beyond was not only defined by its music but also by the vibrant venues that provided a stage for its raw energy and rebellious spirit. These legendary punk venues became the birthplaces of revolution, fostering a sense of community and serving as platforms for emerging punk bands. Punktuation! delves into the history and significance of ten of the most iconic punk venues, including CBGB in New York City, SO36 in Berlin, and The 100 Club in London. Let’s embark on a journey to explore the spaces that shaped the punk scene.

1: CBGB (New York City)

CBGB in 1983-Image © Jack Vartoogian

Punk folklore says this is where it all began. Located in New York City’s Bowery neighbourhood, CBGB (short for “Country, Bluegrass, and Blues”) emerged as a cultural hub for punk rock. Opening its doors in 1973, CBGB quickly became synonymous with punk music and an incubator for bands like the Ramones, Talking Heads, Television and Blondie. Its gritty atmosphere, low stage, and DIY ethos provided a haven for artists seeking artistic freedom and authenticity. CBGB’s influence on punk cannot be overstated, as it sparked a movement that reverberated worldwide.

2. The 100 Club (London)

Sex Pistols at The 100 Club - image Ray Stevens/Shutterstock

Across the pond, The 100 Club in London holds a special place in punk history. Originally a jazz and blues venue, The 100 Club embraced the burgeoning punk movement in the mid-1970s. The club’s infamous two-day “Punk Festival” in September 1976, featured eight bands (Subway Sect, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Stinky Toys, Chris Spedding & The Vibrators, The Damned and the Buzzcocks)  and marked a defining moment in UK punk history. The 100 Club’s significance as a punk venue continues to resonate today. 

3. Max's Kansas City (New York City)

Max's Kansas City NYC

Max’s Kansas City, situated in New York City’s East Village, was the ‘opposition’ for CBGB. As a New York punk you either went to CBGB or Max’s – never both! Max’s was a haven for punk and artistic experimentation. Operating from the late 1960s into the 1970s, Max’s Kansas City hosted a diverse range of artists, including punk pioneers like The Velvet Underground, New York Dolls, and Patti Smith. It served as a meeting point for musicians, poets, artists, and filmmakers, fostering a vibrant creative community. Max’s Kansas City’s eclectic programming and atmosphere contributed to its status as a legendary punk venue.

4. Whisky a Go Go (Los Angeles)

Whisky a Go Go, located on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, became an influential venue during the punk movement. Established in 1964, it played a crucial role in introducing punk to the West Coast in the ’70s. Bands such as The Germs, X, and The Weirdos graced its stage, channelling their raw energy and confrontational attitude. The Whisky a Go Go’s contribution to the punk movement was significant, and it remains an iconic venue in the world of rock and roll.

5: The Marquee Club (London)

The Marquee Club in London, known for its association with the British blues scene in the 1960s, also became a significant venue for punk. It embraced the punk movement, providing a platform for bands like The Damned, The Jam, and The Stranglers. The Marquee’s legacy as a venue that showcased emerging talent continued in the punk era, cementing its importance in the evolution of the genre. The club’s small size and intimate atmosphere made for explosive and unforgettable shows. The Marquee Club remains a legendary venue in the history of British music.

6. SO36 (Berlin, Germany)

Slime at S036 Photo: Montecruz Foto

SO36, located in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin, Germany, has played a pivotal role in shaping the Deutsche punk movement. Founded in the 1970s, the club quickly became a hub for alternative music and culture, particularly punk. Managed by various people over the years, including Martin Kippenberger, who focused on creating a crossover between punk and other genres and mediums such as new wave and visual arts, SO36 has become a fixture on the Berlin music scene. It has hosted many big bands including Die Toten Hosen, Einstürzende Neubauten, Slime, The Damned and The Ramones. Despite the original location being closed by authorities in 1983, SO36 is now located just down the road and remains a legendary German venue, and a visit to Berlin isn’t complete without a visit to this iconic club.

7. The Vortex (London)

The Vortex Club was undoubtedly one of the most important venues for the development of punk subculture in London during the 1970s. The club opened its doors in 1977 and quickly became a hub for the punk scene in London. The Vortex, founded by Andy Czezowski, co-owner of The Roxy, opened in 1977 and earned a mention in The Jam’s ‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street’. The Venue became a launchpad for bands like 999, the Boomtown Rats, and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Sadly, the club’s reign was short-lived, culminating in Tubeway Army‘s gig at The Vortex in 1978.’

8. Le Gibus (Paris, France)

Le Gibus, located in the heart of Paris, has played a significant role in shaping the French punk scene. Founded in the late 1970s, the club has become a hub for punk enthusiasts and a breeding ground for emerging punk bands. Le Gibus has hosted bands including,  from France, Stinky Toys, Les Thugs, and Guerilla Poubelle, and from the UK, The Slits, and The Exploited, to name but a few.

Today, Le Gibus remains one of the few venues in Paris that supports alternative and punk music, further cementing its status as an important cultural institution in the city’s music scene.

9. The Roxy (London)

Don Letts and Andrew Czezowski outside the Roxy

Initially known as the Chaguaramas Club, The Roxy Club was a former warehouse for fruit and vegetables situated in Covent Garden. In 1970, it was established as a late-night bar under the management of reggae record producer Tony Ashfield. After a few years, it was sold to new owners, Andrew Czezowski, Susan Carrington, and Barry Jones, who renamed it The Roxy. Th club gained notoriety for hosting a series of punk gigs, starting with Billy Idol’s band, Generation X, in 1976. The Heartbreakers and Siouxsie and the Banshees, attracting early punk scene gig-goers.

10. Hangar 110, (São Paulo, Brazil)

Hangar 110, located in São Paulo, is a renowned punk club in Brazil. Since its establishment in the late 1990s, it has been instrumental in shaping the country’s punk and hardcore scenes. Hangar 110 has hosted countless local and international bands, promoting a wide range of subgenres within punk, including melodic punk, hardcore, and skate punk. Its commitment to supporting independent artists and fostering a sense of community has made it a significant venue in the Brazilian punk landscape.

This small list of ten venues simply scratches the surface of the vast number of influential punk venues that have left an indelible mark on the music scene. Alongside the iconic venues already mentioned, there are numerous other noteworthy punk establishments that deserve recognition.

In London alone, venues like Hope and Anchor, The Tally Ho, and The Screen On The Green served as breeding grounds for punk music, hosting memorable performances by bands that shaped the movement. In the north of England, The Black Bull, Trillions, The Garage, and The Station became vital hubs for local punk scenes. Read more about UK Punk venues here.

Punks at the Station, Gateshead, in 1985. Photo Chris Killip

Expanding beyond the UK, the United States boasts its fair share of influential punk venues too. The Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia, played a pivotal role in nurturing the punk community in the southern region. 924 Gilman Street in Berkeley, California, emerged as a renowned DIY punk space, promoting inclusivity and providing a stage for countless underground acts. The Black Cat in Washington, D.C., with its gritty atmosphere and commitment to alternative music, became a haven for punk bands and fans alike.

These venues, along with countless others, helped revolutionise the music scene. They provided spaces where punk ideology could thrive, challenging societal norms and encouraging the DIY ethos. These punk venues became more than just places to play music; they helped individuals to embrace their unique identities and make their voices heard.

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