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John Varvatos brings music to the Bowery

CBGBs, on New York’s Bowery began in 1973 as a derelict bar for little known bands and transformed over the years into The place that rock bands wanted to play.

Rolling Stone IN Nov 08, 2010

John Varvatos at the BoweryCBGBs, on New York’s Bowery began in 1973 as a derelict bar for little known bands and transformed over the years into The place that rock bands wanted to play. The music Mecca shot bands such as The Ramones and Blondie into the spotlight. It was the place where The Police made their first on stage appearance in the U.S. and where The Deadboys, Talking Heads and Joan Jett were regular performers. When the club closed, with a final performance by Patti Smith, fans mourned the loss of a place that had become the home of Rock and Roll. However in April of 2008, 315 Bowery, once CBGBs, opened its doors to music once again. Thanks to John Varvatos, fans and hopeful skeptics watched an incredible line up of musicians including Ian Hunter, Ronnie Spector and Slash play at what was now more than a clothing store on the Bowery.

John Varvatos grew up in another music Mecca, Detroit Michigan home to MC5, Iggy and The Stooges and Alice Cooper. When he moved to New York to pursue a career in fashion, launching his own label a decade ago, he brought the spirit of Rock and Roll to his brand. Whether it’s the studs on the boots, the fact that he sells vintage sound decks along side finely tailored suits or the aesthetic of his clothes that lend an edge that is reminiscent of Bowie, there is no denying that Varvatos has melded music and fashion in an authentic way. In the words of Eurhythmics’ Dave Stewart “John Varvatos injected a needle and thread into the dying veins of Rock and Roll”.

Well, Varvatos certainly injected new life into what was once CBGBs. Instead of ripping the space apart as many feared he retained its history. The footprint has remained the same and the walls are covered with the original stickers, graffiti and posters of musicians that have graced the stage. The store is full of rock memorabilia, much of it gifted to Varvatos, including guitars signed by Dave Navarro and Alice Cooper’s platinum albums. The focal point of the store is the stage where bands continue to perform every month.

On September 11, commemorating10 years of John Varvatos and in support of VH1 Save The Music Foundation, a spectacular group of artists came together on this stage to play to a host of friends at the Bowery. The audience included legendary music photographer Mick Rock, artists Harper Simon and Chris Brown, Entourage’s Jeremy Piven, Sex and the City’s Chris Noth and tennis pro Serena Williams.

Actor and Comedian Jimmy Kimmel, followed by Varvatos introduced the line up which began with Alejandro Escavedo’s duet with Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople classic, “All the Young Dudes”, followed by Cherie Currie singing the first song ever written for her “Cherry Bomb”. Then came the Darling Stilettos whose dance moves and cover of the CBGB Ramones Classic “Blitzkrieg Bop” had the crowd mesmerized. Up next were Jesse Malin and the St Mark’s Social Club. The band Black Country Communion a real super group of former Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes, Guitarist Joe Bonamasa and Drummer Jason Bonham son of Led Zeppelin’s late great John Bonham, rocked the stage before Camp Freddy with Donovan Leitch played “Ballroom Blitz”. Dick Manitoba and Wayne Kramer pumped up the crowd with “Kick out the Jams”. For the finale playing to a pulsing room, were ZZ Top, Alice Cooper and Perry Farrell. The fans screamed in unison as Alice Cooper sang School’s out and Farrell closed the show with the Jane’s Addiction classic “The Mountain Song”.

After a three hour concert in an intimate space full of music and magic as an exhilarated crowd left 315 Bowery, Varvatos’ words could not have rung truer, “There was so much history here that we had to pay homage to what was here before us. We had to keep the heritage and the music alive”. And he has. Happy Anniversary John Varvatos.

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