Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I kiss the City of New York

Ugh.  I promised myself that I’d make the blog a priority this year.  I even confessed this goal to my blogging buddy Tim B., as if e-mailing it aloud would hold me more accountable for my lack of actions.  I’m easily distracted.  First there was a whirlwind trip to Australia in April, centered around the Dig It Up festival (a.k.a. the Hoodoo Gurus Invitational) in Sydney, but also including some quality visits with rock and roll friends in Melbourne, who went above and beyond the call of duty not only in showing us a good time, but in showing me some rare Hollies archival material.  Once we got back, well, life just got in the way.  No difficult circumstances really--if anything I’ve just been blissed out and having too much fun in my spare time to focus on this calling.  I’ve done some preliminary research on a few places (one of which, in another bit of weird synchronicity, Tom Finn of the Left Banke recently asked me about out of the blue), but I've been having trouble following through and digging deeper. 

What’s probably really holding me back is a feeling that StreetsYouCrossed may have outlived its usefulness.  I started this blog at a time when I sensed there was a dearth in deep coverage of NYC’s rock and roll history.  But in the ensuing years, many folks have stepped up to fill that void--and since most of them were actual denizens of the vintage scenes I wanted to document, they fill it in a much finer and more first-person manner than I’m capable of achieving.  I’m particularly fond of the Facebook groups that have proliferated and brought many gregarious old-timers out of the woodwork.  Lessee, reeling the ones I can remember belonging to off the top of my head, there’s NY Rocks, New York Rock and Roll Explorer, Academy of Music/Palladium, Night Owl, Coney Island High, Brownie's, the Peppermint Lounge (‘80s incarnation), Steve Paul’s the Scene, Fillmore East, Schaefer Music Festival, Twisted Sister in the Clubs, Long Island Clubs of the ‘80s, CBGB (the movie’s a turkey by the way, trust me), Max’s, My Father’s Place, Lone Star CafĂ©, The Ritz, NYHC Chronicles.  There may be others I belong to, and there are certainly dozens more I don’t know about.  All are superb repositories of memory and memorabilia, collected and shared by the people who were there, and who often were deeply involved in the operation of the clubs—or who just hung out at them A LOT. Me, I was at a few of those places, but hardly an entrenched scenester or insider.  I’ve never claimed to be an authoritative voice on my chosen topic—I’m at best an eager student, at worst a lowly peon fangirl—but let’s just say that lately I’ve been feeling less authoritative than ever in the face of all the collective expertise I read daily on these fine FB groups and elsewhere on the ol' Internets.  Can I work past this?  I hope so, because I know the subject has yet to be exhausted, even with all the increased focus upon it.

So, I never chimed in with a good-last-drop Maxwell’s tribute.  Again, despite its undeniable homespun magic and the many great times I had there, I was hardly a regular.  It was a schlep to get to from Queens, and often the bands I wanted to see were doing a more convenient show in town a day before or after.  But every now and then I was compelled to brave the long walk from the PATH, or the search for a parking spot, and head for Hoboken's haven.  A recent show I went to here in T.O. reminded me of one of those grand schleps.  The Maxwell's show it reminded me of happens to have been one of my top ten rock and roll experiences of all time, if I were truly the type who was into ranking such things.  And in turn, the moment that inspired the reminiscing must also join those hypothetical top ten ranks.  Here’s a long-ass FB/tumblr post I wrote about it, from a gal who doesn’t write long-ass status updates as a rule. 

OK, I don’t normally do longwinded status updates on FB but I am MOVED!  So after much debate (we just saw her six months ago, it’s freakin’ 50 bucks, we’ve already seen her and Lenny on separate occasions in the past, aaaaaaargh), we decided to bite the bullet and see Patti Smith.  It’s going well, obviously more rock and roll than the acoustic set earlier this year, but still, I could tell Rocky was getting a little sleepy due to the mostly mid-tempo-to-slower numbers they were doing (which I loved though—Dancing Barefoot, Redondo Beach, Break It Up, among others).

For a while I did find it odd that, while she was beautifully lit, the rest of the band was somewhat in the dark.  I was like, jeez, that’s Lenny Kaye, I don’t think of him as some sideman, he should be lit too—they ALL should be. Then about midway through, she takes a backstage break and lets Kenny Laye take over for a while (sorry, a good buddy of mine once dubbed him that and I’ll always think of him that way as a result).  He says stuff about being a music historian, about how much of an honor it is to play the same stage where “Jazz at Massey Hall” was recorded, and how they were gonna play a few numbers in honor of his favorite Toronto bands, the Paupers and Luke and the Apostles.  If he was aware that Luke and the Apostles were doing a show across town at the Cadillac that very night, he didn’t betray that knowledge.  He used his well-worn but always delightful “It’s a Nugget if you dug it” line (yes, I’ve seen him MC at way too many Cavestomps to mention), then he and the band launch into possibly the most ferocious and feral five minute garage barrage I have heard in my life: Talk Talk, Open Up Your Door (every bit as wyld as seeing Richard and the Young Lions themselves do that one TWICE at Maxwell’s close to 15 years ago), Open My Eyes (how did he know I’ve been listening to a ton of Todd Rundgren lately?), Psychotic Reaction.  We got as mental as it’s possible to be in a gallery seat in that hallowed hall.  Who knows, this may be a regular segment in all PSG shows, but I absolutely did not see that one coming.  "Worth the price of admission!" I hollered in Rocky’s ear and he concurred.  It would’ve been worth it even if they hadn’t pulled out the stops when Patti came back out (Piss in the River, Land segue-ing into Gloria, Rock and Roll N-woid, etc.). Afterwards, we considered schlepping over to the Cadillac just to see if Lenny would show up and join in…but given Patti’s frequent references to TIFF I assumed they’d be going to a TIFF-related party if they went anywhere at all.  I may kick myself later if I hear otherwise.

One thing that did surprise Rocky especially—she didn’t mention Allen Lanier at all.  Anyway, I’d give my eyeteeth for video of those five minutes, ‘cause for me it was as monumental as any landmark Massey Hall event.      

Besides Patti, T.O. has seen a surfeit of rock and roll legends over the last few weeks.  Since the Riot Fest site was only about five blocks away from our house, we couldn’t resist it and its headliners, the Stooges and the Replacements.  The ‘Mats were really good, but not quite as Second Coming-esque as some writers would lead you believe.  (Local rockabilly Christian D. wrote a more relatable take.)  Almost as close to our home, and even closer to my heart, was the Rascals’ two-week stand at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in August.  I can’t adequately express how excited I was when I first saw the Big Pussy-voiceovered TV ads for this event back in June.  Part of me really wanted to go down to see ‘em at the first Capitol Theatre shows last December, and the April Broadway stint—but I gotta admit, I was sort of put off by the “theatrical/multimedia” aspect.  Look, I dig Little Steven, I also dug him back when he was Miami Steve, I’ve been to many of the Cavestomp events he co-sponsored with Jon Weiss, I went to his Randall’s Island fest and loved it, I've purchased Wicked Cool releases, I respect how he put his money where his mouth was regarding the garage scene, and lord knows Silvio Dante Forever.  His heart’s in the right place fer sure, but sometimes the execution can be off—such as go-go dancers moving more like strippers, that sort of thing.  It was much easier to put aside my apprehensions about the visuals and bells and whistles of Once Upon a Dream, not to mention the potential “nostalgic cash grab/retirement fund” angle, when I heard I could actually WALK a half-mile down the road to see my beloved Rascals.  We went on the second night, figuring they would have worked out any kinks from the opening, yet still be fresh and somewhat enthusiastic about T.O..  When all was said and done, I could take or leave the visuals—they were fun but didn’t add that much to the proceedings, and at times they felt a little awkward and unnatural, a stiff counterpart to the banter you’re used to hearing at a rock show.  However, I respect the attempt to differentiate this show from your typical Oldies Night, for above all bands, the Rascals certainly deserve a unique setting.  All I really cared about was the music, and on that they exceeded my wildest expectations of excellence.  I may be a deluded sap, but I didn’t feel any pandering, insincerity, or old codgers going through the motions jive.  They played damn near every song you might wanna hear, they killed it, nay SLAYED it, and I was truly feeling it all the way up in my nosebleed seat.  I kinda liked being up there actually—I had my opera glasses for close-ups, and with all the venerable plaster mouldings and comedy/tragedy masks and chandeliers and stuff surrounding us, I could squint and feel like I was at the Fillmore East.  We exited through a side door, which made me forget to check the lobby merch table.  Afterwards, I found out that an expensive Visual Biography was for sale, lavishly loaded with luscious vintage pics…so a couple of days later, before checking out the splendid A Band Called Death at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I went back and sweet-talked an usher into letting me enter the Alex's lobby real quick so's I could satisfy that pricey urge.  Anyway, I’ve been on cloud nine ever since the show, gorging myself on Rascals interviews and ephemera, delving deeply even into the band’s later forays in jazz-funk territory…and developing a serious Felix fixation that’s starting to rival my Hicks-xation. Looks-wise, nowadays he kinda reminds me of my dad, but his voice and musicianship are utterly, gloriously intact.  I’ve always found vintage Felix to be handsome and of course I adored his voice, but it took seeing and hearing the gent in the flesh to finally grok his sexational side.  At any rate, all these old-timer shows have been so wonderful that I feel compelled to go to a few more, just to see if the streak will last. Seeing the Selecter tonight at Lee's, just got tickets for Brian Wilson/Jeff Beck at the end of October, and am seriously considering Hawkwind in a couple of weeks. 

Blog-relevant ebay finds!

Speaking of TIFF, thanks to a generous and well-connected friend who was so insistent I go see it that he gave me some free vouchers, I watched the Hendrix biopic All Is By My Side at the Film Festival last weekend.  Deeply flawed, yet somehow doesn’t suck.  And the first scene takes place at the Cheetah.  Dig this article about Linda Keith which appeared in the Guardian last week.

By all means, pick up Ken Sharp’s essential Nothin’ to Lose: The Making of KISS, 1972-1975.  And dig these links:

Long Island Club Locations, compiled and photographed by a fella on one of the many FB groups about Flushing.

Time Out NY article on legendary clubs and parties.

Nightclubbing is now on the Bedford + Bowery blog, a subsidiary of New York mag.  B + B has also done a few articles on vintage East Village spots, like the Academy of Music, and oooh, today they just published a piece on the Electric Circus!

Lastly, while I heard about the Rock Junket tour company a while back, I didn't realize until quite recently that head honcho Bobby Pinn also wrote a companion book.  I haven't finished reading it yet, but so far it's quite entertaining and handy.