Monday, October 31, 2011
10/31/11 Happy Halloween you bastards
Yesterday afternoon Amanda was checking the site for We Were Promised Jetpacks, which is her favorite band. She knew for the past few weeks they were playing in New York. She told me they were playing at Webster Hall that night. For the record, I took Emma Tess to more concerts; the last was 30 Seconds to Mars in Boston last May. Recently I bought Emma Tess a gold ticket for 30 Seconds since the band offers their rampant fans the chance to meet them for a steep price. What a scam for a corporate band. I don’t care to divulge how much I paid a horrible arrogant actor, but when Amanda said tickets were available to We Were Promised… and they were only $20, I said I’d take her. You want to go, let’s go. She wasn’t sure if she should go, this was her nerves talking, telling her to be nervous and stay nervous and stay home. When I was her age, I dreamed of seeing a show. When Emma agreed to join us, Amanda was excited. Since it was later that night, I had time for a decent run down to the beach and back. It was an opportunity to be alone and delve into my thoughts. After a shower and an early dinner we headed into the city. We were early, so instead of going in, we walked around lower Broadway. Saw Astor haircutters where I got one short cut when attending Purchase College twenty five years ago. It was cold last night. Emma wore a skirt so we headed into Webster Hall as Bear Hands was playing. Up old cracked white marble steps and into the expansive hall which had an ornate ceiling with a balcony where the sound board was. A large pentagram dangled over the stage, goodness knows it was for Halloween. A large bar was in the back. Off to one side of the venue was a long table where you could buy a t-shirt and CD’s…on the opposite side, was another bar and a small store where I bought three pairs of ear plugs. I bought a beer and listened to Bear Hands, thought they were a strong band till they got carried away with the shit synth pop sound and they lost me. I had the same reaction with the second opening band, Royal Bang who hit the stage with a in your face kick ass, but fizzled to a Southern drawl by their last song. So much hope. I will be honest, I didn’t know what to expect when We Were Promised Jetpacks. Based on the two previous bands, they’d have a synthesizer, a guitar player and drummer…so I was surprised when the young Scots casually walked out on the stage and kicked fucking ass. Each song was like a tidal wave that crashed into the audience and then washed over any of my doubts. Their lyrics were sung back to them with intoxicated slurred words, loose limbs and exuberance. Their singer had a bashful smile, nodded and we all knew what he was thinking, “Shit, they know my words.”
Based on the play list that Emma caught after the bassist threw his list into the crowd - this is what we heard:
Circles & Squares
Quiet Little Voices
Picture of Health
Roll up your Sleeves
Dirt and Gravel
This is my house, this is my home
Boy in the backseat
Ships with holes will sink
It’s Thunder and Lightning
We Were Promised Jet Packs can make its genuine mark on the scene, if they continue to search for their original sound. It’s a daunting task, but this band is poised to become one of the best. Keep an eye on them and see them before they charge ridiculous fees. I heard fragments of Bloc Party, U2 and another band from my generation, Big Country, since they had a large sound that thundered the walls in Webster Hall. The singer, Adam Thompson has an incredible trained voice with a perfect pitch. The way he stood back as his voice became faint sounded like a distant scream. His lyrics touched on his experiences and drew me in. I think I found the band I was searching for and for an old fart like me it feels good to discover a new sound as well as the relief to know there are bands making good music without shit synth pop or posing for the cameras. This band has what it takes, they can bridge generations....
Saturday, October 22, 2011
In a little while I will be up at the local high school for the homecoming game, soon they will start the bon fire and burn the effigies of Qaddafi and Bin Laden. Not so. That was a joke. Last night I saw the JayHawks with Erik. It was the spur of the moment event. Each time I hear the band on WFUV, I’m curious if they’re coming around. So, I bought tickets. I don’t know the history of the band. I know they broke up and are back together. The original line up played the Beacon. I think that's what we saw. The opening act was Roseanne Cash which I have to report we missed. Traffic on the 59th St Bridge crawled into the city. The bridge is free, saves $9 in tolls. We found a spot on the street, saving $27. These amounts floated in my head since I shelled out $100 for the two tickets though Erik drove and he said he’d pay me back. For dinner we splurged and bought a Recession Meal ($5) at Papaya King, 2 hot dogs and Papaya juice and headed up to get into the theatre. There were scalpers outside. The show was not sold out. One was ready to give us two tickets for the price of one. Next time I may scalp. The crowd was older than I thought. The venue was ornate. The last time I was in the Beacon was to see REM on their Little America tour for their second album, Reckoning. Erick bought two beers, $17 and we went in. The band wasn’t on yet. The crowd was better dressed than us, the middle aged woman were - beautiful - in dresses, men in sports jackets and we stood there in our sweat jackets and scruffy hair. We took our seats after I bought a round for us. The stage was sparse, no back drop, just the stage lights. A drunkish gentlemen sitting next to me asked, “What’s your favorite JayHawks song?” I don’t know any. Here’s the deal, I have this fear of being put on the spot like that. Reminds me when I was in 8th grade and hanging out with Bob Pelton at the pizzeria in East Northport, MaMa Jean’s II. We don’t know where the first one was. This girl came up to me, some hippie chick who was in a grade older than me and asks, “What’s your favorite band?” I don’t know why but I wanted to impress her and I said, “Led Zeppelin.” I guess this was the answer everyone in the place was giving her so she wanted some validation - I knew what the fuck I was talking about. This brings me back to drunk fuck sitting next to me. She asked me all of these decades before, “What’s your favorite song by Zep and don’t say Stairway to Heaven.” It was the only sing I knew the title of. She pointed her finger at me as if she knew I was talking shit. I said nothing back to her. Should have asked her why she wanted to know. Why do you care? If I was 46 back then I may have: instead of getting embarrassed -when she asked me who my favorite band was. If I was honest and said, Boston and their song Don’t Look Back it would have been a closed door case. I was the ass and I was an ass last night since I fumbled out, “Ah, I don’t know any titles…I like what I hear on WFUV. I think they sound cool, sort of like Big Star.” Drunk fuck had a blank look on his face and said slowly, “I like their song, Blue.” I nodded and turned my attention back to Erik. Here’s the review for the show. Good. Most of the songs were off their new CD, which I’m listening to as I’m typing – the song Stand Out In the Rain “Where you going all alone…were you gone.” It was beautiful, since the lyrics brought me back to a distant moment when I was in the rain with an old girlfriend. They have a sort of Neal Young twist as well. They played High Water Blues with the singer removing his guitar and holding the mic and appearing so awkward, like when a teacher performs with his teachers band in front of the students at the school's variety show. He danced a little, and knew he couldn’t dance and then kept his attention on their keyboardist who would reassure him with a slight smile from her lips. It’s alright honey, just go back to the guitar. No, please don’t pump your fist…oh, there you…go. Since I’m not a huge fan and there were at least twelve huge fans in the audience, who waited after the show for some of the members to sign their CD, I felt like I was wrapped in a sort of distant quasi culture. I’m curious to learn more about the musicians. The drummer sang lead on one song and was in perfect harmony with the lead guitarist. After the show we crawled back on the 59th bridge back to Queens, and I made it home this morning like a rock star at 2:30. The college kids at corner house were holding a huge party, but I put a end to it with a call to the cops since I wasn’t going to confront fifty drunk college kids and their plastic cups filled with warm beer. The cops came and silence rose into the night for some sleep before the sun rose over our house.
Sunday, October 2, 2011
Around 6 I headed into the city. I picked up some cash and Gatorade at CVS. The doors opened at Irving Plaza at 7, so I didn’t want to be too early. I bought a VIP ticket and was told I could either go upstairs and stand behind the sound board or go anywhere I wanted. After the show I could pick up my VIP poster. The movie Decline of the Western Civilization was on the screen, getting the crowd into the time frame, 1983? Ray Manzarek who produced X's first three albums and who played keyboard for The Doors actually looked young, but of course when I watched the movie (if I did back when it first came out) he was an old man. I assume he was in his forties. The movie was clips of interviews and live shows of the early X. A record executive described how the majors snubbed them, since they were not polished enough compared to Journey and The Doobie Brothers. But this was their saga, not being recognized by the main stream radio, barely mentioned as punk since they played sort of a spastic country and western, rooted rock. The radio played more Brit bands than American like The Blasters and Mats, or dare mention Black Flag, Husker Du. But we were proud of this and raised the underground banner when telling anyone what bands we were into. As the movie played, their songs Johnny Hit and Run, I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts, Lonely Wolf, were cheered. The movie was over the screen was pulled up after ten minutes and the band hit the stage. Back in the late 80’s I saw X play in Sag Harbor (Long Island) at Bay Streets, they opened for Warren Zevon. Exene was pregnant, and Billy Zoom was a memory, so I felt as if I didn’t see the whole band. Their guitarist at that time was great, but seeing the original band is like grasping history. I’ve waited to see them for a couple of years, since Billy Zoom was back. I checked their web site and was excited to see they were playing two nights in NYC. I stood upstairs in the balcony, sort of packed in and was amazed how tight they were. Exene wore a black dress, she has been ill. It looked as she lost weight. She drank a couple of beers. Her voice strained, which is normal for her at times and I would wonder what she was contemplating as she looked up at the ceiling in the venue. Is this place any different, maybe the chandeliers are a nice touch of elegance. John Doe had so much energy and actually jumped a few times and came close to the edge of the stage. Billy Zoom Stood in his spot, smiled softly and rarely looked at his fingers as he raced up and down the neck of his guitar, like a possessed child who is racing with the anticipation. He’d shake his hands as if they were either numb or cold. Both he and BJ were smiling at one another, when they came out for the encore, BJ blocked Billy from taking his spot, it was nice to see the sense of humor. I drank two beers, took off my sweatshirt. Each song was tapped by BJ and they’d hit it. Each song, tap tap tap….there was little wasted time and still so many songs could have been played. The crowd was into it, although a tweet from the band earlier that night said tickets were still available. I asked myself what the fuck? This should be sold out. What the fuck? Why not listen to X as much as possible since their music contains the harrowing emotions that kick all of the ass I need to.