mojo aid review

Mojo Aid: A Hurricane Katrina Benefit
Irving Plaza, NYC
18 September, 2005

God bless Jesse Malin for throwing this together (“His cell phone must’ve been on fire,” noted Dave Bielanko). God bless him for throwing it together, for getting people that would draw bodies and wouldn’t suck, god bless him for not making me sit through crap like, oh, Dave Matthews just to see someone like, oh, Tom Waits.

The first two bands, Johnny Lives (who were inoffensive, but I only saw 1/4 of their two songs) and Mad Juana — well, it was a benefit. Willie Nile brought Jimmy Vivino, but — well, again, it was a benefit, and he played for free, so I can’t say anything snarky.

Marah were on next, and aside from Jesse and maybe Ted Leo, did what they do and did it well (which is, again, part of what they do). They were topical and they were passionate and they still managed to pull out a 7 minute version of “Reservation Girl,” complete with Serge going into the crowd down front and getting a glimmer of reaction as a result. People around us asked who they were before the set started for informational purposes; after the set, the inquiry was made with far more urgency.

But they didn’t leave the stage after their set, and were instead joined by David Johansen, who was meant to be the MC for the evening (and eventually did try to operate in that fashion), who joined Marah to perform two stunning blues numbers, both of which I am ashamed to say I do not know the names of. It caught the audience (which I still can’t figure out – more on this later) by surprise, stunning it into silence, but it was a silence of attention and not indifference. They were the only band on that stage, with the exception of Ryan Adams’ Cardinals, that could have backed up David Jo (especially on the basis of no rehearsal). With that, we gave up our places down front (not desiring to be sardines all night just to be able to see underneath Ryan Adams’ bangs).

Butch Walker: I saw his name on more shirts in the squish down front, and, again, he flew himself from Atlanta to play, and the crowd ate him up, but I didn’t get it. The first song had me singing “I Will Follow” to my companion. We went downstairs and had tea.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists: I said that he reminded me of an emo Dave Matthews, which I imagine isn’t entirely fair. I *want* to like Ted Leo. I just think I’m missing something. But he played hard and rocked out and I appreciated the energy and the spirit.

Jesse Malin: I have seen Jesse so much that I had declared an embargo, simply because he needs another record and some new songs — not that the ones he plays are bad or tired but just that I’ve heard them A LOT and, okay, I’m not a fanatic. But he is one of the good guys so I always feel bad if I don’t go, but when I do, I stand there thinking, “I have seen this before more than once and there is not much new here for me.” Tonight, however, I feel like I need to try to find a middle ground, because Jesse fills a place that no one else inhabits (maybe Marah, a little bit), and the rant against CMJ was the thing that no one else would ever dare say, ragging on the $400 passes and kids walking around looking for “HU-ston Street” and searching for the new hope of indie rock.

But placing the rant just before a stunning, searing, quasi-acoustic cover of “Bastards of Young” was nothing short of genius — EXCEPT THE CROWD DIDN’T GIVE A FUCK! OH MY GOD! NONE OF THESE EMO MOTHERFUCKERS WOULD EXIST IF IT WASN’T FOR THE REPLACEMENTS! ARE YOU STUPID OR JUST BLIND? There wasn’t a shout of recognition, the place didn’t turn into a singalong (well, except for us in the back). Feh.

Joseph Arthur: is awesome, but it was too introspective and too acoustic and required too much of my attention span (and most people who weren’t bound and determined to be as close to Ryan Adams as possible felt the same way, as the back and the bars and the downstairs were mobbed). I saw enough to know that the lyrics are brilliant and I’m going to check this out soon.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: To paraphrase Mr. Kirk Henderson, the Cardinals play like a band that have been on the road for 150 days of the last 180. They were brilliant, and seamless, and almost a little too shiny and perfect. Ryan was on his best behavior and the voice was sterling silver…

…but I just don’t like the “Cold Roses” stuff. I just don’t. I tried SO HARD. I don’t like the Grateful Dead (and can we please spare me another dozen comments along the lines of, “But you seem to have good taste in music, can you please explain in detail why you don’t like the Dead?” I DON’T LIKE THEM.) I think some of the stuff was from Jacksonville City Nights (out next week) because it was decidedly more country-ish than Dead-ish and I liked it a lot more, but I still thought the whole thing, while impeccably performed, was just boring.

This was when we left, not staying for Debbie Harry’s two songs or the rumors of Jakob Dylan, Springsteen, and Michael Stipe (right), or Jesse’s promise of a “Hindenberg” of a surprise (which, from all reports, didn’t materialize, unless he rated Psychic Drive that way, which he might, given that it’s a project of one of his guitar players). A night of great, eclectic, sincere and rockin’ performances.