THE HUNTING OF THE (ROLLING STONES) SNIPE.
I know better, really, I do know better than to fall for amateurs who insist that, say, U2 are playing at CBGB on a Tuesday night in the 1am slot because they looked up every single band on the bill and have never heard of Hoover Monkeys before and they know U2 are in town rehearsing and Larry Mullen once played in a band where the lead singer once said he liked monkeys and if you can’t see HOW CLEAR IT IS then you don’t deserve to see them.
I have had these conversations a lot over the years. I believe in the lottery aspect of the secret club gig or the unannounced appearance, that if you happen to be there because you want to see the act booked on the bill and lo and behold someone else shows up and plays then that is the serendipity of rock and roll. Or if you figure it out, like Gary and the Boners at CBGB, then, hey, good luck to you. This is why I never saw Springsteen play with Cats on a Smooth Surface in the 80s, because everyone overlooked the fact that Cats sucked complete and total ass and I could never bring myself to borrow my roommate’s car to drive down to Asbury on a Sunday night and sit with 500 people who were staring at the door instead of the band all night.
So when my friend Matthew, who just moved to NYC, sent a note pointing out that Bernard Fowler, who has sung background vox for the Stones on tour, was playing a gig the Friday night before Jagger’s SNL appearance, with half of Living Color (who, of course, were discovered by Jagger and who opened for the Stones), along with Alexandra Richards (yes relation) DJ’ing, I did what any self-respecting New York rock fan would do and sniffed at it. I like Matthew and find his common sense to be unimpeachable, so I did not say anything, I just nodded and thought, that’s all well and good but there’s no way I would go to some random club in the heart of Bridge & Tunnel Greenwich Village on a Friday night on a rock and roll snipe hunt.
Two days later, I bought tickets.
I will confess that I was motivated mostly by the thought that the people who just moved to New York might see a Stones club show or Mick Jagger club appearance while I sat home on a Friday night and caught up on The Killing.
I had no intention of waiting on line to get into this venue, so I made sure we arrived after the 8 p.m. posted door time. It didn’t matter, there was a line of gray heads wearing Stones tongue-emblazoned attire of every possible vintage (including this shirt, which was completely unnecessary, as well as likely unlicensed). Everybody around us knew each other, from what I knew were likely to be various associations with Stones fan forums like SHIDOOBEE WITH STONES DOUG, Sticky Fingers Journal, It’s Only Rock And Roll, and lest you think I am mocking them too harshly, my own alma mater, Undercover, The Rolling Stones Mailing List.
For most of these people, who don’t listen to much music besides the Stones, this was an excuse to hang out with each other and see each other outside of tour time. The adage “they don’t get out very much” can be very, very true with some of these people. It is why I always considered myself a tourist and could only deal with the snarky fandom of the people on Undercover, who were well versed in making fun of themselves and the Stones and had both perspective and a sense of humor. Even then, there are limits of how much I can discuss a band. (Seriously, I can’t even deal with most Springsteen fans for this reason.)
The venue did not start letting people in until 9 p.m., one hour after posted door time and half an hour after the show was supposed to start. The club was only able to admit two people at a time, insisting that each entrant step up to a table in a particular fashion. This was not helped by the insistence that there was “ONE LINE FOR EVERYBODY” only to continually let people cut ahead of the people waiting in the line with alarming frequency.
Now, I thought that the reason they only allowed 2 people at a time was that this was a tiny club with a narrow entrance hall and of course, NYFD fire safety rules. Once I actually got inside, I realized it was just ineptitude. You could have driven a six-team of oxen through the entrance. Sullivan Hall was one of the biggest Village clubs I have been in since the demise of the Bottom Line. This was not Folk City or Kenny’s Castaways or Bitter End dimensions.
The club, formerly known as the Lion’s Den, usually has reggae cover bands or other cover bands or bands like Bonerama, who I was later informed was a premiere New Orleans funk act. This may be true, but everyone had the same reaction to their poster in the front window that I did, which was to inquire if the band was named by a bunch of 12-year-olds. (They were playing on the same bill as Mingo Fishtrap. When Matthew read the poster, I originally thought he was making that up.)
I am not proud. The first thing I did when I got into the club was ascertain if there was any kind of back entrance. (There was.) Then I noted that Alexandra Richards did look like both parents. She was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the slogan TITTIES AND BEER and after half an hour of DJ’ing I noted that she was definitely her father’s daughter, but that unfortunately the level of artistry presented during her DJ set could have been achieved by stealing a couple of her dad’s iTunes playlists. I also didn’t ever consider “Folsom Prison Blues” to be a dance number and noted that playing the original version of “Harlem Shuffle” 5 minutes before it was obvious that the headliner was taking the stage was just legit trolling the crowd in real life.
We were in the back, and had to keep moving back. We had to keep moving back because people were actually crowding up at the front of the stage. I do not know why this surprised me. I also wanted to be in the back so I could see if there was any, you know, movement anywhere. If I was going to be on a snipe hunt I wanted to see the snipe walk into the venue so I could be prepared. Let’s not pretend that anyone in the room actually wanted to be surprised.
At one point we amused ourselves by watching Justin Verlander blow his no-hitter (not that blowing the no-hitter was amusing, just that watching baseball was better than watching everyone posing for photos together as though this was some kind of momentous event). I was the only one with signal so I held my phone up so the group could watch. This wouldn’t really be remarkable except that we were in the biggest crowd of flip phones that I have seen the past few years. The advantage of this was that your view wasn’t blocked all night by someone filming. They would take a shot of what would turn out to be a big white blur and put the phone down.
I won’t lie; the Wimbish/Calhoun rhythm section is formidable. However, the material it was supporting was less so. The highlight of the set was the original number about the environment, with the key phrase being “When will they learn/you can’t eat money.” The other original material suffered in similar fashion; the lyrics were just agonizingly bad.
The set was unremarkable, to be honest, but I don’t know why I expected it to be remarkable in some fashion. I also do not know why I did not convince my boyfriend that we should leave right about the time they started playing “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” Blessedly they played a shorter version than the Stones have ever played live, but watching the people down front jumping up and down in ecstasy was making me sadder by the minute.
As we left the club, they handed us fliers for upcoming shows at the Highline Ballroom featuring various other tangentially connected Stones people as well as one for Ray Manzarek’s band and a Jimi Hendrix tribute. If nothing else, they’re not stupid.
I just hoped no one saw me walk out of the club.
Tags: snipe hunt