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Guest Post, Guest Playlist

Messrs Patell and Waterman kindly invited me to contribute my own NYC-themed playlist to to their blog, in honor of the publication of their 33 1/3 tomes on Some Girls and Marquee Moon (highly recommended!).

(Also of note, their appearance at my local bookstore, Word, later this month!)

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5-1-11.

@DavidWaldstein both.

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You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory


Jesse Malin with guests Tommy Stinson and Billie Joe Armstrong covering Johnny Thunders, 2/19/11

Jesse Malin performed two shows at City Winery last night which featured his first album, The Fine Art of Self-Destruction, played in its entirety. Tommy Stinson opened. (I will get to that in a bit.) It’s a great record, so getting up and playing it start to finish with a great band (imo Jesse’s best band ever) has to result in an amazing show. The performances were strong, every single one of them. I do wish that he had set the record up with one key story, and then just played the thing from beginning to end with no stops. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled by the performance, but I wish there had been less chat and more music on this one night.

I feel like Jesse short-changed himself and the audience with lengthy stories (most of which repeated themselves too many times) between many of the songs, especially at the beginning of the album. Do not get me wrong – I love Jesse’s stories and I love that he tells them because he is keeping old New York alive by doing so. Even last night, when he mentioned in passing that it used to be, if you liked punk rock, people thought three things about you: that you were a junkie, that you were gay, and that you killed your girlfriend. (It’s like that line in “Brooklyn” about “It’s still a drag walking in Queens” – unless you walked around in the suburbs in the late 70s or early 80s with dyed hair and black skinny jeans, you do not know what that line truly means) – he’s one of the few people telling these stories, and I want him to keep telling them. Tonight, at least at the late show, he didn’t have his usual focus and things dragged just a little bit, and at this venue in particular, that was unfortunate, because it’s already full of people who are there to drink wine and not to listen. I wish he had just set it up, plowed through the songs, and then come back for the encore where he could have talked as much as he wanted to. Just this one night. Because towards the end of the album, when he just kept going into song after song, ending with “Cigarettes and Violets” and then a harder, grinding version of “Brooklyn” to close, had this been a regular rock club, people would have been losing their shit, it was powerful, undeniable, and in your face.

Tommy Stinson opened. I have not seen Tommy Stinson since the last time I saw the Replacements, which I believe was the Beacon in 1987. I spent at least five minutes marvelling that his hair still does that dandelion thing that it did when he was 18. I liked the songs – he even dragged out something from the Bash & Pop record by request – but the band was not perhaps as strong as it could be, or needed just a touch more rehearsal. Only one dumbfuck yelled for “Sixteen Blue” that I could hear, and the first few songs were interrupted by me needing to explain to the women to my right that no, that was not Jesse Malin, that was Tommy Stinson (and let’s keep in mind that he came out and said I’M TOMMY STINSON). There had been a rumor somewhere that he was going to play bass with Jesse’s band, which did not happen, which I was sorry about, but he did come out for the encore number above.

The encore would have better overall if the soundman had been paying attention and turned on the appropriate microphones at the appropriate times, which he did not, repeatedly, making a messy encore jam even messier. But “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory” was a fitting choice and more than a touch poignant when you remember that 2/18 is the anniversary of Bob Stinson’s passing. I will note that Billie Joe Armstrong needed the lyric sheet, while Tommy did not, but I will also note that Billie Joe kept pushing Tommy in front of the mic and that there was a big bearhug between the two at the end of the song. (Really, I have nothing against Billie Joe Armstrong.) Other encore covers included “Pay To Cum,” “Winter” and “Instant Karma.”

City Winery can be a tough place to get out of quickly, so we bolted as soon as it was clear there would be no second encore. It was very late and we needed to get out the door as soon as possible. But when I came around the corner and saw Tommy standing there, I had to go say something. I was worried that I would gush something about how I used to see him when he was much, much younger and I wish I had said something about how much I respect his charity work in Haiti, but I will confess that I had to fight hard to get out something about how I wish he’d play more and get a photo and a hug (he was a little drunk at that point, which he was entitled to be after playing two sets) and walked out all OMG TOMMY STINSON HUGGED ME like I was 20 again.

City Winery as a venue remains a terrible place to see a show. The sound is good, but the stage is low and small and hard to see from multiple angles, and the seating in the venue uncomfortable in the extreme. If you sit down front, you have to sit stage right or your back is to the performers and so many chairs are jammed in that it is impossible to turn around without lots of cooperation from everyone around you. (It makes the Bottom Line’s old front section seating configuration seem spacious and comfortable.) The wait staff does its best to not block the stage but I do not get the whole ‘eating during a rock show’ thing (a reason I actively dislike Joe’s Pub). I appreciate that there is no cover, but the wait staff is snobby if you just order a soft drink. I understand that the venue’s raison d’etre is to have a grownup place to see rock and roll, but it brings out people who think that they can chat up a storm during the quiet songs – I for one would rather those people just stayed home and didn’t have a place to go see shows, frankly. I miss so many shows because I hate going here. I prayed hard that Jesse wasn’t going to yell at people to stand up because to be honest, there just wasn’t room to stand up. (He did, and we did, but it is not a simple thing to do.)

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Gaslight Anthem, Radio City Music Hall

The Romeos uptown #gaslight_anthem

Despite more than a little gray hair in this audience, it was another one of those situations where, at first, I’m a little unsure if I’m meant to be there. That feeling lasted until the beginning of “The ’59 Sound,” just a few songs in, where I was singing along with the 20-something kid from Jersey sitting in front of me, along with the rest of the audience. The fears that the hallowed halls of RCMH would mute the energy were for naught for the rest of the evening.

I was floored at how solid, how tight, the band was. The only bummer was the sound during the first few songs, where there was no lead guitar in the mix, at all; that could have ruined the evening had someone not fixed it within a song or two. There were seats all the way up to the edge of the stage and plenty of arms in the air all the way up from and all the way up to the front row of the very upper balcony. They filled the room, easily; the person probably the most surprised by this feat was Brian Fallon himself, who could not thank the audience enough times.

It is funny how I feel so different about this latest wave of bands referencing the Clash and the ‘Mats and the other bands that at this point are in me so hard you’d need a bone marrow transplant to get them out. I remember talking with a younger friend about Rancid (round about Lolla ’96, when I turned my back against the barrier and read a magazine while waiting for DEVO and Soundgarden) – my point was that I saw the Clash, his point was that he didn’t and wasn’t ever likely to and therefore Rancid and their ilk was the closest he was ever going to get. I don’t mind the constant namechecks and references with the Gaslight Anthem; in fact, quite the opposite. I like bands that wear their musical hearts on their sleeves; I was in the right place tonight.

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VU

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Lou Reed, Mo Tucker and Doug Yule in conversation with David Fricke, Live at the New York Public Library

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NO WORDS

Still speechless from last night in so many ways. More later.

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Patti Smith: A Salute to Robert Frank


The Metropolitan Museum of Art
17 October 2009

I keep trying to figure out what it means to be American.
When I look at myself I see Abyssinia, nineteenth-Century France, but I can’t recognize what makes me American. I think about Robert Frank’s photographs – broke down jukeboxes in Gallup, New Mexico, swaying hips and spurs, ponytails and syphilitic cowpokes, hash slinges, the glowing black tarp of US 285 and the Hoboken stars and stripes.

Patti wrote the words above in 1971. I thought about those words as I walked through the new Frank exhibit at the Met. I thought about Bruce Springsteen describing Bob Dylan a few weeks ago – “it was the country I recognized” – and how both of those sentiments describe what it was like being in the same room with “the Hoboken stars and stripes”.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should. You should go see the exhibit or at least know the work. Maybe I’m a cultural snob. Maybe I’m completely unoriginal, just another pseudo-bohemian claiming the usual cultural touchstones. But it was powerful to be in the same room as those photographs for the first time. They are as much a part of my cultural DNA as anything I have ever read or listened to. They are as much an influence on me as an artist as anything else.

It was the country I recognized.

The event at the Met today – as Patti put it, “This year’s event” – was to celebrate that. It was songs and readings that tied back into “what it means to be American”. She relayed some stories about Robert Frank (who was supposed to have been there but was unable to be at the last minute). She read Walt Whitman and EB White and sang “Southern Cross” for Jim Carroll. She read Burroughs and Lenny sang Paul Simon’s “American Tune,” Patti sitting cross-legged on the stage watching him. She read Carl Sandburg and sang Sons of the Pioneers, read Emma Lazarus and sang Gogi Grant. Patti talked about what she remembered, what she thought she remembered, what she wanted to remember. The songs were supposed to be songs Robert and his family could have heard while driving around the country taking the photos that became The Americans.

Jesse and her boyfriend (and at this point I should have his name, and I’m sure someone will come on here and chide me for not remembering it) provided instrumental accompaniment to the readings. Patti noted that the music was composed by the two of them. It provided a pleasant background.

They finished with “Ghost Dance” and “People Have The Power,” and then Patti came back out, pulled out what I recognized in row O as the Pocket Poets volume of Howl (Patti noting that this particular book was usually kept in a box as she had it with her as she sat in vigil at Ginsburg’s bedside), and proceeded to read “Footnote to Howl,” which was, to me, the most astonishing part of the performance. Part of it was because it came at the end and the audience wasn’t interacting with it in any kind of traditional way, it caught them off guard, there was no polite, confused applause at the end of it. At first I thought it was an afterthought, but then realized that of course it was not, that it tied all of it together, all of the influences and backstory of the work.

I have to go back, and see it again, and think about it harder. I first saw these photos when I was 17 and they still make me think. Patti noted that Robert still teaches her. I understand, I think, at least a little.

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jim carroll

I spent a lot of time seeing Jim Carroll when I was in college. This was when I went to poetry readings and gatherings and everything I possibly could, and Jim Carroll was, well, Jim Carroll. I also got to see his band play, a lot. Lenny Kaye was in his band, and while I would probably cringe today if I found a live recording of one of their shows somewhere, at the time I thought they were great.

Jim was accessible. Jim was kind. Jim never treated me like a stupid kid from the suburbs, which is what I was at the time. He would answer questions patiently for as long as I asked them. I was never a good poet; I’m still a crappy wannabe at best. But Jim’s words were something that gave me the courage to at least put the words on paper.

Selfishly, this shit is getting entirely too close to home.

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expressway to your heart.

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I got the best fucking seats in the WORLD in the drop this morning.

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Shea Goodbye

townshendI was writing a post about concerts I have seen at Shea Stadium, and my paragraph on the Who prompted me to dig around on the hard drive for this masterpiece. Continue Reading »

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