For my second Replacements show in a week, tonight we are in Queens, the borough that gave us the Ramones and Johnny Thunders and countless others (as we were reminded by Craig Finn, in another kick-ass set from the Hold Steady that was even better than Minneapolis). We are also standing on an old tennis court, former home of the US Open, that also once upon a time hosted concerts by Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and the Beatles.
I stood front row center on the rail for the Replacements in Minnesota, and after last night I am now not quite sure how I can see any other concert ever again.
Let’s be honest: I went to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers at Fenway Park last week because I’ve never seen anyone at Fenway, hadn’t seen Petty in forever, and the Venn diagram between bands that could play Fenway and bands I would schlep to Boston in order to see was rapidly shrinking. (I suppose Springsteen could always do it again in the future—the dates in the past have never worked out for me—but I wasn’t willing to take that chance.) I am glad I had the experience, although I would not go out of my way to see a show at Fenway again. This was because the extreme party atmosphere (which I realize for many is part of the reason they want to see a concert at Fenway) detracted from the show in a major way for me. But what’s significant is that even with all of that, the show ended up being more profound than I had anticipated.
When I walked out of the front door of CBGB’s on October 15, 2006, I physically didn’t look back. It was a very deliberate choice, a very specific intention, a very definite goodbye. When I walked down Bowery for the first time after the inception of the John Varvatos store in that space, I didn’t realize it was there and I saw it and I reacted instinctively, flashing two middle fingers as the only conceivable reaction. From then on I made sure to walk on the east side of the street and confine my gestures to something that wasn’t quite as confrontational as that first reaction.
I got nothing against the guy, personally; he pays a lot of my favorite artists to appear in his ads and it’s not his fault that Hilly Krystal was an awful businessman. But he’s turned my “sacred ground” (to steal a thought from Jesse Malin) into a store that sells $350 sneakers. I don’t care if he left the walls intact and some stickers in place, it’s a temple to the kind of capitalist fashionista bullshit that we were all fighting against to begin with, and I vowed I would never set foot inside the joint.
This was a promise I was successfully able to keep until last night, when Gaslight Anthem played a ‘secret’ invitation-only album release show in the space, and it was time to put up or shut up.
“I think I saw an otter!” I said, as we crossed over a bridge near Elkhorn Slough, on our way into Monterey. My significant other nodded indulgently. “No, seriously, I’m not making this up,” I insisted. But how would I know? It’s not like I run into otters every day or had ever seen one in the wild. But this is exactly why we were headed to Monterey.
Day 1: The Next Best Book Club
Day 2: Booked In Chico
Day 3: : Book Puke offers a review and a short chat about the characters and their motivations.
Day 4: I talk about my favorite ballpark foods over at Books, With Occasional Food
Day 5: The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books reviews the book and has an interview with me.
When the news came through last night, I poured a glass of whiskey and put on End of the Century, because I wanted to watch all of them alive and talking and and I didn’t want to have to scroll through YouTube and start curating. I just wanted to be with them for a little while.
There were no more Ramones in the world. They were all gone.
Billboard asked me to write a classic track-by-track of the album on its 30th anniversary!
Ever since I read about Bruce Springsteen flying out to Utah, buying a car, and driving around in the desert to take photographs with Eric Meola, I wanted to do the same thing. And then as those photos became iconic, I always wanted to visit those locations myself. I wasn’t nuts about the idea of sleeping on the hood of the car in a small town in the desert (as the legend goes), but the idea of just showing up somewhere and driving around to see what was there was undeniably attractive. I wanted to see the same things that artists I respected were inspired by.
When the house lights went down Saturday night, I had a lot of hopes for the evening. I was waiting for that moment when Steve walked back on stage again, I was waiting for the first notes of the first song, I was waiting for the crowd to settle in and the gaggle of teenage boys next to me to stop poking me with their elbows. I was not at all expecting to hear the first notes of the alternate “Racing” and was pretty sure that I was wrong and that I was going to feel pretty dumb once Bruce started singing — except that, yes, Bruce was starting the Saturday night penultimate show of the tour at a casino by playing the alternate version of “Racing In The Street” from The Promise. Which is an interesting choice to say the least, but interesting from the perspectives of tone and intent: it’s brighter, not as solemn as the album cut, but it’s obscure as all fuck to the casual fan and could run the risk of falling over flat and then it’s a flurry of gathering signs or “Hungry Heart” to try to win them back.