Sunday, August 28, 2005
Back To The Rock
SAVE CBGB BENEFIT - Dead Boys, Flipper, Peter & The Test Tube Babies, Adrenalin OD, Furious George - Thursday, August 25
I learned a couple of valuable things at this show:
1.) I am much too old to be standing in the middle of a moshpit taking photos for four hours
2.) The Dead Boys need a lead singer
3.) Adrenalin OD can still play fast and are still very funny, and I value the funny over the fast more than ever
4. George Tabb is much more of a mensch than I'd given him credit for
My ticket said 7 pm so I figured I would show up fashionably late, miss the line at the door, and get there just in time to see AOD. Fat chance. At ten to eight, there was still a line that stretched from CBGB's front door down to the corner and around the block. After a 20 minute wait, I got into the club and found a cozy spot near the front. As the club filled up behind me, I wound up trapped there for the whole show, throwing up elbows to ward off errant slamdancers from time to time, just like in the good old days. Ah, memories.
I don't know that Furious George deserved to be on this bill - they were always kind of a joke band to me - but their lead singer George Tabb certainly did. He made a very heartfelt speech about spending his adolescence sneaking into CBGB's and filled out his set by paying homage to two other bands he'd played a lot of CB's gigs with, Letch Patrol (covering their classic "I Am The King") and Iron Prostate (bringing IP's frontman Scot Weis on stage to lead the crowd through "I Am Gilligan.") If you weren't part of the Scum Rock scene back in the early Nineties, I'm not going to explain it to you - but thank you, George, those songs brought back a warm nosalgic rush for a time that's been virtually forgotten, probably the last time that CBGB's actually meant something in the cultural life of the city besides being a tourist attraction and a t-shirt store.
Adrenalin O.D. are always fun when they get back together, and leave it to Dave Scott to come up with a handful of classic one-liners ("Hey Hilly Krystal, my mom loved you in City Slickers!") And they can still play as awesomely fast as back in the day, speeding their way through classic NJHC cuts like "Suburbia," "Bugs," "Old People Talk Loud," the "Masterpiece Theater" them, and "Nice Song In D." I've said this before and I'll say it again right now: There were two bands that inspired me to start Jersey Beat. One was the Bongos, and the other was AOD.
I barely remembered Peter & The Test Tube Babies from their one-hit wonder status in the late Seventies ("Banned From The Pubs," in case you were wondering;) but the club was filled with both skinhead youth and middle-aged sods who knew the lyrics to all their songs and reveled in the chance to actually see this band live. And hey, they flew in from England just to play this benefit.
I remember walking out of a Flipper show at the Ritz in the Eighties because of the band's interminable drone/sludge slowcore. But at this reunion, they were AMAZING, playing the "hits" ("Sex Bomb," "Life," "Love Canal") with a fevered passion and amazing precision. For a band that broke up more than a dozen years ago, they sounded like they'd just come off a tour. And while singer/bassist could barely stand - walking with a cane and bearing pain-killing electrodes visibly plugged into his back - he sang with a conviction and focus that I never really credited to this band. This set made the whole night worthwhile. I don't think they were this good back when they really were Flipper.
The Dead Boys started their set with Cheetah Chrome draping a leather jacket over a mike stand centerstage. It was Stiv Bator's jacket, and the band paid homage to their late lead singer continuously throughout their set. Sadly, they also proved why Bators was not only a brilliant lead singer but indispensable to this band; with Chrome and Jeff Magnum trading off on lead vocals, everything by this classic punk band suffered, even surefire hits like "Jet Boy" and "Sonic Reducer." And God, are these guys old. Flipper might have looked the parents of some of the teen punks in the crowd, but Cheetah Chrome could easily pass for their grandfather.
I need to say a word about the crowd at this show too; it was astounding in its own right. Forty-year old women moshing in the pit with high-school kids in studded leather jackets; middle-aged geezers in business suits and hawaiian shirts (one of whom broke the nose of a wayward youth who didn't quite get the etiquette of slamdancing.) Some of the moshers in the pit were reviving moves they hadn't used in twenty years while younger fans were getting an on-the-spot education in how to run a circle pit. And perched on the shoulders of his dad, there was a 5 year old with a mohawk getting his first real taste of punk.
This is why we have to save CBGB: Where else will kids like that learn how to waste their life?