Tuesday, February 26, 2019

10 Of My Favorite Gigs

Mod Fun at The Dive 1985, pic by Andy Peters

1. Mod Fun The Dive, NYC, NY 1985-1986
Mod Fun's brief "residency" at The Dive (home of New York City's 1980's garage/60's scene) is the stuff of legend for me.  Old heads in the 60's can talk about seeing The Who at the Marquee Club every Tuesday, I'll forever drone on about Mod Fun at The Dive.  New Jersey's Mod Fun by 1985 had shed any vestiges of Jam influence and dove head first into US 60's garage and British 60's freakbeat in both their choice of covers (ranging from The Moving Sidewalks "99th Floor" to The Syn's "Grounded) and 60's inspired originals (one or two of which verged on plagiarism....). Best of all they were a tight, well honed three piece with each member firmly a muso. Interestingly enough there's most a of set of theirs from the club recorded in March 1986 at a gig I was at (shortly before the club unexpectedly closed its doors and shortly before the band hopped in a 1970 Ford Enconline van and undertook their first US tour coast to coast) available to hear on YouTube here (complete with incessant crowd chatter) complete with a zany cover of "Born To Be Wild" and a host of band originals and other covers (notably the trippy "Eyes Getting Louder" fading into their brilliant debut 45 "I Am With You" ).

2. Oscar Brown Jr, Marquis De Lafayette Hotel, The Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May NJ, November, 10, 2000
The late great Oscar Brown Jr appeared several years in a row a the annual Cape May Jazz festival at this sleepy NJ seaside town. In the midst of confusion of who won the Presidential election Oscar used his classic wit and keen eye for political subterfuge with various well placed remarks throughout the set ("don't bother going back to your room to check the news at the break, I've just come from mine and we still ain't got a god damn President, not the right one anyway") and dedicated "Signifyin' Monkey" to George W Bush! Backed by a small trio (bass, drums, piano) with the later addition of a trumpet player he tore down the house with a host of all his best loved tunes, "Work Song", "The Snake", "Forbidden Fruit" and "But I Was Cool", to name a few.

The Jam, The Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, NJ 5/19/82 photographer unknown

3. The Jam, The Trenton War Memorial, Trenton, NJ May 19, 1982
Kicking off with "Running On The Spot" my one and only Jam gig was largely filled by tracks from their then current long player "The Gift" but filled out by crowd pleasers like "David Watts" (which drew one of the biggest applause's as I recall), "That's Entertainment" (with Bruce Foxton on acoustic guitar), "Start" and a raving version of "Private Hell". Backed up by the added horn/keyboard talents of Steve Nichol and Keith Thomas on select numbers the band were a loud, well oiled machine that gave the first (and final) US airing of the soulful Jam featuring the later recorded medley of "Pity Poor Alfie" (with "Hit The Road Jack" and "Fever") a cover on Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" and a full on "Papa Was A Rolling Stone" inspired funk jam session on "Precious" (complete with strobe during Weller's funky scratch Telecaster licks). Six months later they were gone.

4. The Zombies, The Keswick Theater, Glenside, Pennsylvania October 11, 2015
I'm getting lazy here so you can check out my older review of the gig here.

5. David Bowie, Madison Square Garden, NYC, NY January 9, 1997
An old acquaintance had a free ticket to Bowie's 50th birthday gig at the cavernous Madison Square Garden, my first time in the gigantic NYC venue outside of a zillion trips to the train station beneath it. The gig was sort of an odd event as it featured a host of god awful acts hobnobbing with Bowie as they covered his stuff (Frank Black, Sonic Youth, The Foo Fighters, Robert Smith and a VERY spaced out Lou Reed who lost his way during "White Light White Heat" despite having a music stand in front of him). To the audience's chagrin there was no Iggy Pop to help David celebrate his milestone.  The gig contained a fair amount of material from Bowie's then current long player "Earthling" with the occasional gem performed without any of his jack ass guests ("Heroes" comes to mind) but the crowning moment for the evening was when he appeared onstage with an acoustic guitar saying "I don't know where I'm going from here but i promise it won't be boring" before launching into a majestic version of "Space Oddity" that was free from any of the then contemporary gimmicks as heard on "Earthling".  Regardless of some of the material or more importantly the cast of dreadful contemporary guests Bowie showed that he was, above all, a consummate performer who not only entertained you but made you believe he was enjoying himself doing it.  You can see it here on YouTube, until somebody takes it down.

The Secret Service, Maxwell's, Hoboken, NJ January 1987

6. The Secret Service various venues NY/NJ/PA/D.C. 1985-1988
Long Island's Secret Service cut a swath through the NY/NJ/PA 60's scene through the last half of the 80's by playing rocking 60's r&b covers and a bit later, spirited originals. Their strength lay in their well honed guitar, bass and drum section and even more so on the soulful vocals of lead singer Wayne Manor (check out their live version of "I Just Don't Understand" from a January 1987 gig at Maxwell's on their CD anthology "Power And Volume" for reference). Their stage presence was equally amazing, Wayne Manor copped dance moves from Allan Clarke and Stevie Wright on old "Beat Beat Beat" VHS clips and guitarist Rob Normandin and bassist Jim Gange studied The Who and Yardbirds for their stage craft while drummer Steve Pepper drove the engine by flawlessly beating the shit out of his kit every night. When Mod Fun chucked it in back in 1986 the Secret Service were poised to take the reins as the top dog East Coast mod band but sadly other than a mini LP they were not prolific enough and split at the end of 1988.  You can catch a few of their tracks live in the Fall of 1986 here and a music video for the mini LP title track here.

7. Ian McLagan and The Bump Band, The Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, Pennsylvania, October 16, 2014
In what would be his last US tour Mac pulled out all the stops as always with his group the Bump Band. Mac's gigs were always a good mix of originals, Ronnie Lane Face's covers and a host of surprises and were always best when he had these guys behind him as they were a tight organization.  The highlights of this gig for me was a rollicking interpretation of Ronnie Lane's  "Kuschty Rye" along with The Face's "Cindy Incidentally", the Small Face's "Get Yourself Together" and my fave track from Mac's 2nd to last LP , the somber "Little Black Number". Two months later on the eve of a tour with Nick Lowe he was gone at the age of 69.

8. Adam & The Antz, Pier 84, NYC, NY September 8, 1981
Adam and the Antz hit NYC at the height of antmania arriving at the gig as part of that Summer's "Dr. Pepper Music Festival" situated on a pier in the Hudson River by pirate ship!!  True story, a small scale pirate ship! Despite the fact that my first day of 10th grade began the very next day they opened with a cover of Alice Cooper's "School's Out". Their set (dogged by constant rain squalls) featured mostly cuts from their "Kings Of The Wild Frontier" album as well as their current single "Stand And Deliver"/"Beat My Guest".  There was also the bizarre Village People "Y.M.C.A" cover "A.N.T.S" and a track from their first LP "Never Trust A Man (With Egg On His Face"). Soon after I ceased to be interested in being an Adam & The Ants fan.....

9. XTC, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Jools Holland & His Millionaires The Capitol Theater, Passiac, NJ April 11, 1981
My very first rock n roll gig would see me bearing witness to what would be XTC's final full US tour. I don't recall much about Jools Holland other than being ambivalent about his boogie woogie. Joan Jett came on and spat the largest piece of phlegm (how punk rock!) and kicked off "Bad Reputation" and a host of other stuff. Then XTC came on and my head nearly exploded. I want to say they started with "Into The Atom Age" but online forums claim otherwise (or was it "Radio's In Motion"?). Either way they played a tight, energetic set comprised of material from their first 4 albums all delivered in their unique, frantic and well rehearsed manner. What I recall most about the gig was watching Andy Partridge turn beet reed as he sang and jumped around in his grey Civil War style jacket with a frilly white shirt never seeming to stop to catch his breath!

10. The Specials, Pier 26, NYC, NY July 17, 2013
The Specials featuring all their original members (minus a reluctant Jerry Dammers) played a gig on a sweaty, hot summer night on Pier 26 (with shades of the 80's and John Scher's gigs on Pier 84!) on NY's Hudson river. The band played pretty much everything from their debut LP  (10 tracks in my estimation) including a rousing version of "It Doesn't Make It Alright" with remarks from the band about the "stand your ground" shooter George Zimmerman and his young victim, Travon Martin. There were a few cuts from "More Specials" ("Hey Little Rich Girl" and "Stereotype" among them) and a slightly ragged/off kilter "Ghost Town" but for the most part ("Ghost Town " excepted)  the gig was tight and showed the Coventry boys to be the same well oiled machine they were in the footage from '79-'80. To read my musings on The Specials have a pop over here.

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