Sunday, November 18, 2007

Up For Nothing 5th Birthday, Knitting Factory, 11/9/2007

I had been trying to hook up with JERSEY BEAT’s publisher Jim Testa for a while, when he recommended we go see Racing Exit 13 at the Knitting Factory on November 9, 2007. My schedule had been quite tight, and Jim basically said, with a whimsical sense of sarcasm, that hopefully he had given me enough time to open some space…this was in September, I believe. RE13’s singer, Dov, had invited Jim, and since I casually knew the band, I was wing-man (a position I’ve never minded).

To add to the pleasure, this show was Brooklyn-based trio Up For Nothing’s fifth birthday party. Five years…I remember seeing them at the much belated Brooklyn venue The Punk Temple, and more than once at Peggy O’Neill’s in Coney Island at showcases put on by The Nerve!

When I left work to head to the Knitting Factory in the desolate TriBeCa (aka DeNiroville), it was pouring. And, of course, once I got off the subway at Franklin Street, I went in the wrong direction. By the time I showed up at the KF, I was pretty drenched. Luckily, I found Jim pretty quickly, and we headed down to the lowest basement.

On the way down, I asked Jim if he wanted me to introduce him to Dov, lead singer of Racing Exit 13. He was in the middle of saying probably after the set, when I looked up and saw Dov literally standing right in from of us. So I did a quick intro, hoping I hadn’t done a faux pas. It seemed to be okay. I also had the opportunity to say hello to Barrie, someone I hadn’t seen in a long time, and was happy to visage.

When I entered the tight venue I stayed near the bar trying to pick “my spot”. I looked down near one of the numerous merch tables (each band had their own) and saw a totally not just smashed but shattered guitar. Ends up being from the band we missed, When Distance Fails. Pete Townsend may say, “Now, that is one broken instrument.”

(Bek, Dov)
RACING EXIT 13 is made up of members of other deceased bands (as is common in any scene, in this case Staten Island). For example, Dov had been the voice in the punk ska Washington Riot, guitarist Bek had been in one of my favorite bands, Monty Love, and drummer Phil D. was (and I think may still be) bassist in the screamo Quantice Never Crashed. They hit the stage, and before starting, Bek gave me a shout-out. Always appreciated.

RE13 are pretty much a young outfit, and their energy was solid post-punk, a mixture of hardcore and pop. Luckily, this conglom of variant backgrounds came together as a unit. While they still need to grow a bit more, their past experience showed. Mainly, their show is high energy, and amazingly enough, Dov kept his shirt on, though short pants and bare feet abounded. I am looking forward to hearing their recording output and seeing them perform again.

After RE13, there was a severe paradigm shift as I noticed that the crowd had seriously aged. Where the average age for RE13 was early ‘20s, suddenly I saw that most of the people were in their late ‘20s to early ‘30s. And as I held in my spot against the right wall, these three big guys and one gal stood RIGHT IN FRONT of me, blocking my view/camera angle. They were down from Yonkers to see the Dimwits.

THE DIMWITS hail from Boston. They’ve been around a while now, and are solid Beantown, home of some of the better hardcore bands like GangGreen and pioneers The Dogmatics. But baseball season is over, so Boston folks are welcome here. Lead singer Bad Luck Brett was fluid and chatty between songs, tongue loosed by drink, fer sher, but it was mostly self-depreciating and entertaining as hell. As was the music, which is, too say the least, sophomoric. Songs about sex, booze, more sex, and just about anything else that makes one laugh while going wah? (for example one song is called “God’s Turd”). Brett paced the audience who made room for him to meander, talking and singing, often with members of the audience, including said Yonkers crowd. He also mentioned that he was an Od’ Dirty Bastard fan, and said he always wanted to be able to shout (and did) “Is Brooklyn in the house!”

(Marc, Ernie)
Between sets, the aging continued. The high 20s-low 30s crowd phased out and it seemed there were a lot of people closer to my age, as New York legends THE ARSONS came to the fore. They are in the New Yorker-style of Black Flag mode of old skool hardcore. Glad to see they’re still around (and recording…new one just out). Lead singer Marc seems to have had more than one and he sang well as he stumbled around a bit. As (strait-edge) Tony Petrozza of SQNS may have said, “Now this is punk rock!” Still, it seemed to piss off the bassist, Alex (wearing a shirt that said “I Hate People”), who I heard say to Marc, “How are you getting home? You’re not coming with me!” Still, guitarist and vocalist Ernie seemed to be the backbone of the group and kept them going. It was all very entertaining and most importantly, they put on a good show…even when Ernie accidentally broke his guitar, and later when Justin of Up For Nothing jumped up and helped Marc with his guitar strap. And as with the Dimwits, Marc and Ernie spent as much time in the audience as they did on the miniscule stage, which was appreciated by all.

(Vlad-o-Rama, Jimmy Dukes)
While waiting for Up for Nothing, I was happy to see a couple of my old Temple-days (and beyond) pals Vlad-o-Rama and Jimmy Dukes. I’ve known them since they were like 15 years old, and even went on a photo expedition shoot with Vlad this summer around Red Hook (that’s Brooklyn), which was a blast. These two guys host one of the better punk/hardcore/metal shows on the radio today called NYC Throwdown, which comes out of Kingsborough Community College (one of my alma maters) on Wednesdays at 8-10 PM. You can hear it at 90.3 FM (though odds are better you’ll hear it through What is also important is that they interview some great local and not-so-local bands.

There were others I recognized from the Brooklyn and Staten Island scenes, and one Temple-days fan came over to say hello. It took me a second to recognize him. Hell, the Temple’s been closed for, what, four years now? There were others I was viddying for but didn’t see, like Vonny and the Temple Ladies. Still, there was definitely a nice sized crowed for the space, which had once again become younger.

While on stage, Justin, singer/guitarist for UP FOR NOTHING, commented how their first gig was on the stage of the Punk Temple. Jezz, I was there that night, not realizing it was their cherry-busting show. I have pictures of that somewhere… Anyway, Up For Nothing is a power trio pretty much centered around Justin (as the bassist and drummer have changed over the 5 years, the former having joined this incarnation of the group recently), but all are attuned and well rehearsed. Justin’s newer songs are stronger than the older ones, and yet it was good to hear some of those as well (with Justin saying, more than once, “Well this is probably the last time we will ever be playing this one”). Though refurbished, I’ve seen the guys now in the group around the Brooklyn scene (where Up For Nothing originate…in fact, Justin lives quite close to me, and more than once I’ve seen him on my subway stop) for years, and they are obviously close friends. While this has certainly been quite a ride of 5 years for the group, I’m hoping they stick to this line-up long enough to help solidify their sound and produce some magic.

Having had 4 hours sleep the night before thanks to seeing the International Pop Overthrow show (see blog below), I was shot by this time, so before DarkBuster came on stage, I bid my adieu to Jim Testa, Vlad-o-Rama, and Jimmy Dukes, and headed back out into the rain, thinking I was heading north towards Canal, but of course, was heading south. By the time I reached the Canal Street station, I was once again soaked. But it was okay because, as Tuff Darts once sang, “It’s all for the love of rock’n’roll”.

All band pics © RBF
Other pictures from this night:

Friday, November 16, 2007

International Pop Overthrow, Baggot Inn 11/8/07

I’ve known Gary Pig Gold since the late 1970s, when he used to write for my magazine, FFanzeen, while publishing his own fanzine at the same time, the Pig Paper; I saw him play in his country roots inspired band, The Ghost Rockets. Shane Faubert I met in the early ‘80s when he fronted the band the Cheepskates, all of us hanging out playing pool in the bar attached to Irving Plaza, while the Super Bowl played on the television on the wall. Dave Rave, I met in the mid-‘80s, when he first came to New York, but he’d been in my magazine in an article written for me by Hamilton (The Hammer), Ontario, music historian Bruce “Mole” Mowat. In various modes, I’ve seen him play as lead in Teenage Head, projects with Lauren Agnelli, and recent solo projects. Yes, I’ve seen this trio of pals all perform individually, but never together. That changed on the opening night at the International Pop Overthrow (IPO) Festival (, the New York branch held at the Baggot Inn on W3 Street in New York.

But I jump ahead of myself here.

The Baggot Inn ( is a very cozy place with a bar in the back, and then a lower area towards the back with tables and a low stage (either that, or the band may have to crouch). Through various incarnations, the bar has been there for about 100 years. I’d been there twice before, once for a Dawn Eden birthday party, and once to see Contraband (based around the Bowler brothers, David & Howard).

This opening night, a number of bands played, and THAT is what I’m here to talk about, actually.

Thanks to our “lovely” MTA transit system, by the time I showed up – and I was only traveling from Midtown, mind you – I had missed most of the first set by THE VOYCES. From what I heard, I was sorry I didn’t get to hear more. Singers Brian Wurschum and Jude Kastle have a lush sound and harmonize quite velvety on their ballads-based style. What makes them even more enjoyable is that the songs aren’t mopey, but actually have an edge to their sweetness. But after three songs, there was Mr. IPO (aka the very nice David Bash) to thank them and introduce the next band.

Next up, in a solo fashion, was singer-songwriter and rocker, BIBI FARBER. She has worked with Richard Lloyd (Television) a number of times, and he produced her first CD. She is tall, stately, and willowy, with an expressive demeanor and a self-demeaning character that was charming rather than cloying, she explained how her voice was going, but she was going to try her best. Actually, it kept her performance to an amiable low key that enhance the songs in a sultry way, and her guitar work (on a guitar borrowed from The Voyces, thanks to technical problems) showed there was a second texture there. Her song topics included someone talking too much, and a brief love during an affair. I’m interested in hearing her CD with a full on performance. Meanwhile, this evening she was quite satisfying. After she finished, she sat down next to me at the communal table (similar to the late Max’s KC and the Bottom Line). After a few more performances, she left, leaving behind her pick, which I took with me. If anyone is interested, it’s a Fender Medium.

I’ll come right out and say it now, and get it over with… The singer of the eponymous JESSE BRYSON is the son of Wally, of the Raspberries. Jesse was also in Qwasi Qwa and Rosavelt. Okay, now that we got that out of the way, Jesse’s moved from Cleveland to Brooklyn, and now he’s using his genes to further the pop rock sound, bringing it up to date, while mixing other sounds, including Mersey and a touch of country. With his Shemp hair flying, he bounces around while he plays in front of the group, with good hooks and melodies, and strong vocals. I could certainly appreciate what they were doing.

The night was about to rev up a few notches with JAKE STIGERS AND THE VELVET ROOTS. At the forefront of the band is guitarist/producer Nunzio Signore, and singer/guitarist Jake Stigers. It’s pretty obvious from the way they play and interact that they are tight enough to enjoy what they’re doing without worrying about the other. Jake has a very large personality that makes his a showman in the best of ways. Whether it’s the banter betwixt tunes or the hair flailing during the more upbeat numbers, he keeps the stage presence. I can see this band going onward and upward. Sound-wise, they remind me of T-Rex, with that rolling guitar, sharp melody, and assessable and hook-laden sound. After the set, Jake gave me his latest CD, “I Do No Want What I Haven’t Got”, which I will be reviewing at another time, but I will say it’s worth seeking out. Meanwhile, according to their own list, here is their set:
1. Miss Reality
2. End World
3. Girl
4. Love is Spoken
5. Do Not Want

Another highlight of the evening was THE DUKES JETTY, who came all the way from Rugby, Midlands, UK. David Bash explained they played at the UK version of the IPO, and were so well received they were invited over. And they came, just for this gig, amazingly enough. Welcome, guys. The five fellas who make up this band are solid post-Mersey Beat. Even their clothes could have been Twiggy era Carnaby Street. The Dukes Jetty sound could easily fit besides the Searches, the Chad & Jeremy, the Zombies (sans organ), and the like. There are lots of lush harmonies, perky melodies, and strong musicianship and songwriting. All string players sing, with the other two sharing mics, very Paul and George. They’re young, and they’re in touch with the ‘60s.

Hailing from California, cult idol Phil Rosenthal brought most of his band, TWENTY CENT CRUSH. The exception was the wonderful Nancy Heyman on bass (when she was still Nancy Street in the ‘70s, she was a member of pre-grrrl rockers Cheap Perfume. This time I’ve seen her perform since 1977. Also hanging around, but not playing, was her husband, Richard X. Heyman (another cult legend). I’m not familiar with TCC’s material, but was happy to bop my head to their mildly quirky melody lines and lyrics. Phil’s voice sounded a little rough, but hey, that’s what cult legendry is usually about. And as a person with little practice time, Nancy kept right up. About two-thirds through their set, they brought up a guest, ex-Rooks’ Michael Mazzarella. Dressed in black, with a black pork-pie-ish hat, he sat down at a keyboard and joined right in, also keeping up. He played for a couple of songs. After the set, I had the chance to get momentarily reacquainted with Nancy, who remembered me.

A young band, THE ATTORNEYS have a pretty large and growing following. While, they were the least enjoyable band this evening for me, I could also tell that it was much more my taste than it was their talent. Their style is very ‘80s, being keyboards focused, and just reminds me of bands like Duran Duran and A Flock of Seagulls. Vocalist and said keyboardist William Ryan George has a very sweet voice a la Boy George and a cross-face Peter Zaremba-style hairstyle; he emoted constantly, moping over the keys, throwing his shoulders as in sorrow, and at some point, he put on goggles. Okay… Again, the whole band is talented, just not my cup of wax (he said, mixing metaphors). I do have to say, though, that their drummer, Ken Weisbach, was amazing.

Last up was the band I was waiting for, THE NEXT BIG RAVE. The aforementioned Dave Rave, Shane Faubert, and Gary Pig Gold hit the stage, with Gary’s wife Doreen watching from room center. From left to right, Gary was on a plugged in acoustic guitar, Dave’s was a hollow body electric, and Shane was on a solid body. Just three guitars. And when they started, what a treat. They did songs across all their careers, including one of my favorites of Dave’s “When Patti Rocks”, and a slowed down and thoroughly enjoyable version of Shane’s “Run Better Run”. His voice is as smooth as ever. While this is the first time I have seen Dave play without Lauren Agnelli joining in (it was Thursday, literally a school night, as Lauren is a schoolteacher these days), this all boys night rocked just like Patti. It was a very loose ensemble of songs, which seemed to be mostly picked on the spot and covered all periods of their careers. And because these guys have known each other for so long, they all were able to play anything of any of their songs that came up.
Again, MICHAEL MAZZARELLA came up, drink in hand, this time to sing a couple of his own numbers. Also joining at the end were first drummer Chris Mehos (who was in the Ghost Rockets with Gary), and then Chris Peck (formerly of Oral Groove and (Joe) Mannix). It was easy for the audience to be having fun watching, because it was pretty obvious the musicians on stage were having a blast.

After the set, I stayed and said my hellos to Gary and Dave, though I somehow lost track of Shane, with whom I was hoping to get reacquainted. Eventually, I headed to the subway, where, of course, I just missed my train, which led to a 20-minute wait, resulting in a nice 4-hour sleep workday. Well damn worth it, too.

My photos of that night:
All band photos (c) Robert Barry Francos