It’s another week of life and I was lucky to see a couple of shows of the music variety from November 6th-15th, 2010. Earlier last week, I watched a lot of teevee. I was recovering from the Halloween weekend of Japanther and World/Inferno Friendship Society and the harder I dance, the longer the recovery. I wish I could tell you about some great teevee show that I watched, but, I can’t remember what I watched. I know I watched the Amazing Race, since I’m a stalwart fan of that show, one of the few reality shows that I watch. For three weeks running I missed the Zombie-laden American Movie Channel adaptation of the Walking Dead and I probably won’t bother to catch up with it now.
The boring but restful week of unmemorable teevee gave way to a nice weekend of visiting local Lower East Side music venues around the corner from each other, Arlene’s Grocery on Rivington and Rockwood Music Hall on Allen near Houston. The surrounding area tends to be a bit trendy these days since the Hotel on Rivington opened up a few years ago on Rivington near Delancey, as well as the fancy Schiller’s, on Rivington a block east of Delancey, and the Essex Street Market reinvented itself from a chaotic neighborhood market selling live chickens to an upscale market selling organic rabe and pricey restaurants.
I don’t venture much into the general area since the tiny Todo Con Nada (or just Nada) Theater on Ludlow Street closed eons ago. I practically lived in theaters within this three-block area back in the late 80s and 90s, when storefronts were cheap and production values for Off-Off-Broadway theater were none to minimal. Need a barn for a play? This area had it for you: Surf Reality, the Present Company, House of Candles, and the late-comer, the Piano Room, were venues that fueled my need for the craziest theater possible. The Neo-Futurist’s long-running and successful improv show, “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind (30 plays in 60 minutes), made their New York expansion from Chicago to NADA when they arrived in NYC in 1995. The little theaters are gone now. I actually saw a Ferrari parked on Allen Street a few weeks ago, and while waiting for Honah Lee to go on at Arlene’s Grocery, there must have been at least 60 mini-skirts walking on 120 6-inch heels, and even a fine looking dude in a silken bikini bottom and leather jacket. It took us a little bit of time to realize the lady was a guy, but she was hot nonetheless.
This is New York’s famed Lower East Side. It’s come a long way from the days of McGurk’s Suicide Bar from the 19th-century to today’s trendy, night-cluby, scene.
Honah Lee, Beardo the Man and The Ladrenos – Arlene’s Grocery, NYC
I hadn’t seen the tweeps from Honah Lee (Tim, Jim, Dim, and Tony) play since last April, when they were on the Party! Party! Party! Tour with the Mystic Knights of the Cobra, and both somehow ended up opening for the Foxboro Hot Tubs. They don’t live that far from me, in Trenton, NJ, about 90 minutes away by train. I don’t have a car and the train fare went up to $30 R/T from New York’s Penn Station. No matter what the fun on the other end of the train line, $30 to Jersey, Trenton, New Jersey, no less, is steep. The last time that Honah Lee played at Arlene’s in Manhattan back in the summer, Green Day played the same night at Holmdel in New Jersey, so I missed the fellows back in August. There was no way I was going to miss them again.
Honah Lee may not be the most musically-accomplished band, but who needs a band like that anyway? They are completely earnest, raw, loud and unpolished with catchy, screamable lyrics, a steady beat and crazy stupid-fun. When I see Honah Lee, I can’t sit still and I just want to dance. They love to play music, get people drunk, and have a good time, too. Really, what more do you need? Something strange and unexpected always seems to happen when I see these guys play.
The night started out well enough. The band room venue for Arlene’s Grocery is a large, black box space, and when you walk in, you can immediately feel the circulating air conditioning system, which is fabulous. In an odd way, though, the mixing of air conditioning with beer and bodies can leave a strange smell in the air. Add to that equation a human super-vomiter, and you have yourself an air problem. Two songs into Honah Lee’s set, some dude near the bar let out a Monty Python-“It’s waffer-thin” stream of voluminous vomit that filled the room not only with the smell of air conditioning, beer and bodies, but also with the overwhelming smell of vomit. The stream cleared the right side of the room, and the smell cleared the dance floor. It’s not unusual for beer-induced vomiting to take place at a Honah Lee show, but it’s usually the band doing the vomiting, or at least something super crazy. Honah Lee is a bit unpredictable with a sense that the unexpected can happen, and it usually does. Unfortunately for me, I couldn’t overcome my gag reflex to the unexpected river of vomit no matter how much I tried, and I had to go outside for a bit to catch my breath.
Nonetheless, the show was fun and once I came back inside and the air conditioning broke through the smell and a mop and bucket appeared, all was well again. Honah Lee didn’t even notice the vomit, and played a good 45-minute set including “Loss for Words,” “Bobby’s Dead,” “Happy Birthday Dad I’m in Jail,” “53rd and 3rd,” “Life Won’t Let Me,” “You’re Too Much,” “I Hate My Job,” “Leave Them Girls Alone,” “Californibation,” “Gun,” “I was Wonderin'” and “Sex and Cigarettes.” Most of the songs they played are new, but three songs are included in their eight-song CD, I Want It All, “Loss for Words,” “Gun,” and my favorite Honah Lee song, “I Was Wondering.” The video to their single, “I Hate My Job,” can be seen on YouTube.
Honah Lee – “Gun” from I Want It All - Arlene’s Grocery, NYC 11/13/10
Beardo the Man went on before Honah Lee, and I have to say, I found them funny for a little bit. Their schtick is 90s Long Island/Jersey mega-group complete with Korg synthesizer and ironic terry-stretch head- and wrist bands. They were musically pretty good. Of the three bands, they had the more polished sound, and certainly projected a definite bravado, and they drew a crowd. I listened to four or five songs, the first of which was a new one called “Desperate Bitches.” I can’t quite remember the words, but the chorus pretty much had the words “desperate bitches want to go out with me.”
I caught a few more of their songs before the ironic misogyny got a bit too… ironic, though they did do a fabulous cover of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up,” and I enjoyed their song, “Everybody’s Jealous of My Bike!” and “I’m a Dancer.” But after “Don’t Touch That Girl” and “I Love Kids! (in da butt),” I left and went outside to hang with Honah Lee.
The Ladrenos (their Myspace is new and without songs) came on after Honah Lee. I wasn’t going to stay until I saw them break out a trumpet and a trombone. I’ve mentioned before how much I love brass in punk and ska, and the Ladrenos are Latino-laced pop-ska. Since seeing La Plebe at Hoodstock in Oakland back in September and making an effort to listen to Latino punk bands during Green Day’s tour through South and Central America, I decided to stay, even if they were having technical difficulties with their guitar setup, which took overly long. They finally got it together, and impressed me enough that I stayed for a few songs. While promising, the songs, as my friend that I was with noted, “all started to sound the same.” The lyrics were in Spanish, and I only know bits and pieces of the language. I believe that they may be newly-formed and working out their set, and I’d like to see them again one of these days, particularly on a bill with other Latino-pop-punk-ska bands, though I have no idea where to find this kind of music in New York City. The band is from Queens, New York.
All-in-all, it was a good night of music and crazy adventures on the Lower East Side, and it’s always fabulous to see some of my favorite people on the planet, Honah Lee.
John Gallagher, Jr. – Rockwood Music Hall, Stage 2 – 11/14/10
The next night, Sunday, I ventured back onto the Lower East Side to see John Gallagher, Jr., who plays the lead role of Johnny in American Idiot. Gallagher is one of the nicest, most humble people and it’s obvious that he loves to sing and play music. Every time I’ve seen him perform at Rockwood, (the first time this past January before American Idiot opened and three times this summer), I’ve been struck by his relationship with his guitar, his music, and with the audience. It could all be a facade, but I really don’t think so. He’s a nice dude who has a song in his heart and plays a mean acoustic guitar.
His music resides on the folk-rock side, and at one of his shows, he stressed how much the musician John Prine means to him. Two times I’ve seen him as a solo performer, and twice with his friend on hollow body-guitar, Thad DeBrock, a guitarist from Spring Awakening. Gallagher formerly was in the band, Old Springs Pike, but starring roles in Spring Awakening and other television, film, and theater productions prompted him to leave the band. The band itself continues without Gallagher as Spring Standards.
Though I like my music mostly on the wild side, I do appreciate the quieter musical life. Gallagher’s shows are relaxing and his easy banter with the audience provides a good and easy laugh. His lyrics can be a little starry-eyed and grave, (“We’re all gonna die, so we better start to live; Just remember, no one’s gonna love you for being selfish” from the song, “Start to Live“), but he sings them with an intensity and sincerity that is contagious and from the heart. And did I mention how well he plays an acoustic guitar? Gallagher, Jr. is at Rockwood about once a month, you should go and see him if you can. The shows are free with a one drink minimum.
John Gallagher, Jr. – “Constance” – Rockwood Music Hall, 11/14/10 – (via @johngallagherjr and @onbonosback on Twitter)
John Gallagher, Jr. Setlist
Two Fists Full
So Many Things
Close to the Cusp
Waiting at the Bus Stop
Start to Live
Three Out of Five Ain’t Good
Dead for a Year
Wurlitzer in Space
Mayday on Commerce Street
Thanks to Jaime, Vi, Michelle and John I. for help with filling in mental blanks, setlists and lyrics.
What I Wish I Could Have Heard
The Lawrence Arms: Knitting Factory, Brooklyn
My friend Jaime went to see the Lawrence Arms at the Knitting Factory, and when she tweeted about the show, I decided to check out the band. Since I’m a Johnny-come-lately, I had never heard of this Chicago-based band who has been around since 1999, but I do know that what I heard from their Myspace impressed me. I’ll have to check them out next time they come to town. Here is their official page, LawrenceArms.org and this is their MySpace page.
Pee-Wee Herman’s Big Adventure
I was going to briefly note that Pee-Wee Herman is on Broadway in a limited-run show until January 2nd, and I wanted to see it before it closes just after New Years. However, the little issue of tickets for the show stood in the way as I didn’t have money for them. Ask for what you want and ye shall receive! I rarely win anything, so I was surprised when I scored two tickets to see Pee-Wee Herman Broadway! I entered a Twitter contest for the theater blog, Steve On Broadway and I won tickets to the show. I’ll be seeing it the night before Thanksgiving, which should brightened an otherwise blah weekend. Though, I have to tell ya, that blah weekend will end with me seeing Star Fucking Hipsters at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Sunday, Nov. 28. Now that’s a way to end the blah holiday blues.
If you are into theater and are on Twitter, you should follow @SteveOnBroadway. His Twitter feed is very good (besides the fact that I won tickets to the show) and he was recently included in a list of the “Top 100 Theater Tweeters” on BroadwayWorld.com.
That’s it for what I wish I had heard for the week of November 6th-15th. Check back next week when I report on Harry Potter and the Deathly Gallows (yea, ok, I’m a nerd, guilty as charged!), a strange night at the Museum of Modern Art with a female punk-new wave group from the 1970s, The Raincoats, and the crazy stupidity of not hearing a song from Jesse Malin featuring Green Day that was supposed to be heard three weeks ago. This coming week, I’m seeing Pee Wee on Broadway, and Star Fucking Hipsters, and if I can throw in some other music over the Thanksgiving Day week, I’ll try.
Don’t forget that the cast of American Idiot will be performing during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (yes, I know, ironic since Green Day has a depressing song called “Macy Day’s Parade”), which will be broadcast live on NBC starting at the crack of morning. More info on the parade can be found here. I won’t be going, but have fun to those who do!