I began writing this back in June 2011, after Honah Lee had their CD release party at Asbury Lanes this past summer. I got stuck in a writing slump for a number of reasons, but I’ve jump started a little in the last week due to some extreme Green Day fan weirdness, which I will have to relate one of these days. Sigh. But, as I love Honah Lee to bits and pieces, I wanted to finish this post off before I wrote anything else. I said awhile ago that I would, and so I am. <143
I haven’t been up to writing lately. For those of you who visit Green Day Mind for new stuff on Green Day and the band’s side projects, other bands and musical adventures, sorry that I’m lame. Several issues and incidents including a health concern overwhelmed me these last months and American Idiot’s closing here in New York wiped me out! I’ll write about the end of American Idiot… one of these days, as Pink Floyd would say. It was a slightly traumatic day, and no, not because the show closed, but that certainly is a part of the story. It was blazingly hot that last day of American Idiot on Broadway in NYC, April 24th, 2011. The temperature one day was freezing, and the next day, “ho as hell.” I got dehydrated and fainted across the street from the St. James, in front of the Phantom of the Opera, and had to go to the hospital by ambulance where I got seven stitches in the emergency room because I smashed my head on the sidewalk, thereby prompting me to miss the matinee. When I came to, I swore that someone had walked by and randomly curbed me! Um… not so good times. I made it back to the evening performance of the final show and subsequent concert, but the day wasn’t as fun as it should have been. Thanks forever to David and Jaymee and Val who helped me that day. I will be forever grateful. (And sorry about all that blood on the hoodie…)
That head-meeting-sidewalk incident came two months after getting a black eye at the last Frustrators show that I attended at the Phenomenauts’ Command Center in February 2011. Both incidents knocked my mojo out of whack, and were a little embarrassing. Not only did I need to heal from the head injuries but I also had a scare about my thyroid (yay for no cancer!) and for me, it takes some time to heal from acute embarrassment! Some say it’s only rocknroll, but there is that part of me that says, “What the fuck, rocknroll?” There’s more to the story, but I’ll have to save that tale for one of these days, again, as Pink Floyd would say.
Speaking of Pink Floyd, did you catch Roger Waters and David Gilmour’s performance earlier this year of Floyd’s classic, “Comfortably Numb,” when Waters toured Pink Floyd in London? It was my theme song for a bit this year, and if you haven’t seen the performance, you should! Rogers and Gilmour rarely perform together and may never do it again. “Comfortably Numb” is one of my favorite all-time songs and the album it derives from, The Wall, is both a classic LP and one of the best adaptations of a rock-record-turned-musical-movie ever made. I saw Pink Floyd back in the 1980s at Nassau Coliseum and God was in attendance at the show. Or, at least, I think I saw him.
“Comfortably Numb” – Pink Floyd with Roger Waters and David Gilmour – O2, London, May 2011
Luckily while recovering from my head injuries and acute embarrassment, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits came through town twice–once for a show at Lulu’s in Brooklyn on June 7th–and then later in September for a crazy successful show put together by Mike CM (or Chickenman) at Tommy’s Tavern in Brooklyn that included acoustic sets by Bobby Joe, solo gigs by Mikey Erg and Franz Nikolay and PEOP’s Fly, and bands Devastation Wagon and Bobby Joe’s tour mates from out West, the merry men of Sherwood Forest, Tornado Rider, complete with cello as stringed guitar. It was a great night, though it would have been nice if Mike had been at his own show. Alas, he had some issues and fell off of the planet for a bit. He’s on the mend now and I’m hoping for more shows from him if he wants to still do it. Mike seriously knows music and the eclectic lineup he put together at Tommy’s oddly worked and was ripping fun.
I’ve seen a bunch of bands in addition to Bobby Joe and Honah Lee since the end of American Idiot including Social Distortion at the Stone Pony in Asbury, NJ, the Foo Fighters, the Pogues, Fucked Up!, The Cro-Mags, Dear Landlord, the Dopamines, Against Me!, Dengue Fever, TV on the Radio, Fishbone, Frank Turner, Andrew Jackson Jihad, Screaming Females, Japanther, Girl in a Coma, White Wives, Declan Bennett, the Atom Age, and three boys from American Idiot making their currently nameless band debut, in Manhattan and Brooklyn. I also caught a Halloween show put on by a little band called Green Day in a little room in Manhattan called Webster Hall Studio. I went to Baltimore’s Insubordination Fest in August and saw a ton of great bands there, and witnessed Emily’s Army’s debut on the Insub Pop Punk Circuit. They put on a great show and taught those mean old pop punkers a few lessons on how to pop punk it. All of these bands helped with the mojo, but seeing Honah Lee regularly throughout the year injected me with doses of irreverent Jersey, sorta like a Jersey form of B12 or something, shot in the butt. Or something.
I’ve seen Honah Lee ten or more times this year (yes, I know, there’s something wrong with me), including Asbury Lanes on June 17th, a few of their other shows at the Mill Hill in Trenton, the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, the Loop Lounge in Patterson, and twin nights at the little basement venue of Williamsburg’s Charleston Bar on Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn. I traveled to Jersey to celebrate my birthday in March with these twerps, but of course they went on last at 1:00am and I had to catch a 1:27am train back to Brooklyn. I heard three songs and missed my birthday toast. Boo. In other words, I heart Honah Lee. I mean, how can you not heart these four crazily demented, but lovable, faces?
Honah Lee (Tim Hoh, Jim Graz, Joseph Wolstenholme and Anthony Catanese) is a catchy, fun, loud, live band. Tim’s nasally-thin trumpet of a lead voice combined with Dim’s rock guitar licks and Jim’s bass and Tony G.’s drum rhythm section is a steady groovemaker when they get to revving and in Tim’s case, roaring. “Gimme something with a badass tempo” says their song, Bobby’s Dead, and I agree. I’m quite fond of the way these guys roll out their backbeat. I always expect to scream out some lyrics whenever I see the guys, as I’m fueled by that deceptive and steady rhythm just below the surface and lyrics that touch basic human chords: the futility of trying, even if you can’t give up; desires noted but not acted on; “don’t be me, cause I ain’t shit,” and whatever other rage within that needs tempering by a cheery attitude of desperate fun. It’s a little cathartic.
In general, “Honah Lee’s” songs are rhythms and lyrics that most listeners will embrace on the spot. If I still had my meaningless job at that publishing company, I would have blasted ‘I Hate My Job’ each and every day on my way to work. The song is almost a rallying anthem in which the masses can unite, but ultimately as Tim shouts ‘You gotta do it if you wanna get paid’. “Honah Lee” sings about what is universal. These guys would have been writing songs about girls ten years ago. Now, they write about the monotony of work and the general ambivalence that we all feel towards life at times. —The Real Musician – Review of Honah Lee/The Plurals Split EP, “Lick It.”
we play along like there’s nothing wrong, yea, we make it look so fucking fun… don’t. be. me… cause I ain’t shit”
—Don’t Be Me
It’s neat to see Honah Lee’s audiences grow since that epic show at Don Hill’s back in February 2010 when Honah Lee and the Mystic Knights of the Cobra opened for the Foxboro Hot Tubs and only a handful of people in the room knew their name. Prior to and since that show, they’ve consistently built an audience and constantly play gigs all over New Jersey and surrounding areas. It’s even more neat hearing audiences sing along with them.
Honah Lee’s twin shows at Brooklyn’s tiny basement venue, the Charleston–about the size of Trenton’s Mill Hill–in the heart of Williamsburg, USA have been laid back and relaxing, whether hanging on the Charleston’s comfy outdoor seating, inside at the long bar, or downstairs in the basement music venue. The Charleston’s small performance space is outfitted with an outsized speaker system that can blowout musicians and audience alike. At that first show, Tim knocked his beer over during the first song. It puddled at the band’s feet and leaked through the holes in his shoes. The crowd was small, but the band gave it their all and won them over, despite the crappy sound and loss of beer. I was happy that they were playing in Brooklyn and the crowd had a good time. What more do you need?
I was wondering… what you gonna do, what you gonna do? Can I hang out with you, say I can hang out with? … I don’t want to know what’s on your mind… there’s just nothing to do
I Was Wondering
This second time around at the Charleston on Friday, 12/3/2011, the band’s sound was clearer and cleaner, no beer was spilled, the crowd was thicker, and most of them were there to see Honah Lee, which is pretty great since it’s only their sixth or seventh time playing in Manhattan and Brooklyn, including that epic show at Don Hill’s. Nicole M-W and her husband Anthony J-M-W (who I saw perform as lead singer in a smoking-hot Rage Against the Machine tribute band earlier this summer) and Cathryn, who I’ve met on fleeting occasions during the stage production of American Idiot, were there, along with some of Honah Lee’s New Jersey friends and New York fans. Not The Bees!, a New Jersey band that tours on the local circuit with Honah Lee (one of four bands on the Charleston bill) filled out the front area of the audience, so there were more than a few people who knew the songs. Probably the best moment came during Honah Lee’s song, Leave It To My Goddamn Brain, when Tim admonished his lyrical antagonist to… well, “fuck you”… with the crowd answering in support built on a steady uptempo beat, ending in a shared chorus and accompanied by their best middle finger salutes.
Nothing will beat the Honah Lee CD release party sing-a-long at Asbury Lanes back in June, though, except maybe the day when I see them play larger rooms. Why? Because almost everyone knew the lyrics to their songs and were more than willing to scream them back in abandon at the band, egged on by the driving rhythm section and teased by rock riffs. I can honestly say that this night was a highlight of my entire summer, and the gritty splender of the Lanes and beautiful Asbury Park made a perfect backdrop for exercising some demons. Good times, good people, good screaming.
I’d only been to Asbury Park one other time, a quick trip to catch Social Distortion’s show at the Stone Pony earlier in May 2011. This time around, my friend Liz and I rented a room at the Asbury Berkeley and ended up in a beautiful suite on the quiet, i.e., non-Honah Lee-staying, side of the hotel. We had an expansive view of a never-ending crystal blue Atlantic Ocean and the restored Asbury Park Pavilion. We got to town around 6:00, explored the Boardwalk, marveled at the ocean and the architecture, went back to the hotel for a minute and then off to Asbury Lanes.
Asbury Lanes is a bowling alley turned band venue, with a stage nested in the lanes, a solid sound system and ample dance floor. The Plurals, an outstanding trio from Lansing, Michigan, was on the bill that night, with Lakeside Drive, Radio Exiles and Communication Redlight. Honah Lee went on last with a full audience of hardcore HL fans, friends, and family who knew almost every damn word to the songs. The resultant (slightly intoxicated) singalong ended ultimately in audience members storming the stage as someone ran by in a taco costume. Or was that a hot dog costume? I don’t remember.
“Coca cola drives me crazy. Sex and cigarettes all night. I’m a liar like, a priest, the messiah, I’m insane.”
Honah Lee’s simple, heartfelt lyrics and chords are tinged with touches of irony and a little ennui; simple, singable choruses invite the audience to “scream it out” with them. (Although Tony, the curmudgeonly drummer, says he hates it when the audience sings along. I don’t know if he’s serious, he hates everything.) I know a few people who don’t like Honah Lee, comparing them to Weezer and such (as if that’s a bad thing), but I just don’t get it. Weezer is certainly an influence, but so is Screeching Weasel. In fact, Honah Lee has a song coming out soon in Ben Weasel’s defense. Pop-punkers tend to dismiss them for one reason or another, and that’s their prerogative. Whatever the reasons, Honah Lee may not move mountains, but it was way neat seeing them move the V.F.W. audience in Somewhere, New Jersey this summer, cause when Honah Lee gets into a groove, their melodies flow well and Tony keeps a badass tempo behind guitarists Tim and Dim, and bassist Jim rips some deep, moving basslines. Tim encourages the room to drink (anything), always raises his glass in a toast to the audience, and off they run. Looking at that room of people in Asbury was amazing, as the crowd sang with the band, and more than a few antics broke out. They have a solid rapport with their audience.
Fuck responsibility, I don’t want to do a goddamn thing, but sit on my ass, and watch tv, drink some beers, and smoke some weed… LIFE WON’T LET ME… YOU WON’T LET ME… TIME WON’T LET ME… AND LIFE… WON’T… LET… ME…” –
–Life Won’t Let Me
Honah Lee work their asses off playing music, promoting their shows with well-crafted flyers, booking gigs, recording tracks, criss crossing New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and other States to play. Yea, they may be strange, but it warms my heart to see a group of guys work hard despite the odds by “BOLDLY FOLLOWING A DREAM GOING NOWHERE,” even in the face of this “BROKEN MUSIC SCENE.” I’m hoping that one day they’ll be as big as Bieber… haha, I kid… but I would like to see a whole mess of folks in an audience screaming their lyrics back at them in a mad dance. I’m not sure how big a “mess of folks” would be, but the moment itself will be a solid, fun time of musically shared zeitgeist, some antics, and a beer or two.
I’ve lost my heart I’ve lost my soul I lost myself in the…. rock and roll….
Loss for Words
On a slightly sad note, after seeing the band off from their Charleston gig on Friday, the boys made it back to New Jersey, and the next day, the band and their lovely wives, fiancees, and girlfriends all went to their friend’s wedding. Everyone had a mirthful time celebrating the nuptials. Towards the end of the night, Tim, who has been known to go off and take a leak in the woods, found himself off the side of a cliff instead of an expanse of soft, dewey, grass, and hurt his back in the subsequent 12-foot drop. He has to stay off his feet for a little bit, and according to their Facebook, the band will have to cancel a few shows in the next weeks, but hope to be back before the end of the month.
Next time Tim, go to the men’s room.
You can hear the album, Life Won’t Let Me, on their Soundcloud.
All Honah Lee flyers courtesy of Anthony Catanese. More flyers here.
Photo of Honah Lee from album, Life Won’t Let Me by Michelle Lawlor
“Bobby’s Dead” – Honah Lee at Asbury, June 17, 2011
*Filmed by me, not a videographer…
“Gimme something with a badass tempo… gimme something that will stick in my head… gimme something with some real emotion… ya give me something so I know I’m not dead…”–Bobby’s Dead