I’ve heard the grumbling over the Interwebs and spreading throughout the streets of New York and Brooklyn. The cries of the punks (paraphrasing): “sell-out,” “it’s dead,” “NYC and CBGBs throwing a concert in Times Square… a commercial miasma!” and so on and so forth. The comment backlash began immediately after a May 7th, somewhat out-of-the-blue, Festival-announcement article in the New York Times, with a subsequent May 8th article in Rolling Stone. The gist of comments posted on the Rolling Stone article boiled down: the Festival is a blatant commercial ploy.
CBGB will always live in the hearts of those who frequented the now-defunct building located at 315 Bowery in the heart of what used to be the grimiest, grittiest, most “real” part of New York City known as The Bowery. Intermixed with the “real” New York of the Bowery (where you can still find people splayed drunk on the ground), are fancy restaurants, apartment buildings, and hotels where lowly NYers like me can’t — and never will — afford dinner let alone an apartment or night’s hotel stay. For those of us who remember the Bowery and CBGB as it was, we miss not necessarily the grime or crime (it’s still plenty dirty though much safer), but the spirit of independence that seems to be dying with each closing venue or flophouse on the Bowery, the East Village, or Lower East Side. There’s too many closed places to mention, but two good blogs that capture both the overall changes in NYC and the East Village are Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York and the EV Grieve. EV Grieve’s by-line reads: “Here, you’ll find things that you may or may not be interested in about the East Village and other parts of New York City. Appreciating what’s here while it’s still here. Remembering what’s no longer here. Wishing some things weren’t here that are here.”
CBGB Old School
All I’m Hoping for is a Heartbeat
Starting with Mayor David Dinkins in the early 1990s (yes, I know, some will scoff and say it all started with Rudy Giuliani), the city began a cleanup from the accumulated blight of three centuries of existence and moved toward what it is today: a Disney-fied playground for the rich. The bandshell of Tompkins Square Park in the East Village was vanished and the park beautified in the late 1980s, beginning that area’s overpriced tenement real estate craze. The Meatpacking District‘s S&M club, The Vault (aka The Manhole, and the Hellfire Club), shut down and slaughterhouses turned into Fifth Avenue-type clothing stores. Times Square’s porn palaces ended in movie megaplexes and Broadway got a facelift away from bulb-powered billboards to huge plasma screen displays all over the goddamned place, but at night, it’s a beautiful sight to behold, if you look up long enough to gaze at the displays without wanting to punch a tourist.
There’s a constant pull between the old and the new, but it’s always been like that in New York City. In 1898, when the city consolidated its current area as Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island, Brooklyn lamented its being swallowed up by Manhattan, and 114 years later, people still bitch about Consolidation. NYC is a place — for good or bad — that constantly remakes itself every couple of generations.
Today, the old CBGB’s space is a high-priced John Varvatos clothing store. Socks go for big bucks, and the cost of a jacket? Fudgeddaboutit. Whether John Varvatos loves music or not (which he obviously does as many of his publicity campaigns include rock stars such as Green Day)… thats, just… wrong, in the eyes of not only me, but others as well. No offense to Varvatos himself, but when the battle between Hilly Kristal and his landlord ended in the demise of the club and the Varvatos store moved in, it felt like a knife slicing through the heart, the end of a spirit of independence, of a connection to the poor and the punks, and an ironic twist of angst was left that’s difficult to let go of, even years after CBGBs closed.
Green Day in John Varvatos
Since you can’t go back to the old days… and really, if you remember what the Bowery was like in 1985, the year I moved to NYC from Detroit — drug infested, dangerous, and just plan nasty — what is there left to do? You can either let CBGB die a noble, final death and still make money from the brand profits alone… or you can create a giant festival in the name of CBGB, in the heart of New York (and Brooklyn) and attempt to infuse some spirit back into that once independent club on Bowery, if in name only.
I was discussing this on Facebook and a Native New Yorker friend wrote: “CBGB’s never represented anything to me other then a nasty hole in the wall that smelled like Port Authority. Sure a LOT of great bands were fostered there, but the mystique around it has to do with the Energy, the Time and specific Place fusing perfectly [emphasis mine]… [Today’s CBGB has] GOT to be sincere, in it for LOVE, not some concept of success — maybe not PUNK ethos, but certainly one for any kind of REAL Authentic expression, however it manifests.”
CBGB’s old haunt has died, Hilly Kristal has died, and maybe New York has died, too, but if CBGB’s was worth it in the first place, isn’t it worth breathing life back into it and hoping to find some heartbeat of authentic expression? I believe it is. So I hope, despite a strange and somehow lackluster slew of bands listed for the festival, that I’ll hear somewhere, a faint heartbeat of the old Bowery and CBGBs.
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
Honah Lee Release Party Flyer - Asbury Lanes, Asbury, NJ - June 17th, 2011 -- All Honah Lee posters by Anthony Catanese
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?
WE ARE BOLDLY GOING NOWHERE FOLLOWING A DREAM, AND PROUD OF BEING NOTHING IN THIS BROKEN MUSIC SCENE
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.”
Honah Lee, First show at the Charleston, Sometime 2011
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”
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
Honah Lee / Statues of Liberty
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.
Honah Lee / Sports Bar / Atom Age
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.
The Queers / Honah Lee
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.
Honah Lee / Cryptkeeper 5
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 / The Plurals
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 / Beardo the Man
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
Fifteen Years of Tim Hoh
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.