Friday, August 14, 2009

Running with the shadows of the night

So I had a choice to go to one of two free shows on Thursday. A couple of indi bands at Pier 54, or some headliners from my high school years out on Coney Island. The clincher for me was the opening band.

Amazing Baby and Yeahsayer would have been fun, but probably not blogworthy. But that does have it's advantages as they are a quick jaunt downtown on the A line, and I could even be back uptown before the A goes local.

But how could I resist a trip out to Coney Island to see The Donnas. I LOVE those chicks. Nothing beats their straight ahead hard rocking sound. Who doesn't like chicks that rock. Now throw in the other two acts... Pat Benetar and Blondie... OK, I'm in.

So on the one hand I'm thinking that I don't listen to Pat Benetar, so why would I travel the entire length of the city to see her? But sweeten the pot with Blondie, who though I have my issues with them, was always at the very top of my cool-ometer. Most likely I would have made the trek just to see Blondie, but throw in the other two, and you've got yourself a deal. Met up with my buddy Howie, celebrity stalker extraordinaire, who gave me the whole rundown of this venue... he's been going there for years. This summer he's already seen there Frankie Valley and The OJs... just to name a few.

So, long boring trip on the D train to the last stop and end up on Surf Ave, right near Nathans, one block from the Boardwalk. Walk a good few blocks along Surf Ave past the Freak Show, The Cyclone, Squirt the Clown watergun games, The New York Aquarium, etc. Eventually you come to a park on the other side (away from the ocean) about the size of a football field.

Sort of typical New York free show clusterfuck. They have folding chairs in the center of the field, fenced off. You pay $5 or $10 extra for a seat. On both sides and on the sidewalk, people bring their own chairs, throw down blankets, or just pull up some grass and have a seat (like me). There was a line for the seats wrapping around the block, but you could just meander into the non-seated area. So of course people who show up late are stepping over people who show up early. The crowd was a VERY strange mix... lots of 43 year old moms, a few freaks from the CBGBs era (for Blondie), bikers, biker mommas, some young kids who are into retro-rock... but an awful lot of local folk FAR too old to know who Blondie was... maybe they thought Frankie Valley was this week.

It soon becomes clear that this is a Parks Department production, not a professional concert promotion. Just like the shows at The Pier, or the Medieval fest up at the cloisters, they bear the mark of local groups just overextending themselves a bit. Not enough bathrooms, one tiny merchandise booth, no coordination w/ the subway trains (like they do for sports events and concerts). Most important, the continuous presence of one Marty Marcowitz. Dude stands about 5 foot nothing, wears a white tuxedo jacket, and works the microphone for about two hours. Tells you not to smoke, not to save seats for your friends, pick up your trash, tells jokes, thanks people, plugs local politicians running for office... just keeps running his mouth continuously. Apparently they wanted to find somebody MORE Jewish, but there is no such thing. BTW: this is the guy who had the signs put up on bridges and tunnels saying things like "Fughetaboutdit" and "Oy Vey, you're leaving Brooklyn why?".

OK, enough rambling... on to the show.

The Donnas took the stage promptly at 8, kicked mondo ass for (let's see, four songs, three minutes a song...) about fourteen minutes. Wish they could have played longer, but thems the breaks when you open for two legendary headliners. They kept telling the crowd "don't be afraid to STAND UP", but in this crowd, that might cause a broken hip... (I'm saying they're OLD).

Next up, Pat Benetar. OK, I'm gonna admit something now... and do you DARE repeat this to anybody... the first record I ever bought when I was a freshman in high school was Pat Benetar. Remember Fast Times at Ridgemont High... when they point out the girls in high school rocking the many looks of Pat Benetar... that was EXACTLY my era in high school. All the chicks wanted to BE her, all the dudes wanted to get WITH her. And why not, she was a rocker... and we were in the height of the "Disco Sucks" movement... and she wore tight leather pants... and had a great voice.

Turns out Pat Benetar got the act started back in 1979. So this is her 30th anniversary. Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, we can claim her as a New Yorker... though she and the band moved to LA at the start of their career. Her voice was PERFECT. She still looks great. And man did I have some SERIOUS flashbacks to high school. It's bad enough that I'm on Facebook now, and getting in touch with people who I havn't spoken to since 1983, but this jogged more dormant neurons than you can imagine. Bottom line, she put on a great rocking show !!!!

Next up, Blondie... but first some rock and roll classics cranked out by their DJ, accompanied by two go-go girls. Now when I say "girls" I really mean go-go women, since I think they were about my age... but they were beautiful, and I love REAL rock and roll. We're talking Chubby Checker and that era... finally they sneak in The Stooges (I Wanna Be Your Dog) and The Ramones (Let's Dance)... great stuff... and then on with the show.

Now I mentioned that I have my issues with Blondie, so let's air this dirty laundry now. I remember back in the day hearing a live call-in show where fan after fan told Debbie how much they loved her, but warned her to "STAY AWAY FROM THE DISCO". Bad advice from those fans since their most popular and profitable songs were Disco... or at least in that direction... Heart of Glass, Rapture, Tide is High. Blondie was a staple at CBGBs back in the day, playing along side The Ramones, Television, The Talking Heads, The Dead Boys... they kicked out songs like Detroit 442, Hanging on the Telephone, and One Way or Another... but they got noticed by the world for their dance numbers. Me, I think Disco STILL sucks... but I'm not the one with several platinum albums. Also, there was the whole controversy when the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but Debbie and Chris wouldn't let the original band mates play. Kinda puts a bad taste in my mouth... but what are you gonna do? Life goes on.

Now lets face it, part of Blondie's fame was due to Debbie Harry's stunning good looks. She was a freaking KNOCKOUT. But she was not just a pretty face, she could back it up with an AMAZGIN voice, and all around cool attitude. Actually it looks like Debbie's been spending some time in the gym lately, cuz she looked in better shape than she had in years. Her voice, as always, was phenomenal !!!

As expected, Blondie did most of their big hits and a few obscure numbers that only real fans would recognize. Of course they did long extended versions of their big dance numbers, Atomic, Tide is High, and Rapture.

They made my night at the encore, breaking out The Ramones' Havana Affair !!!! Then immediately went into Heart of Glass.

That's when it got weird.... Heart of Glass sort of melts into an unrecognizable disco haze, and then the keyboard kicks in... "what was that... I KNOW that riff... NO... they COULDN'T... COULD THEY???... " The disco beat goes on and it becomes clearer and clearer that EVERYBODY knows this song... the crowd goes nuts and dancing breaks out all over the place, as Debbie sings in a slow and moody style...

"Lovely is the feeling now
Fever, Temperature rising now
Power (ah power) is the force the vow
That makes it happen... "

Yes, it was Michael f'n Jackson's "Don't Stop 'till You Get Enough"

Damn, I actually just typed MJs name after I SWORE never to mention him again... ever. Oh well, it was actually a good choice, a good version, and a crowd pleaser. They guitared it up, put some hurt on it, made it mean... and Debbie's voice was hypnotic.

So that's the show folks. Glad I went. I had a ball. Don't think I'll be hitting up too many shows at this venue unless it's something equally interesting, but since I swore off big areanas this summer, this was actually perfect for me.