Where the Wild West Went and Where It Is Going
Below is the third of three posts I put together way back in December 2005 – Christmas Day in fact. In short the first two were post were the likes of Thin Lizzy and Ian Gillan. The third focuses on a show I had seen a few days before featuring a handful of local acts. All of it happening in Don Hills, which has since closed down sadly. It is all Rock’n’Roll, but it does seem a bit funner in the streets. . .
The X at CBGBs (not Don Hills. . .)
Finally, after a bit of a cold, some Christmas shopping, and some good old procrastination, I am finally putting down my thoughts on the last of the three shows. The first two took place twenty five years ago – thin Lizzy and Gillan. For awhile I just was not putting many thoughts together. In the last two posts I went on and on about those two shows that I saw twenty five years ago. And my intention was to continue on with that enthusiasm about a third show that I went and checked out back on the 14th of December down at Don Hills, in NYC, the Christmas edition of Steve Blush’s Rock Candy.
How does any show compete with the two shows you have been holding up for the past 25 years as the gold standard of shows. “Here are the two greatest shows. . . oh and here is a third. . .just as good. Either there is no room for the third or you have been lying to yourself for these past twenty five years. I explored both sides of this fork, and felt the absurdity of such ventures. I guess it comes down to wanting to hold onto something, but don’t cling on to these things too tightly. At some point you will look at you what you clung to, what you put up on those pedestals and ask yourself what exactly was it. It is just hard to compare what is going on today with something you have romanticized for twenty five years. Either those shows from long ago are going to have to come down off their pedestals or I am going to have to erect something awfully quick regarding the show from last week, and it just does not happen like that. I suppose in the end it is a little bit of both, or another option, all to common is to ignore and deny such issues.
We could go on. . . the fan of Camus could explore the questions of authenticity and identity here, but not here. I have been stuck for the past two weeks though asking what to say. One would think another couple of bands, same instruments, all doing rock’n’roll, what is there to be stuck on. Just proceed ahead. So that is what we are doing.
So lets start with the night. They had an incredible number of bands on the bill and all had some talent. Some I had no idea who they were. Some did not grab me but they did have something going on. Others I missed. Two I had wanted to see and they were just too early or too late-it was a school night and my butt was already dragging when I got there.
Here is the roster of bands for that December 14th, 2005 at Don Hills:
Swear On Your Life (w/ Militia)
That is a list! And it was all in one night too! It was like Scrooge and the spirits – all in one night. I was hoping to check out Life with Militia. they seem interesting but I missed them – I was too late. Metal John is just one long absurd guitar solo. It reminds me of rehearsal studio noodling that guitar players love to do during down time. Things friends would do a long time ago when they did their imitations of Yngwie or Eddie. Even his introduction at the start fits into that whole tradition-the seriousness of it. It works, and is certainly something different in a club. It is neat to see something usually saved for the rehearsal studio brought out into the light of the stage.
Grounded I have seen twice now. And the material is already getting familiar to me. Considering that one fact, I have to say they got something going on. The singer has a good voice, The band is fairly tight. I wish the guitar solos were a little more present, but again the songs are there. They are definitely metal, no denying that, complete with several hails to satan. In a post 911 world, though, devoting oneself to satan perhaps has lost some of its evil luster. Hell, I am not sure if satan worshipers actually think he is evil. I was always confused by worshipping something or someone that is viewed as not good. Maybe Satan is in fact good, or maybe he is worshipped exactly because he is not good, but then you got something that is not good but is good. Anyway, I will look forward to the next time I see Grounded.
Queen V was up next and I always enjoy her shows. She knows how to work a room. She is really a classic rock act with a dash of punk attitude. Some have compared her to Joan Jett, and I guess there is something to that. I f you grant that you might as well draw some analogies to Steven Tyler too. Plus her material for me is more reminiscent maybe of Aerosmith back when they were making albums like Rocks and Toys in the Attic. I do wonder if that one song she has is a response to Mama Kins.
The interesting thing on the Queen V stage that night were the changes. She got a new lead guitar player, which is probably a good thing. The new guy is an able guitar player who comes from Joker Five Speed. Joker Five Speed was another veteran act from the NYC, though he, Anthony(?), was I believe a relative newcomer to that band, which sadly disbanded a little while ago. Newcomer or not the man is able to play! So hopefully he can make a home for himself with Queen V. The last guy just did not seem up to the task – he played all right, but at least once every performance something would happen. Either a cord would go on him or an effect box. . . something, or so it seemed. And going back to the classic rock theme, instead of the usual – Zeppelin’s Rock’n’Roll, they ended with an AC/DC number. Now what was it? Damn!!!! Oh, it was the Girl’s Got Rhythm, a nice choice!
The last act that I caught was the X’s. Again I have seen them twice now, and again veterans of the NYC scene. I guess the key members are John coming Banana Fish Zero doing vocals and some guitar. Chris who handles the lead guitar chores, who was or is still with GSX. The bass player is Jeff Scallions who has another band, Fuel, which has been putting out albums and having some success since the mid-nineties. Lastly, there is Michael Maenza who also has an array of projects, past and present including a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial. It don’t get better than that!
So that is a listing of who was who, and the X’s did put on a great show! No doubt John Law is front and center and he knows how to entertain. He has this unique self-conscious presence up there. It is as if he is performing and reflecting on the performance simultaneously. Regardless of how you want to describe it he is just good up there-a neat visual to check out. Their material covers a wide range from punk to pop to metal and in the end I would just describe them as a fun band that I hope sticks around for awhile.
My one question for them is what Chris thinks of Tracii Guns of LA Guns, a couple of times I was just having flashbacks of Tracii Guns/ LA Guns during their set. Two different bands, no doubt, but as far as guitars, one has to wonder. Check out “Hot Enough”. It is always cool to see someone with some talent who does make use of things. Just as I would love to ask Tracii Guns if he owes anything to Paul Chapman!
So this is a sampling of the night’s festivities! And no doubt there were a few others that I missed, but between being wiped out and just catching up with a few people, well it just did not happen. The big disappointment was that I did not stick around to see Honor Among Thieves. Every time I see that band they are better, and when I first saw them last year in October (04), again at Don Hills they impressed me! So I was torn about heading out, but it was a school night. Next time. They are out on the road soon if not already!
So I started originally with the intent of writing this in one piece, but it ended up three. No doubt, however, they are of one piece, just three components needing numerous multiple edits. All three point to fact that rock is alive and well. Perhaps more educated in some respects, perhaps equipped with better technology. The guitars don’t detune as quickly. The sound systems might be a little smaller and a little better sounding. The basic component of a live performance with an audience there in front of you, though, is still there, and still the key. The guitars, amplifiers, though maybe not with enough feedback and whammy bars, but they are still there. The basic four/ four rhythm driving the venture is still there.
Add to that the fact that performers and audience have all these memories, collective and personal just pulls the three shows together more so. Maybe there are too many memories. There is a value in forgetting. For myself, though, those Thin Lizzy and Gillan shows certainly do factor into pulling me out of my comfortable house in Valhalla, and having me drive down to the Village, to Don Hills, on a pretty damn cold night in December.
And if you think at some point it will all become boring, how many shows, how many bands can there be – it probably will and no doubt it has. That is why there are things like punk and grunge, getting us back on track or derailing us entirely. And memories of what originally drove this venture will be driving those ventures too.