Tuesday, February 6, 2007
After a long dispute-laden week in the wonderful world of organized labor, and a lengthy evening manning the door at Nick-A-Nees on Friday, I was ready to head straight into middle-age hibernation and curl up in the coziness of my Cranston cave, but alas, plans had been set in motion, for which I dutifully planned to sleepwalk my way through. Little did I know that, once again, the saving graces of rock and roll, the divine intervention of pop music, the sharp but soothing tones and precepts of going honky-tonkin' would turn me from a shrunken mouse-like state to my natural cool daddy self. Yep, and it was all accomplished in five easy random steps:
1. Started Saturday morning with a fog-clearing attempt at diving into the printed page, in this case a recently acquired used book by one of my personal writing heroes, the one and only Nick Tosches (Dino, Hellfire, The Devil and Sonny Liston),a 1985 revised edition of 1977's Country: Living Legends and Dying Metaphors in America's Biggest Music. Tosches writes about country with an alchemist's eye, weaving together the mojo of British balladry, New Orleans Jazz, jump blues, hillbilly weirdness, and the first stompings of early rock and roll in his typically overcharged rock-and-roll-academic-on-methedrine-and-vodka style ("A few years later people began speaking of the revolutionary pop-country fusion wrought by the Byrds and Bob Dylan. Could Bob Dylan do The Clam? I bet Dino could."), and in between chapters entitled "Loud Covenants" and "Stained Panties and Coarse Metaphors" there is plenty of dizzying theories, arcane facts, and enough mesmerizing off-color song titles compiled that the reader may began to feel hungover.
2. Resting my weary eyes and overstimulated brain mid-afternoon, I uncurled my tightened fingers from my ever present weekend companion (the remote) and discovered a Sundance Channel screening of New York Doll, a well-received doc about New Dolls bass player Arthur "Killer" Kane, and a film my good pal (and Dolls manager) Darren Hill had raved to me about many times. The doc was subtle and superb, a heartbreaking tale of a once brash musician who falls into extremely hard times and discovers a measure of peace through his involvement in the Mormon Church while still yearning to rock, joins the Dolls for a reunion gig and passes away soon after, strangely content with his hard boiled life. The filmmakers wisely take no easy shots at the Mormons or the Dolls, instead they wisely follow Kane's simple and often sad sack story, the the movie is joyous and heartbreaking, a lyrical ode to the power of rock, and a neat mediation about loss and friendship.
3. Early Saturday night brought me to the Narrows Art Center in Fall River with stepson Jesse along for the ride, for an acoustic gig by the brilliantly erudite singer/songwriter/rocker Alejandro Escevedo, ex-member of The Nuns, Rank and File,the True Believers, and critically praised solo artist. Escevedo, accompanied by a fellow guitarist, was in turns, funny, fierce, and achingly heart rendering. He knows how to plug into that high lonesome sound, color it with Texmex flavorings, and nail it to the floor. It was probably one of the most rocking acoustic gigs I've ever seen, and Escevedo sweet melodies, hard strummed chords, and sharp tales of fathers, lovers, the American landscape, and his own mortality are still ringing through my head.
4. Post Narrows, scrambled to Jakes in order to catch my friends The Dino Club, a band I collaborate on the occasional lyric with. As much as I desired to hear an all scottyd songathon what caught my ears during the lengthy and raucous set I watched was how sublime the fine art of covering a song can be. Mark Cutler has had a long history of making specific covers as much his own as the bevy of originals he's written, but that night, listening to the boys weave two nuggets (a torrid and intense "Girlfren"/Modern Lovers), a beyond crackling "Venus of Avenue D"/Mink DeVille), two hoary chestnuts which I would advise most bands to avoid at all costs( a blazingly anthemic "Gimmie Shelter"/Stones that was boosted along mightily by special guest Jeri Verdi and a hypnotic chug-a-chug "Sweet Jane"/Velvets), and a smartly rethought Lieber and Stoller classic (the big-banged,rooster-rocked "Poison Ivy"/Coasters)into their lively set of originals, I could only smile with contentment. The band (Giusti-Tanaka-Torrey) clicked along like a hard charging freight train gliding and curling around a craggy mountainside. It was fun, it was inspiring, it was, ahem, pure unadulterated rock and roll.
5.Sunday was Superbowl, and a game unfolded about which I felt strangely neutral. The halftime guest was the one and only Prince, and one had to wonder which Prince would appear--Asscheek Boy, Funkyman, or Mystical Symbolguy. Nope, the way my weekend was going I shoulda put some green down-It was rockin' Prince, strutting his stuff in the pouring rain, making mincemeat out of his guitar strings, winking a wicked eye at all of America, and delivering a strange medley comprised of princetunes and excerpts from "Proud Mary', "All Along The Watchtower", and (give Dave Grohl one huge shout-out) the Foo Fighters "Best of You". Prince has been and can be a towering pop music genius, and this Sunday he tore the house down, effectively wiping away the putrid stench of many Superbowl halftime circus-like fiasco's of the past.