Tribute in memory of
Johnny Heff
Benefit for the Heffernan family

Dec. 1, 2001


Robert Lund - NY Waste, Dec. 2001

<Click for pictures by Bead Queen Marie>

This benefit for the family of our dear departed BULLY Johnny Heffernan was not only one of the best rock shows I've seen, it was the most meaningful ever. This was the first performance by the four surviving Bullys since their guitarist/songwriter and NYC fireman Johnny was killed in the line of duty as he bravely rushed into the WTC tower past hundreds of fleeing occupants. TEN bands opened for the BULLYS, each one playing with extra energy after dedicating their set to the memory of Johnny.

Jones Crusher started out the night, followed by Devils County Death Cult. Graveyard Slut included a cover of the Bullys' "Sluts" in their set, and Two Man Advantage raged on after them. Before Charm School played, lead singer Tina reminded the audience to pick up a "FDNY - WE SALUTE YOU" from Donna Nasr, who sold them all quickly (the full $20 price of each went to the WTC Relief Fund). Gaggle of Cocks thundered on next (including the Bullys' Beertruck on bass), and Superthrive roared out three numbers right after them. The excitement was maintained by The Toilet Boys (in a rare but rockin fireless performance), and Turbo ACs followed them with an intense set. The ever endearing and stimulating Candy Ass finished off the lineup of bands leading up to the BULLYS.

By this time the place was especially packed, and as I squeezed back to my usual place up front, I had a funny feeling that I had been transported to Ireland. I kinda figured there must be lots of Johnny's family around, but I was stunned when I looked at the strapping fellow next to me and saw Johnny's face. "You must be family", I said, and sure enough, it was Johnny's brother, wearing a big proud smile. I couldn't get all the identities straight, but was told there were 4 brothers and or sisters, his wife, and many others. I've had some really morose moments out in the clubs lately when Johnny came to mind, especially when I've been wearing my BULLYS T-shirt; but I realize it's nothing compared to what these people have gone through, and it was heartening and encouraging to see them all having such a good time at this tribute in honor of their slain loved one.

The anticipation was sizzling when THE BULLYS finally took the stage. No short set for these headliners. As they launched into "Skell" and "Famous", I could see that they were playing with more passion and drive than ever before, each member alive with Johnny's spirit as they delivered his songs to so many people he meant so much to. Then came the guest guitarists, playing the parts we were all used to hearing Heff play: Superthrive lead Matt joined them on "I'm A Boy and "Still My Home", Pat from Gaggle of Cocks thrashed along on "Can't Wait" and "Egomaniac", and Sean of Jones Crusher played on "Against All Authority" and "Tonight We Fight". Joey invited Candy Ass' Hopey to join in on her favorite BULLYs song, "Sluts", and "Gimme Gimme Gimme". Sean of the Toilet Boys played on "Pop Is For Fags" (which he produced for their recording on "RAFR Comp Vol. 3"), and they closed out with "Bullys". The set wouldn't have been complete without an encore, so they added "Ain't Nuthin To Do".

It was wonderful to see them rocking on as ever, fueled by Johnny's energy and music. According to BULLYS guitarist Walt Stack, they plan to continue as a foursome, as "Johnny's someone that just can't be replaced". Thanks to Stack (as "Smokestack Productions") for putting together and promoting this tribute show.

As some of you know, I've been dealing with the spirit of my wife who died two years ago almost daily, in the pictures, films and writings she left behind, and the many gratifying reactions I get to the web site I've made for her. So I've been coming to understand first-hand the way the spirit of an artist can continue living after their body leaves this earth. Hearing Johnny's songs performed by guys who were so close to him, and especially hearing his guitar strains emanating from the strings of other guitarists, I could feel his presence at the Continental, and I'm sure the whole gaggle of Heffernans could feel it even more.

The event was taped by a two-camera crew from VH-1 (who aired an interview with the BULLYS following the 9/11 tragedy), and their closing shot was especially moving. Some 15 or so relatives were rounded up for a group portrait, headed by a row of beautiful women each stretching their BULLYS T-shirt in their special way, with Joey right up front and center in a HEFF T-shirt. A beautiful ending to a beautiful tribute. Johnny would be as thrilled as his loved ones were proud!