Robert Lund - Man About Town
Another Summer of SwelterRock
<CLICK IMAGES FOR PHOTOS>
August 14 - A Wonderful Wedding and Randall's Island concert - quite a day!
I'd always thought Sami Yaffa and Karmen Guy of Mad Juana were married, so I was a little surprised when I received the pretty invitation from Iowa to their wedding. Seems they decided to "go legal" after ten happy years together. But I had to tell Sami I was really surprised that they scheduled their wedding on the date of the Underground Garage Festival on Randall's Island, where I was looking forward to seeing The NY Dolls, Iggy & The Stooges, and many other bands. Well, the date had been set in stone for various reasons. But wait - it turns out that after the tragic death of Dolls bassist Arthur Kane after the Dolls' first show in many years this spring in London, they had called Sami to see if he could join them on bass! So the wedding was moved back from 6 PM to 1 PM, and many of us enjoyed the best of both worlds.
Sami and Karmen were wed over in the Spike Gallery on W. 21st St. Members of Mad Juana played sweet chamber-style music before the ceremony, and many friends and family members celebrated with early-morning (for some) champagne and seafood. Then Sami and Karmen rushed off to Randall's Island for the concert while the rest of us finished off the champagne. Driving a few friends in my mom's car, we made it over to the island in good time after a couple of Manhattan stops for head supplies. The sight of the vast $10 parking area prompted us to come up with the extra cash for a primo $20 spot near the gate, and we made it to the arena just in time for Bo Diddley after a short walk in the light rain.
Wandering through the thousands of people in the crowd, it felt like "old home week" as I encounterd clusters of friends from nearly every bar I've ever hung out in. But I kept moving to my spot up front, and got to see The Pretty Things from a decent distance, catching up another 60s band I'd unfortunately missed at the time. This whole show was clearly geared to the media. Not only was there a huge space between the crowd barrier and the stage, and banks of spotlights shining directly into the audience's eyes, but the video camera dollies ambling across the front of the stage blocked the view of many fans. Each camera had some sort of parabolic reflector mounted in front, which would catch the light from the rear spots and reflect it onto the subject. Great for the video production, but lousy for those trying to see the bands.
It was already late in the day, the acts were way behind the schedule we had been told, and the crowd grew increasingly excited in anticipation of the first NY Dolls show in decades. Sets were being cut short (they said) since the concert was going to be terminated if the expected rains came down, but that didn't stop them from putting on countless inane guests and foreign dancing girls. Finally, Karmen Guy took the mic (in her wedding dress) and told them about the wedding the Dolls' new bass player had just shared with her. And finally, after considerable urging backstage, The Dolls took the stage, provoking total frenzy from the crowd. David Johansen was in fantastic form, and brought every one of the familiar tunes to life, his performance seemingly enhanced by 25 years of life experience. Sami fit right in, looking dazzling in his white bell-bottomed disco wedding suit and vest. There was a bit of an awkward snag when Sylvain sang "You Can't Put Your Arm Around A Memory" in memory of Johnny and blew the lyrics of nearly every line - but they seguéed into "Lonely Planet Boy" after verse two and David wrapped up smoothly. They're off to play Belfast, other European cities, and Japan - a great followup gig for Sami after leaving Joan Jett's Blackhearts.
The Strokes had been listed last, after The Dolls and Iggy, on various publicity sheets and T-shirts, so a large part of the crowd were mad as hell when they were put on before Iggy - particularly since the skies kept threatening to open up and abort the show. Having no interest in staying up front for them, I wandered around to the countless drink n food n Dunkin Donuts stands, and wasn't too surprised to hear people cursing them out everywhere. I'd never seen them live (of course), but a number of their tunes sounded familiar (I'd always thought they were some unknown 80s songs when I'd heard them around). Lead singer Julian(?) embodies everything about the pompous hipster genre that has always turned me off to them. He's making the crowd wait between The Dolls and Iggy, and when there's only scattered limp applause, he whines "Is that the best you can do?" as though he's been served up a defective audience. And when, after countless numbers (I thought they were cutting sets short!) he sings "I don't wanna waste your time", the heads were shaking, and I'm sure the irony was lost on the dude. I know, it's all about business, and they sold a lot of beer and shit while the Strokes were on, to folks who would've left after Iggy if The Strokes had played last. C'est la fuckin vie...
Well, the skies held back just enough, the drizzle wasn't enough to close the show, and Iggy Pop & The Stooges were well worth the wait. Those big cameras block the view, but the closeups they provide on the large screen behind the stage almost make up for it, blowing up Iggy's expressive face as he gets into the role of every song. He bounds and flails around the stage with an explosive agility, defying the security thugs in the gap in front of the stage as he commanded fans to "c'mon, get up here!". The goons were catching bodies who jumped the rail and carrying them off to the side, but many got through. I made a beeline for front-n-center, but wasn't able to scale the mass of humanity in front of me. But the attempt landed me in the middle of the mud mosh pit, and the concert from that point on was a constant struggle to stay on my feet. A most exhiliarating experience!
The DANCETERIA Phenomenon
From 1982-85, I spent just about every night at Danceteria. With live bands and shows on 1, pumping disco dance hall on 2, restaurant and video lounge on 3, "VIP" party room on 4, and barbecue and bands on the roof during summer months, there was something for everyone. Since I tend not to throw things out, I had a stack of distinctive flyers laying around, which I scanned and posted on my website. Other Danceterians apparently Google the term, and I had received about 20 emails from former patrons and employees, and had been sending them each other's email addresses. So back in February I created a danceterianyc Yahoo Group, and let them know. Word spread, and to my shock and amazement, the thing grew like an alien life form. Six months later, there are over 170 members made up of former partyers, bartenders, managers, band members, and many curious visitors who had always heard about the club. It seems that Danceteria represents the best times of many people's lives, and many people have found old friends they'd lost track of years ago. Over 2100 messages have been posted, with tales of DT hijinks, Madonna gossip, who's dead and where the living have wound up. And loads of old photos have been posted showing how they looked back then, and reminding us of the fantastic decor of the club that was always shrouded in darkness. It's been strange and wonderful for me, as my memories of the people and events at Danceteria are dim at best. I took it all in, lurking on the sidelines of the "in crowd." Though a number of people remember me, it's somehow all a haze to me. One bartender recognized me in a NYC bar last year - "We always used to talk at my bar on the 3rd floor!" - I was there, but not there, apparently. Now, I find myself at the "purple rope" of the Yahoo group, approving applications for membership. Strange, but cool.
Finally, ex-bartender Jette (Jette Propelled Productions) took the initiative and organized a Danceteria 20-Year Reunion Party to be held at Downtime (251 W. 30th St.) on Thursday Sept. 9th. Several bands will play (including Certain General), vintage videos will be shown on many screens, and DJs of the day will spin for dancers. And since I made this whole thing happen, it seems I've been appointed to be the evening's MC as well. That should work, I'm pretty neutral to the group dynamics - and it should be fun. This is one party that's gonna seem way too short!