Saturday, May 2, 2009

Road Recovery Benefit Concert - NYC May 1, 2009

Road Recovery is an organization that uses music to keep children and young adults from substance abuse...and they throw one hell of a benefit concert!

I went last year and initially the lineup was basically the same: Tom Morello (last year of The Nightwatchman, this year with Street Sweeper Social Club...and of course in the past with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave), Wayne Kramer (of the MC5 - the theme of this year's concert was a tribute to Kramer), Jerry Cantrell (of Alice In Chains), Gilby Clarke (Guns n Roses), Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction) Slash this year, but Billy Bragg instead...I knew the show would rock, but funds being a little tight I wasn't positive I was going to go...then they added Iggy!

So Iggy Pop of the Stooges on the same stage as Wayne Kramer of the MC5?! Detroit Garage/Punk rock history before my eyes?! Okay...I now HAVE to go...

Then things got a little better...evidently without my knowledge, owner of my favorite bar (and singer of some of my favorite songs...and sometimes MC5 current fill-in vocalist) Handsome Dick Manitoba was added to the bill! Also according to the T-shirts available at the show, the drummer from another fave band, Cheap Trick, signed on - good ole Bun E. Carlos! NICE!! (okay...the one little damper - while Bun made the shirt...he for some reason didn't make the show...oh well...hopefully I'll catch Bun and The Trick this summer when they open(?!?! The music biz is NOT fair) for Poison and Def Leppard)...but for now...on with the show...

Ticket said show starts at 8:00 and they were punctual...I was a couple of minutes late and by the time I picked up my tic and got through the metal dectors and went downstairs an opening band was ending and Matt Pinfield (the host of the night) was coming out on stage.

Evidently Pinfield, best known for hosting 120 minutes on MTV, is now a morning show DJ on the one rock station left in NY. That morning he announced we was taking a break from his job and would be entering rehab to deal with his personal issues and was happy to host this benefit.

The show took place at the Nokia Theatre in Times Square which is one of my favorite mid sized venues to see a show. I would guess it holds about 2500 people when sold out (and it was), but instead of the big flat open floor, this venue is tri leveled so you can stand comfortably, never too far from the stage and see, plus there super comfortable cushioned loge seating in the back.

Since I walked in a bit late, most of the seating was taken so I decided to head down stairs to stage level. I was actually able to walk right up to the barrier on stage left with no pushing or shoving, so had a great vantage point for the show to come.

The basic setup of the show was the same as last year - once it starts it doesn't stop for set breaks, it's just a revolving door of some musicians joining the stage and some musicians leaving including some of the kids in the program. While last year the kids' sets were mixed through out the night with the big stars, this year they got most of the unknowns out of the way early (with some guest appearances by the headliners).

So the first band to come one was the Road Recovery Tutors who had Matt Pinfield on vocals for a cover of Nick Lowe's (but made most famous by Elvis Costello) "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding". It was a admirable job on all accounts - a good bar band version of a song most there knew and loved.

Next up most of the tutors left with the exception of the rhythm section for a little hip hop set, the first featuring about 6 or 7 kids who each took a verse or two and it was quite good. Then the rhythm section stayed while another group came out and did a song the hook of which was a sample from Moby's "Natural Blues" played and sung live by the bands and kids.

Pinfield is back out to introduce the next band, Crazy James, which I believe is made up of current/past road recovery participants. I can't tell you how many people are in this band as I lost count...somwhere between 12 and 15, some of which appear to just dance around and look good, but perhaps we just didn't get to hear their songs in the short set. They play a mixture of fun and soulful pop. They were joined on their first song, "Zygote" by Wayne Kramer and Jerry Cantrell and further added to the headcount on stage with Gilby Clarke and Tom Morello on their next song. I believe Jerry and Wayne left leaving Tom and Gilby for their final song, a cover of the Pixies "Where is my Mind?" a great little set that ended with a small fiasco right next to me...

It all started about midway through "Where is..." when this DRUNK (he was doing some SERIOUS pregaming somewhere as they did not serve alcohol at this show) meathead comes barging up between the woman right next to me and the guy she was with yelling "TOM! HEY TOM!" at Morello who was right in front of us, maybe 10 feet back, on the stage. Tom notices the guy and gives kind of a quick look/nod of "okay I hear you now be quiet" but it just makes this guy worse. He says to all of us around him, "Hey he saw me....HEY TOM...yeah I'm a huge Rage Against The Machine Fan....HEY TOM WHERE'S ZACH...TOM!" and he's pushing between this woman and her fella against the barricade....

So the song ends and everyone leaves the stage and now Matt Pinfied and his co-host on his morning show, Leslie Fram, come stand right in front of us at the edge of the stage as they try to announce the next act and moron yells "YOU'RE THIN....YOU'RE SO THIN" at Leslie who is rail thin...she kinda mumbles "thanks" and Pinfield jokingly says "Thank you" and announces Tom Morello and his new band Street Sweeper Social Club are coming the band walks out and it's fronted by Boots Riley from The Coup...Tom Takes his place in front of us and his bandmates are walking over to him to say something and dumbass yells "TOM.....TOM....WHERE'S ZACH...." people are yelling shut the fuck up asshole and Boots looks over and this guy goes "WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT BITCH?!"....oh no....Boots does a double take and a "wha?!?" and the dudes says "THAT'S RIGHT, I'M TALKING TO YOU BITCH"....oh man I thought Boots was gonna jump down and punch this asshole....he comes to the edge of the stage and his bandmates kinda tell him to ignore this asshole...

FINALLY at this point, security who was standing right next to us taps the guy on the should and says to calm down as Tom goes to the mic and says something to the effect of, it's unfortunate that at an event against substance abuse, this asshole had to find his way much applause.

As the band launches into their fist song, another security guard comes over and they escort the idiot he barely got to see Tom play...although I think he only really wanted to see Rage anyway. His buddy who was with him stayed, but two minutes later or so, security comes back and asks if he is with that guy and he says, "yeah, it's my brother" and he is led away too, not too be seen again...

Back to the Street Sweepers...If you're a fan or RATM, you'll dig them...same dynamic...rock band with rap vocals...rocking and more funky than heavy...more like Rage and their cover of "Renegades of Funk" than say the angry "Down Rodeo"...I loved it! During the first track, "100 Little Curses" when the final chorus line "except for that muthafucka right there", Tom pointed right to where the yeller was, but he had been dragged out at this point. The guys only got to do one more song (the standard set was more or less two songs each) but make sure to check them out online where there's quite a few of their songs posted and if you're going to see the NINJA (Nine Inch Nails / Jane's Addiction) tour this summer, be sure to get there early as SSSC is opening (I'll be at Holmdel NJ 6/6...can't wait!)

Miggs was up next with a two song set of alt rock that was decent.

They cleared out and Gilby Clarke and Jerry Cantrell along with "Carl" (sorry didn't catch the last name, but he was part of the great backup band all night) did a version of Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here" dedicated to all those that lost the battle with their various dependencies. A great singalong.

Next up was Billy Bragg. Billy didn't need any backup, just him and his guitar first doing a cover of The Verve's "The Drugs Don't Work" followed by "I Keep Faith". Emotional and extra meaningful songs for the cause.

Next up was a band I had never heard of before, but I hope to see again...Middle Class Rut. An intense two song set by this two man band who share vocals. One rocks the drums and one rocks the guitar - heavily. The second song "All Walks of Life" ended with what looked like an epileptic fit of guitar and drum mayhem...I gotta see these boys do a full set next time they come through...if you like your noise rock hard, give them a shot

Before the "big names" came out we were treated to Ours. I was first introduced to them at the show last year where they did an acoustic set....this year they brought the whole band...moody and gothy with with a psychedelic jam touch that allows them to go beyond the goth tag. Their frontman reminds me alot of a young Perry Farrell (or hell...even a current Perry Farrell as Perry hasn't changed as we would see)...if you dig darkish lush yet rockin music and hate sunlight, Ours is for you

But enough of the opening acts...time for some big guns...

I love Perry Farrell...Jane's Addiction are one of my favorite bands of all time (I thought Porno for Pyros were excellent too...although I really hated "Pets") when Pinfield came out and announced Perry and his lovely wife Etty (let me be honest here...lovely is not the word...the woman is so hot she makes parts of your body ache) I let out a whoo hoo as did the rest of the crowd...they opened with Perry's solo tune from the "Twilight" soundtrack "Go All The Way (Into The Twilight)", very cool...where else are you going to get to see him play this one! But the crowd wanted Jane's...

So out come Jerry, Wayne, Tom, Gilby for a super guitar heavy "Mountain Song"'s really an impossible song not to love's got that classic riff and groove...was hoping we'd get at least one more and we got one of Ritual De Lo Habitual this time "Ain't No Right". Ah yeah...Perry is ready for his Jane's his rock moves down and sounds great...also, I don't usually notice this about male performers....but good lord did Perry have on the tightest jeans I've ever scene on anyone...I didn't know how he moved in had to be said

So Perry and some of the guitarists leave the stage - Kramer definitely stayed as Handsome Dick came out with Don Was (not sure if he was announced or a suprise, but he played bass on most of the rest of the songs). When the surviving members of the MC5 toured a couple of years back they had quite the mixed bag of guest vocalists depending on which city they played....only two got all around kudos and that was Mark Arm of Mudhoney and Handsome Dick Manitoba of the Dictators (Evan Dando of the Lemonheads did not fair so well I heard). Dick grabbed the mic and said "You can call me can even call me Dick....but don't CALL ME ANIMAL" and they blasted out the Motor City Five song of the same name...oh man...old school at it's finest!!

Next up was a big suprise appearance no one was expecting...actress Juliette Lewis (you know...Mallory from Natural Born Killers) to rock on AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap!" I thought I heard recently Juliette disbanded her band the Licks, but she came out in one of her Licks style one piece rock catsuits and it was fine, very bar band feel...during the song Evan from Biohazard came out as well on Bass and then I noticed the lead singer (and husband to Avril Lavigne) on the other side of the stage with one of his bandmates singing backup...good lord...ever rocker of every type and generation was here tonight!

Juliette left as this was her only song of the night and Jerry Cantrell took the mic for a Thin Lizzy's "Jail Break" (evidently like Dirty Deeds, another of the rock songs every rocker can jam to with little or no rehearsal time.)

The next tune was quite a suprise as Gilby Clarke came out and starts tapping out the keyboard intro to The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again" on his guitar! Evan from Biohazard put his bass away and he and Perry Farrell switched off on lead vocals throughout. The key to this song is the "YEAHHHHHHHHH!" scream after the drum breakdown towards the end and Perry did a doozy that would have definitely made Roger Daltrey proud! Very Very Cool!!

We knew the night had to be winding down, so there's really only one question...where the fuck is Iggy?! Oh he comes....Iggy came out bare chested and in jeans acting like a horny rabid dog....and you find the musicians treat him as he quick struts up to them, getting WAY TOO CLOSE and you can see them thinking that you should treat him like a pitbull humping your leg...just let him finish and move on!

Iggy yelled out for "FIVE FOOT ONE....FIVE FOOT ONE!!" off his 1979 album "New Values"! Quite a suprise choice I thought and it raged much more heavily than the comparatively tame album version. Iggy was all over every inch of the stage and hanging over the audience by holding onto the curtain on stage left, leaning over the photographers midstage (with one "lucky" photog getting quite the goober spit on him by Iggy). The song ended, but Iggy wanted no stoppaged...stomping up to the drummer yelling "Sweet Sixteen....Sweet Sixteen and PLAY IT FUCKING RIGHT!!" (I personally thought the last song was played great, but maybe Mr. Pop disagreed, but it got "Sixteen" off of the "Lust For Life" album started right away and for three more minutes Iggy slithered and stalked the stage. Then it was over....almost...

The players left the stage and the lights went off and there was a video presentation with some great classic footage of Wayne Kramer and the MC5...basically showing how Wayne rocked...lost his way...refound his way...and now rocks harder and Helps others.

Lights came back up and Wayne was awarded not the keys to the city, but the keys to Sing Sing Prison where a good portion of this all star band was going to be performing the next day for some inmates! Wayne thanked the crowd....brought everyone back out plus Little Steven Van Zandt and it was time for only one thing that could end the night right...time to "Kick Out The Jams Motherfuckers!" Goddamn does this song rock with mainly Wayne and Dick Manitoba doing vocals, but others jumping in as well...then it finally was over and it was good...can't wait til next year!

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