Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Lenny Helsing has recovered enough to file this Cavestomp field report...

New York Cavestomp 2007: Warsaw, Greenpoint, Brooklyn NYC

Friday November 2nd

First group on the bill, at 8pm sharp on this first night of New York Cavestomp 2007 were The Staggers, all the way from Austria. The compere for tonight’s party was Peter Zaremba, vocalist with The Fleshtones – who would play on Sunday, the final night… more later. The Staggers play wild, uninhibited frat-shake punky garage-style rock’n’roll slop that makes most of the punters that are lucky to be there early come out from the venue’s nooks ‘n crannies, and the adjoining bar too, and out into the main hall to jump ‘n dance, ‘n shout. The Staggers were a great fun group to start this party for sure… action a plenty, grunts and screams, the focus on raw energy, with front man Evel carrying on in the grand tradition of the mighty Screaming Lord Sutch, there was even horror-fun with a big plastic knife which was brought out during ‘The Ripper’…one of the other highlights for me was ‘Out Of Your Mind’, or maybe it was ‘Out Of My Mind’…well it was great whatever it was called…

NY garage veterans The Outta Place were on next… I remember them from way back in the mid-80s; they made a right old fuzzy rumble on that mini-LP they had out back then, on Midnight or somethin’?… anyway I was lookin’ forward to hearin’ these fuzzed-up scuzzballs here at Cavestomp, but I have to say I was mightily underwhelmed; the sound they got was actually pretty sludgy and muddy and way too heavy, as opposed to fuzzy and rumbly, which rendered most things they did kinda overly sludgy and muddy …so therefore I didn’t really watch them for any length of time, preferring instead to see if I could catch up with any folks I knew, and drink some more of our crap (but free) piss, I mean beer… No Polish beer for the artists, we got Budweiser instead. Ouch!!!

Then it was the turn of The Satelliters, an uptempo swinging garagey rock outfit from Germany. I’ve seen this bunch before, and even played on the same concert bill with them too at one of the Festival Beat events in Italy a good few years ago. They got the by now sizeable crowd going a bit and they are good players and all that, but they just don’t really do it for me I’m afraid. I know, this may be just my problem, but that’s OK I can live with that. For me, if I’m being honest, a lot of what they play is rather unexciting to listen to. They’re not a bad group by any means, but they come across as a little pedestrian, you know, garage-by-numbers sort of thing. By this time though I was probably zoning out a bit anyway, getting ready for my lot The Thanes to take the stage…the nervous system working overtime, excitement and adrenalin pulsing, as we were on next, well what can I say. The crowd were certainly getting well into the spirit of things that’s for sure and more and more people were crowding around the stage by this time…Smash! Twaaaang! Boom! Screeee! Bang! Crash! And it’s all over, phew! Ha ha! Everyone we spoke to, or that came up and spoke to us afterwards said we were really great, and really different sounding, with a real loud, clear sound cutting right through.

The anticipation … now… of finally getting to witness the legendary and downright awesome group The Sonics was really palpable, the stomach-churning thrill-in-waiting was really getting to me for sure, and then when these fucking righteous demi-gods of real ‘60s garage punk took the stage I swear there were like showers of sparks flying through the air everywhere I looked… Hitting us hard with ‘He’s Waitin’ was a great opening move and they never really let us down all night…’Have Love Will Travel’ had everyone bouncing around the place with smiles this big, and ‘The Hustler’ was just as it should be. And of course ‘Strychnine’ was positively seething with unadulterated punk rock’n’roll power. Gerry Roslie was on keyboards and lead vox, Larry Parypa was on lead guitar, Rob Lind was on sax. These cats were the absolute real deal, from the original ‘60s Sonics. They were ably joined by bass player Ricky Lee Johnson, ex- of The Wailers, and Paul Revere & the Raiders, and drummer Don Wilhelm, ex- of The Daily Flash. They were mind-bogglingly great at times, with a tough, no-nonsense sound to match. They even slowed it a little (just once I think) for a great rendering of ‘Boom’ LP classic ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’ before gnashing and tearing it up back into the likes of ‘You Got Your Head On Backwards’, ‘Shot Down’, and the killa-dilla rocker ‘Boss Hoss’…I was real glad too that they chose to include such inimitable groovers as ‘Maintaining My Cool’ and ‘Like No Other Man’. Things finally came to an end after an absolutely deadly version of ‘Psycho’. By now of course the crowd were literally baying for more, more, more! This was rewarded too when the group jumped back on stage flinging out their brilliant interpretation of the global frug-u-like ‘Louie Louie’ and then sax-player Rob Lind wanted some extra audience participation during the chorus of what will be their eternal signature tune, ‘The Witch’. Rob certainly got it, and how! Waaaaargghhhhhh-hooooooooooo! OK so some people who witnessed this said that Roslie doesn’t really scream any more like he used to and that lead guitarist Parypa was a little hit and miss on occasion, but so what when it's this good. And get this, and get real… it is not 1965 anymore, and it was not the group lip-synching along to ‘Here Are The Sonics’ and ‘The Sonics Boom’ which would have been a total travesty, and very lame indeed. No, this was The Sonics, here and now, and the overall Sonics-ness of the performance was absolutely frightening to witness. Uniquely them, there’s no mistaking that sound.

Saturday November 3rd

Today was the big day for the WFMU record fair, up in Manhattan’s W 18th St. So we Thanes and Wildebeests and various others met up there. Crikey, that is one hackuva huge hall, and I have to admit I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of records on display, so I just stayed in one corner, beside Todd Abramson and Billy ‘n Miriam’s Norton stall. That would do me just fine! Anyway, onto the New York Cavestomp’s Second night…Man, it was always gonna be so so hard to beat the previous night’s shenanigans, but here we go anyway… Peter Z was still on MCing duties and tonight’s pre-and-post band DJ was none other than “Switched On” Audrey Moorehead, who spun some seriously cool ‘n groovy platters. The previous night we were treated to boxes of 45s by DJ Pokomonojeff - erratic, hell yeah, but great too!

Up first onstage, again 8pm sharp - no pressure lads - were the UKs newest and greatest group, from Sandgate (read Folkestone) The Higher State. I love this group a lot and I think if you were down the front like I and some others were, then the sound was actually OK, not great, not too loud, but still OK. However the farther back you went it seems the sound all but disappeared, especially Mike Warren’s drums and frontman Marty Ratcliffe’s Rickenbacker 12-string. The group’s vocalists Marty and Mole you may recall as part of The Mystreated a good few years back, and the group’s sound is really something like an evolved version of that combo. Nice folk-punk jangle one minute, savage revved-up fuzz attack with layered psychedelic edges the next, and some cool vocal harmonies coming through. Their LP ‘From Round Here’ (also the title of their opening number) is out now on Misty Lane, and there’s a great new single too ‘And In Time’ / ‘If We Don’t Realise’ out now on their own Higher State label.

The Urges, outta Dublin, Ireland were the next bunch to take the stage and with the crowd expanding all the time, they made certain to entertain. They’re young, brash, and full of rock’n’roll attitude. They have an all-action vocalist in Jim Walters, a Greg Prevost of The Chesterfield Kings-type, ’87 style, jumping around, howling, preening and pouting while the group, including Rosco on bass, Glen on lead guitar and Ken Mooney on drums pound out (mostly) three-chord garage raunch behind him. The titles say it all: ‘You’re Gonna Find Out’, ‘You Don’t Look So Good’, ‘So Uptight’, ‘Curse It All’. Sometimes they sneak in little creepy sections where organist / rhythm guitarist Gary Clarke gets a bit of the limelight, and off-beat bridges here and there that take their sound outta the normal? riffage they’re so fond of, and for me that’s when they’re at their most interesting / appealing…These guys also have a brand new, debut LP called ‘Psych Ward’ out now on Screaming Apple. Fans of ye olde Chesterfield Kings, and vintage Fuzztones will dig The Urges for sure.

Hey! Who would’ve ever thought that in late 2007 we would also be witness to a live show from Back From The Grave alumni The Alarm Clocks of thee royally righteous punkers ‘Yeah’ and ‘No Reason To Complain’, but lo and behold there they were onstage right in front of us. We can thank Billy and Miriam at Norton HQ for that, as they’ve seen fit to not only release an LP of the group[‘s vintage recordings, but also of their latest material, produced by the great Freddy Fortune. Bassist / vocalist Mike Pierce can still scream like a wild banshee at times and can still rock out like some possessed cave-teen, this was especially proven on those afore-mentioned killers, but maybe even more so during their final rockin’ numbers which included a wild-as-all-get-out version of Bo Diddley’s ‘It’s Alright’… Original Alarm Clockers Bruce Boehm and Bill Schwark are joined these days by guitarist friend, and fan, Tom Fallon.

The final group of the night were vintage flower-power, psych-garage outfit The Strawberry Alarm Clock. Well, I really really wanted for them to be so great, I mean I love their first LP, and the 45 of ‘Tomorrow’ / ‘Birds In My Tree’ is such a milestone in psych music, and what to say of their great big flower-psych hit ‘Incense And Peppermints’, and especially that crazy flipped-out B side ‘Birdman Of Alkatrash’…but the reality was that, give or take a number or two, I and seemingly lots of others didn’t rate them too highly here at Cavestomp. They started off pretty well I thought, doing a great ‘Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow’ early on, then they kinda blew it on their strange rendition of ‘Birdman…’, and after a few more I just kinda drifted off, as did lots of other folks. I don’t think they should’ve had so many drums and percussion instruments on stage, it just seemed a bit of a bad omen…Anyway, I can’t tell you much more about this, but so many people said the same thing… I’ll be a little more polite and just say, on the whole, not very good.

Sunday November 4th

As usual, at 8pm sharp the first group were onstage, and tonight it’s the turn of The Hall Monitors, they were pretty cool and made a decent rock’n’roll beat racket, and the sound wasn’t too bad for them either. Once again though I didn’t watch all their set as I had to get ready to whack the drum-kit and do a bit of screaming for The Wildebeests as they were gonna be the next band up… we were introduced by tonight’s MC, none other than the legendary Lenny Kaye, that’s right cats ‘n kittens, Mr Link Cromwell hisself. Wow, how cool is that, well I tell you, for me/us that was a real honour… of course I can’t say too much about what we Wildebeests were like, but we did have a great sound so a lot of folks told me later, and from my vantage point I could tell that many many Cavestompers were enjoying our din. I could certainly hear the guitar that Russ bought to play this gig loud and clear, in fact better make that L O U D and clear way above everything else. It was one of those reissue square Bo Diddley-type guitars and really sounded boss.

We Wildebeests from Scotland were followed by The Lyres, that long-running garage combo from Boston MA, who I thought tonight sounded pure rock’n’roll magic as per usual, even though the sound, again, was beginning to get a bit muddy and sludgy, blurring some of the organ lines, and guitar subtleties. Jeff ‘Monoman’ Conolly was joined by spot-on genius drummer Paul Murphy, Danny McCormack on guitar and Rick Coraccio on bass…needless to say I think they did everything you would’ve expected them to do in their short 40 min or so set.

I’ve never been much of a fan of The Fleshtones it has to be said, but they seem like good guys, and they certainly got the crowd jumping about during their pretty zany, uptempo show. Peter Z had the audience eating out of his palm at times. There was a lot of people really getting into them for sure and, by all accounts, they put on a real exciting show. I only watched a few numbers, and saw another couple via the monitor screen through in the bar.

Well, there was only one group left to take the stage now, and of course that was, for the second time this weekend, Tacoma WA’s legendary super punk garage rock stars THE SONICS!!! If it was at all possible that they could’ve been better than their Friday night set, then I guess maybe they could’ve been, I dunno man… it gets really hard to tell sometimes, but for this particular fan, well maybe I just dug them just that little bit more on the Friday night, though whether or not that was because of that genuine first-time-around thrill or something, I’m not sure. But, wow, once again these guys really showed all us younger folks a thing or two about rock’n’roll. There weren’t many, if any, changes to the set, I don’t think but somehow the crowd were really even more there for them tonight. Perhaps there were more people there that didn’t see them on the Friday also, that were making a bigger noise…anyway, just to reiterate, THE SONICS were pure class, especially when they executed such thrilling versions of ‘Psycho’, ‘Boss Hoss’, ‘Shot Down’, ‘Dirty Robber’ and ‘The Witch’. If you missed ‘em and they play again anywhere near where you live, you gotta make the effort to catch them. You’ll have heard folks say how great certain vintage groups were on their comeback shows, like The Remains, ? & The Mysterians and The Monks, for example… well The Sonics were definitely up there in that select few. Gerry, Rob, Larry, Ricky and Don, if you read this, or someone you know does and can pass on the message, thanks so much again for these truly wicked wicked rock’n’roll Cavestomp shows.