12 June 2006

Bill Moon: Hates Bridges, Loves Green Day

I've regretfully fallen behind in my efforts to document happenings on the New York scene, thanks in large part to the World Cup, computer difficulties, and a visiting nephew. And did I mention it's been raining an awful lot? Not that that should stop me from posting on the internet, but somehow it did. I spent too much time and energy staring out the window glowering at the foul weather, apparently. I'm especially conscious of the fact that after a whole springtime of moaning about London's cold and rainy weather and looking forward to New York's hot and sunny weather, I've landed in New York's cold and rainy weather while London - since the very day I left, mind you - has been baking in Mediterranean-style heat. Someone up there is having a good laugh at my expense.

Or maybe not. Since I'm being treated for keratosis - a condition that's a precursor to skin cancer - I'm supposed to stay out of the sun while the unsightly red blemishes on my forehead heal. And thanks to this spate of foul weather, that hasn't been difficult. The sun did finally come out on Saturday, but accompanied by a chilly north wind, which must have been a little unpleasant at that day's Punk Rock Barbecue up on City Island in the Bronx. I really wanted to go, but considering a) visiting nephew; b) the World Cup; and c) the something like three hour train and bus ride required to get there, it didn't really seem possible. Those who did attend, though, are raving about the performance of the Misfats, "the fattest Misfits tribute band ever." Some pictures can be seen here.

Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Cut back to last Wednesday, when it was still raining felines and canines and New York looked in danger of becoming Venice: The Famous Mr. Whoa Oh, Chris A., P Smith and I made our ways through the soggy streets to an obscure Fifth Avenue address, where we were directed to a tiny elevator that deposited us on the third floor. Expecting some sort of dingy loft space or ninja hideout, I was startled to emerge into a semi-posh bar-restaurant. About 95% of the people there were Korean, but nobody seemed too disturbed to see us haoles wandering in.

We were there to see our friend Bill Moon do his singing and guitar-strumming act, and it was an act well worth getting wet for. Bill, for those of you not lucky enough to know him, is a CPA by day, which inspired one of of his songs "CPAin't", performed originally for the PWC (Price Waterhouse Cooper) Idol competition (you'll also notice that I ripped off the idea for my USAin't blog entry a bit earlier today). Bill also does quite a few covers, including Dr. Frank's "Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend" and Green Day's "2,000 Light Years Away," but I liked it best when he sang in Korean, which just now caused me to wonder why he doesn't try translating some of his pop-punk favorites into Korean as well. It would definitely give "Even Hitler Had A Girlfriend" even more of the je ne sais quoi it already possesses in spades. P Smith observed that Bill left out the bridges of most of his songs, which may or may not be true, since I'm not musically sophisticated to notice these things, but I'm entitled to take his word for it, since he's very smart and has a recently acquired Master's degree, neither of which applies to me. Anyway, in case you were wondering about the title of this piece, there you are. Ladies and gentlemen, P Smith.

We followed up Bill Moon's bravura performance with a fine meal across the street at something called Maui Burritos, which, as the name suggests, is apparently a Mexican restaurant with a Hawaiian theme. Or vice versa. The two ethnicities have never previously elided in my apparently limited imagination, but the food was good nonetheless. Or maybe, since I've never been to Hawaii, I was simply unaware that it was there, not Mission Street, that the noble burrito originated.

Thursday night the rain had let up to some extent, contenting itself with some occasional sprinkles and drizzles as I made my way up Second Avenue in search of a decent decaf cappuccino, and for the first time since I left, I was briefly homesick for London. Partly because New York lacks a Costa and/or Nero's on every corner, but also because something about Second Ave reminded me ever so briefly of the West End or Soho, where I misspent so many of my languorous hours. I was early for a Teenage Bottlerocket show, partly because I was afraid the show would sell out, considering how much hype the band has had, partly because the last time I tried to see them, at Gilman, I got there half an hour late and missed the entire set.

Turns out I didn't have to worry; although the crowd was easily double the size of a normal New York pop-punk show, CBGB was no more than half full. It was only my third time at the "legendary" dive, which I'm sure must have been really cool once upon a time, but was anything but by the time I made my first visit there in 1986, and hasn't improved in the interval since. Oh, it's not terrible, either, but imagine if San Francisco's Mabuhay Gardens, which hosted and virtually spawned the NorCal punk scene in the late 70s, were still operating today. Yeah, it's something like that.

Anyway, my big objection to CBGB at the moment is the obnoxiously, dangerously loud level they run the PA at. I know, I know, "If it's too loud, you're an asshole," as the old punk saying went. But when all the band members and nearly everyone in the audience are wearing earplugs, what's the point? Why not have it just a few decibels lower and allow everyone to listen au naturel? Really, the problem is that I have a lifelong resistance to wearing ear plugs, having decided sometime in the 1960s or 70s that they weren't cool, so instead I stood there in pain and hoped all the bands would finish quickly. Real sensible, I know, and my ears are still slightly sore five days later.

So was it worth possibly permanent hearing loss? Um, not really. The much-ballyhooed TBR were tight but formulaic, their songs, though expertly played, never quite measuring up to the lyrical or melodic genius of obvious inspirations like Screeching Weasel or the Queers. The best ones were those that had a Vapid/Weasel-like guitar lead dancing over the otherwise somewhat pedestrian tunes. They were followed up by the Phenomenauts, who I once heard on a live KALX broadcast from Gilman that I quite enjoyed. Considering that most of the Phenomenauts' esthetic centers around the visuals of their live performance, I found a bit ironic that it came across better on the radio. Still, I appreciated the effort and the effects, which too few bands these days seem to be bothered with.

Last were the Epoxies, who started out promisingly, looking like a time-machine version of some of my favorite circa-1980 new wave bands, complete with striped sheets and wacky keyboard player. Having never heard them before, I had no reason to expect the whirling-dervish-on-amphetamine lead singer who came zooming out from behind an amplifier midway through the first song, and while she certainly had the voice, the moves and the presence to front all sorts of bands, this one wasn't one of them. I know that might sound like heresy to those (and apparently there are quite a few of you) to whom she represents the heart and soul of the Epoxies, but while she also has that 1980 new wave thing going on, hers is more like a high-speed Lene Lovich (you'll have to look it up, youngsters; I don't have time to make links right now) while the band is more like a tightly-honed Pushups (if you can even find a link for that one, you're a better man than I). After watching her bob and weave like Muhammad Ali being chased by a heard of ravenous jackals for about 20 minutes, I decided it was time to head home. The Bowery never sounded so tranquil; even blasting car horns and screeching truck brakes were like whispering songbirds compared with the lethal volume of the CBGB sound system (no slur whatsoever intended on the bands; they were all perfectly in tune and generally harmonious) and my ears thanked me devoutly for the peace and quiet.

Not that bad a show, despite my carping, but next time I think I'd rather see the Steinways.


Pat said...

Well I guess I have a new nickname.

Nick G. said...

Hey Larry, unrelated topic but theres a really nice review of King Dork/Dr. Frank on the cover of the Datebook in the SF Chronicle today. check it out!

also, to make this have some relevance...The Phenomenauts are one of the best current east bay bands! you should see them at Gilman or at their own venue, The Command Center in Oakland, im sure its a much different and possibly better show than seeing them in NY...hometown shows are usually better!

Bill said...

Larry, thanks for the nice review of the show and thanks for coming.

Blake said...

Hey Larry
I have some things you may be interested in talking/hearing about.

I'd really appreciate it if you could contact me further @ hammer_55@hotmail.com

I didn't know where to post this, so it is mostly unrelated to your post.

Many Thanks