Long one of the mainstays of New York City's burgeoning pop punk scene, Chadd Derkins is also one of its most loved denizens. His slightly more than passing resemblance to Seinfeld's George Costanza may have something to do with it, but his childlike enthusiasm for all things fun and/or funny is no doubt a bigger factor. But first and foremost on the list of Chadd Derkins' most endearing qualities has to be a heart as big as all outdoors, no, bigger than that, as big as all of New York City!
A couple of years ago the lovely Ms. Carla Monoxide, Chadd's longtime companion and sweetheart, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Serious illness can often put a strain on even the strongest of relationships, but while Carla was busy working on getting her health back (she's doing great now, thanks for asking), Chadd was getting busy as well: organizing Carlapalooza, a day-long concert in her honor, with all proceeds benefiting the National MS Society.
The first Carlapalooza took place on Carla's birthday, September 29, 2006; this year it's been pushed back a week so it wouldn't conflict with another local benefit show, and expanded to two days and two states. Today was the first show, and I made the supreme sacrifice of traveling not just out of New York City, but into the wilds of New Jersey for it. Thanks to the generosity of Matt Lame, who's up from Maryland for the weekend, I got a ride right from my doorstep to the front of the American Legion hall in sleepy little Secaucus, and as we pulled up, I kept saying, "You must have the wrong address, this can't be it."
The reason for my doubts was that I'd pictured some kind of cement block warehouse-type structure on some godforsaken industrial backstreets; this American Legion hall looked more like somebody's cute little red brick house, and was set in a nice all-American neighborhood, half-urban/half-suburban, with kids playing and houses decorated for Halloween. "There's no way the neighbors are going to put up with an eight-hour punk rock concert," I said, but as often happens these days, I was dead wrong. There was nary a complaint, the show went off smoothly, starting late but ending right on time, raised - by preliminary count, $1,230, and as we left the geezers (and I say this in the affectionate British sense) from the American Legion smiled, waved and called out, "Thanks for coming, come back any time!"
When I think of all the VFW and American Legion halls I saw wrecked by punk rockers back in the old days, I have to marvel at what punk rock - at least the pop-punk variety thereof - has morphed into today. At one point I was outside having what might be called a spirited discussion with a very nice girl called Melissa who was visiting New York City for the first time and who I'd just found out was not only a card-carrying member, but an active employee of the ACLU.
Okay, so I shouldn't have called her a commie, and I know perfectly well that she's not a commie (she admitted to socialist tendencies, but those are hardly uncommon hereabouts), but it did liven things up a bit. But in mid-argument, er, discussion, it came to light that she had a master's degree in - what else? - social work, which at least in principle meant that she was smarter than me and that I should shut up and listen rather than try to pick fights. But while I was momentarily being taken aback, I glanced around and noticed that I was almost completely surrounded by people with postgraduate degrees. A couple of doctors - chemical engineering and materials engineering, respectively - and several more masters, including - count 'em - three schoolteachers. My puny little bachelor's degree suddenly was looking even tinier, and I more or less had to fall back on the really shabby defense of, "Well, at least my university was better than yours..."
No, I didn't really sink to that level - I was tempted - but I was feeling a little intimidated. Not enough to make me shut up about my opinions, but almost. Anyway, what I'm trying to get at was how it flew in the face of all the assiduously cultivated stereotypes about dumb and nihilistic punk rockers. And to point out that if you want to hang out with some of these high-toned and high-minded people (yes, I'll be there, too, but I'm easily enough avoided), there's still another day of Carlapalooza to come. And this day, Sunday the 7th, offers not only the advantage of what might be arguably a stronger lineup than Saturday's show, but it's also accessible by subway, always a plus in the minds of New Yorkers.
Sunday's (today's) festivities get underway just past noon at the lovely Cake Shop on Manhattan's Lower East Side. It's only a tenner, you can meet some of the smartest and nicest people in New York City, hear some of the best and liveliest music being made today, help the fight against multiple sclerosis, AND still be home tucked up in front of the TV not too much after the street lights come on.