Saturday, August 19, 2006

1973 Redux

I saw the New York Dolls last night at the South Street Seaport. When it comes to great shows, I'm a fan not a critic, so about all I can say is that they were fucking great.

This was no lame-ass reunion bullshit. This was a killer fucking rock & roll band. The crowd was huge and into it, even singing loudly along with the chorus of "Pills," a Janis Joplin cover, and "Human Being." The band looked great from a distance. In retrospect I was surprised at Syl Sylvain's talent on guitar. I guess it wasn't Johnny Thunders playing all of those solos. Steve Conte was good on the other guitar and the new bass player and drummer rocked like the days of yore. Johansen was energetic and clearly enjoying himself. His vocals and harmonica playing were strong.

The stuff off the new album fit right in with the old stuff, which was incedible cause that almost never happens. There was no let down in the energy of the crowd or the quality of the show. Someone unfamiliar with the Doll's catalogue wouldn't have been able to tell the difference. "Punishing World" was particularly great. A rousing "Dance Like a Monkey" ended the main part of the show. My only disappointment was that they didn't play "Running Around."

And some of the old stuff was transcendental. I wasn't around to see any live shows in 1973, but I've seen Johansen perform a lot of these songs in solo shows and they're all on the DVD from the London reunion show, but none of that was remotely as good as last night's show. They did the aforementioned "Pills," which had the crowd screaming, the show started out with "Looking for a Kiss," then there were such standards as "Jet Boy" and "Puss N' Boots." The first encore was an ecstatic version of "Personality Crisis" and the second was a killer "Human Being." The crowd would have happily stayed for the rest of the catalogue, but unfortunately the show was over.

To repeat what I said in the post below, I haven't heard Rock & Roll like that for ages. Even back then shows like that were few and far between.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


I’ve been meaning to write more about work. It’s not that I think the horrid details of my pathetic career would interest anyone, but it is interesting how my jobs serve to illustrate much that is wrong with our culture and economy. I’ve experienced most of those headlines you see – dot com death spirals, mass layoffs, takeovers by international investor groups, et. al. – in my wanderings from company to company over the last few years and now I’m on the cutting edge of data mining and consumer profiling.

Yes, I’d like to tell you more about it, but not now. I’ve been going through another round of training this week and just thought I’d share this one small observation. The trainer constantly uses words like “brilliant” or “awesome” to describe the most mundane occurrences. If everyone manages to turn on their computer without spilling coffee on it he gushes that we are all “brilliant” and our skills “awesome.” On and on.

And I know this trend is widespread and has been going on for awhile. “Awesome,” for instance, has been overused for years.

I suspect this is all related to the culture of self-esteem we read so much about. Apparently many kids are brought up receiving sycophantic praise for any little thing they do so I imagine that’s the only way they know to communicate. I guess there’s little harm in it other than further debasement in the way we are able to describe our world. What more is there to say when being able to chew gum and walk at the same time inspires awe and is practiced by the brilliant?


I’m just on my third listen of the new New York Doll’s cd, One day it will please us to remember even this. It’s a great Rock & Roll record. It would be a great Rock & Roll record in any era. In this one it’s the only Rock & Roll record as far as I can tell. Rock ain’t dead yet, but looking at Johansen, I think it’s fair to say it’s getting pretty old.

One day it will please... is fresh, unlike most reunion records. I suspect that is because David Johansen has never stopped working. He played the Bottom line every couple of months for I don’t know how many years as either Buster Poindexter or as himself with the Harry Smiths. I even saw him a couple times at a defunct blues bar playing his solo material and some Dolls tunes with his long time collaborator Brian Koonan and a bar band. So he is not coming back. He never went away.

Sylvain Sylvain is the only other surviving member of the original band and Johnny Thunders wild guitar is missed, but the record is a legitimate Dolls record, not another Johansen solo project. So far Running Around and Punishing World are obvious classics, but I feel quite a few others can grow on me.

But enough of this crap from me. If you want to read a real review, go here.

In the meantime I’m having fun. Best Rock & Roll I’ve heard in ages.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Those were the days...

The Quebec trip went well for the most part. I didn’t have the time or opportunity to do any serious photography, but you can see some tourist pictures here.

This was the first time I had traveled with my wife, we’ll call her “Lola”, for over 15 years. Back then she had sworn “never again” but all of that time apparently softened her brain. It didn’t take long for her to fear she would regret it.

Typically, I only do the most minimal planning when I travel. In this case, my “plan” was to get a car in Montreal, drive about halfway to Quebec and find a hotel. Unfortunately, there was a Grand Prix race that weekend about half way between Montreal and Quebec and there was not a hotel room to be found. We ended up sleeping in the car and it was very, very cold.

But things got better quickly. We had ended our quest for a hotel in a small town called Shawinigan which turned out to be a very nice place. After having a nice breakfast of Paté and Brie on fresh baguettes, all of that from IGA no less, and exploring Shawinigan, we drove the rest of the way to Quebec on a very scenic two-lane highway. The aesthetic differences between the French Canadian countryside and here are wide and deep. Almost every house is treated as an art object. Most are painted in bright colors with many small artistic touches. Every little town has a beautiful old church.

We camped for most of the week in the Le Parc Nacional de la Jacque Cartier in a primitive little campground at the end of a rocky dirt road far from the nearest plumbing or electricity. It was paradise. We also took a couple day trips to Quebec and walked around the old city. As tourist places go, it is one of the best I have ever visited. It’s very beautiful in an old-world way. There are great looking French restaurants and sidewalk cafés, lots of art in the streets, museums, interesting shops, and a few street performers.

The only other excitement was a little white-water canoe trip we took. It was the first time Lola had ever canoed. She can’t swim and five minutes after putting the canoe in the water we were going through class III rapids. Unsurprisingly, we tipped over. All our stuff got soaked, we lost an oar and her purse, she was terrified and we were facing four more hours on the river. While she was holding onto the tipped over canoe for dear life and watching her new hat float away, I could see her thinking “never again.” But we found the oar and the purse, it turned out to be a beautiful day and we got through the rest of the rapids.

And then we spent the last night at the Ritz Charlton in Montreal. I had a lot of Marriott points from my previous job so we got it for free. It was a nice hotel, but for the most part people pay for the name. And Montreal was a let-down. It’s a nice city, but it was so much nicer to be out of the city for a week. Everything was so much better in the countryside.

We went the whole week without radio, television or newspapers and a great deal of it with no city or industrial noise. The lack of news was very refreshing. When we turned on the TV in Montreal and heard about the latest terror plots, war news, and administration idiocies it was very depressing. And since I was mostly speaking and thinking in my limited French, I wasn’t able to bother myself much with complex thought. And then hearing nothing but rapids for long stretches left my head blessedly empty of mundane thoughts of the daily grind. Thoughts of the job, the bills, the wars, the idiots floated down those rapids and away. I didn’t catch up with them till Montreal.