Sing loudly and carry a big shtick! Russell Wolinsky and Walter Lure

Max's-front-daytime (maxskansascity.orgOn May 25-27 the Bowery Electric hosted another rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza, this time a three-night “Max’s Kansas City Festival” – dedicated to the legendary NYC venue that existed from 1965 to 1981, and its equally legendary performers. On tap for night number one: a roster of acts, both new and old, two of which easily fall into the “legendary” category: The Sic F*cks and The Waldos. Starring two of the greatest punk rock front-men of all-time – two guys who not only know how to rock, but how to entertain. Performers who can make you dance one minute and laugh out loud the next: Russell Wolinsky, co-founder and lead singer of outrageous comic-punks The Sic F*cks, and Walter Lure, co-founder and guitarist of proto-punk band The Heartbreakers and, more recently, leader of The Waldos.

Russell 1         Walter 2The Sic F*cks (truly living up to their name at every performance, even now) were formed in 1977 by Bronx-born Wolinsky and sisters Eileen and Tish Bellomo – better known as Tish and Snooky and who had briefly been backup singers in Blondie. Recruiting a gaggle of guys who took stage names like Dick String, Bob Hopeless, Stink (the bassist – poking fun at Sting), and Harry Viderci (as in Italian for goodbye – haha), they were soon appearing regularly at Max’s and CBGB. Fun, tasteless numbers like “Insects Rule My World,” “Rock Or Die,” “Teenage Abortion,” “Spanish Bar Mitzvah,” and “Chop Up Your Mother” – coupled with wacky (to say the least) costumes and props (like Tish and Snooky’s coat hanger, plunger, and two-headed baby doll on “Teenage Abortion”) made their performances an evening to, uh, remember. And still do! A few of those songs even made it onto vinyl in 1982 on…ready?…Sozyamuda Records. Oy vey.

Russell 2

Meanwhile, Walter Lure formed The Heartbreakers with ex-New York Doll Johnny Thunders in 1975, and the band existed on and off (with numerous gigs at Max’s of course) until shortly before Thunders’ death in 1991. Lure and a few of the later Heartbreakers members re-named themselves The Waldos (after Walter’s occasional nickname), continued making noise in and around NYC, and in 1994 released an album, Rent Party. Nowadays the Waldos experience is bookended by Japanese axemen Ichiuji Takanori (aka EZ) on bass and Takto Nakai on guitar, drummer Joe Rizzo propelling everything along in the back…and master-of-ceremonies Mr. Lure providing off-the-cuff commentary between signature tunes “Damn Your Soul,” “Cry Baby,” “Sorry,” and Heartbreakers staples “One Track Mind,” “Chinese Rocks,” “Get Off the Phone,” “Let Go,” “Sad Vacation,” and “Too Much Junkie Business.”

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And like some of the great entertainers of yore (Frankie S. anyone?), both Russell and Walter appear onstage in classy, if trashy, jacket-and-hat motifs (orange-ish jackets for both this evening), peppering their bands’ sets with corny jokes and hilarious anecdotes. Advice for lead singers everywhere: Sing loudly…and carry a big shtick!

Max’s photo courtesy maxskansascity.org
Videos courtesy YouTube/Alan Rand, YouTube/Nanchanger
Band photos by me

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* Correction to the May 21 post:  the band in Vinyl was called the Nasty Bits (not the Naughty Bits).

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Poems and punk (and Steely Dan drunk): The Kim Rancourt Experience!

What if Blue Oyster Cult’s bassist, Sonic Youth’s drummer, one of Captain Beefheart’s crew of guitarists, and a noted musician-archivist-producer all ganged up and made noise behind a singer? And what if the singer was once in that early 1990s NYC underground band with a name that sounds more like a line from a song than a band name, When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water? And what if they recorded an album of ten retro-punk-ish, definitively NYC underground creations? You would end up with plum plum, the new debut by Kim Rancourt.

KimRancourt-plumplumcover (Amazon.com)

The aforementioned musician-archivist-producer (of Sonic Youth, Hole, Teenage Fanclub, Joan Jett, Nancy Sinatra, Alice Cooper, The Posies, The Dictators, etc., etc.), Don Fleming, assembled the band – Joe Bouchard, Steve Shelley and Gary Lucas – and, with frontman/lyricist Rancourt, has conjured up something schizomusical that sounds like Johnny Thunders reciting Zen poetry one minute, an off-kilter version of Steely Dan the next, and the best primitive, Stooges/Velvets-emulating garage band you ever heard just about every minute. And no, the band is not called the Kim Rancourt Experience. In fact, they’re not called anything (although on their Soundcloud page they’re named KimRancourtandtheDreamBand – ok, that fits).

Mr. Rancourt and friends get the party started in fine, whiney, Johnny Thunders style with “Walking the Trashline”…but with Johnny sitting cross-legged holding a flower and instructing, “The easy way can sometimes be the only way to see.” Somehow that works – the beats, the hippies, the punks… Then it’s off to a Stooges garage rehearsal and a song about circles and other shapes (“Circle’s Gotta Go”), and a dark brooder (gotta have at least one of those) entitled “Three Dimes” that features some dark, brooding guitarplay by Lucas and Fleming.

KimRancourt-band (bigtakeover.com)

Poppy drums are next, signaling the bouncy love song “Claudine” and a chorus that brings to mind…some lost Steely Dan number recorded at 4 a.m. while Fagen and Becker were, uh, under the influence. On “I Kissed Pat Place” Rancourt recalls his exploits involving the no wave artist/Bush Tetras guitarist, then it’s back to the poetry corner with the eerie, echoey “Hail” and the wild “Arkansas Is Burning” (everybody sing along: “Arkansas is burning, everybody’s fucking!”).

Now the best track on the album, the ten-minute masterpiece “She Got Hit.” Imagine a mashup of “Sister Ray,” “Roadrunner,” and “Down on the Street”, with basically one line of lyrics and more guitar-obatics than you can shake a fuzzbox at. “The Thing That Is” is not necessarily a scary movie title (on the order of “The Thing That Ate Cleveland” or something) but does start off with some frighteningly monstrous guitar sounds. The album concludes on a spiritual note with the relatively mellow “Leave Your Light On” and some Richard Hell-ish punk rock crooning.

Fans of the short-lived HBO series Vinyl (like me) should note that Don Fleming, along with Sonic Youth’s Lee Renaldo and most of the plum plum all-star lineup, were responsible for much of the punk music heard on the show – visualized as “The Naughty Bits” and featuring James Jagger, son of Mick.

Kim Rancourt and company will be appearing at Bowery Electric, NYC on May 22, at what’s being billed as the official record release party for plum plum…so I would imagine they will be playing all this stuff. Come on down!

KimRancourt-BoweryElectric-ad (theboweryelectric.ticketfly.com)

images courtesy amazon.com, popdose.com, theboweryelectric.ticketfly.com

Wild precision and careful abandon – The Feelies take the stage

37 years ago The Feelies released their debut album Crazy Rhythms. 37 years later they still perform the last two tracks, “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms,” with more infectious energy than the original recordings themselves. And they performed thirty-plus songs during their two stunning sets on May 12 at Rough Trade NYC in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in much the same manner, with a simultaneous precision and abandon that’s been a Feelies hallmark for decades and across six albums.

Crazy Rhythms (allmusic.com)        The Good Earth (amazon.com)       Only Life (amazon.com)

IMG_2140The Feelies are, and have been since 1985 or so, Glenn Mercer (guitar and lead vocals), Bill Million (guitar and backing vocals), Stanley Demeski (drums), Brenda Sauter (bass and backing vocals) and Dave Weckerman (percussion, backing vocals and assorted other musical toys). Lou Reed was a major influence; the band in turn has influenced many acts including R.E.M. (and The Feelies have opened for both). Tonight, though, the stage is all theirs as the band tears through stuff from their latest, In Between (including the Wire-esque noisefest “Been Replaced”), 2011’s Here Before (featuring the sublime backing vocals of “Should Be Gone”), 1986’s The Good Earth (pounding out the semi-hit “The High Road” like they own the place – ok, tonight they do), and…closing set number one, “Original Love” from Crazy Rhythms. Between songs the audience cries, “We love The Feelies!” And The Feelies love them back.

IMG_2146Visually the band is no GQ cover – three of the five, including leaders Mercer and Million, sport glasses and all five don the kind of outfit that would, well, certainly not turn heads on the streets of Williamsburg. Mercer and Million stare seriously into the space around their guitars, Sauter picks bass lines with cool intensity, Demeski holds down the impossibly rigorous rhythm with an easy-going expression that belies the fact that he’s drumming at, like, 150 beats per minute, and Weckerman – hunched and hidden behind Mercer – looks as if he’s about to explode at anybody who dares to interrupt his maraca-shaking.

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After a brief break, The Feelies return for set number two, kicking off with “On and On” from Here Before, more from the new one, a handful from 1988’s Only Life, the amazing “Slipping (Into Something)” from The Good Earth, a couple from 1991’s Time For a Witness, and finally the one-two punch of “Raised Eyebrows” and “Crazy Rhythms.” An encore featuring first-ever single “Fa Cé-La” (also on Crazy Rhythms), then… Reports from other recent shows indicate more encores with fun cover tunes like the Stones’ “Paint It Black,” the Modern Lovers’ “Astral Plane,” Lou Reed’s “Can’t Stand It,” even “King’s Lead Hat” from Brian Eno’s Before and After Science! Unfortunately I’m out the door to beat the crowd as usual, so…missed those.

03286202372_2008.indd       Here Before (amazon.com)       In Between (popdose.com)

Hopefully The Feelies will be around for many more years of wild precision and careful abandon!

http://www.thefeeliesweb.com

https://www.facebook.com/The.Feelies/

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album cover images courtesy allmusic.com, amazon.com, bar-none.com, popdose.com

“Been Replaced” video courtesy YouTube/Keboy; “Should Be Gone” video from Jacob Burns Film Center courtesy YouTube/monty4921; 2012 Bell House videos courtesy YouTube/UnsteadyFreddie; 2013 Hoboken Art & Music Festival videos courtesy YouTube/Mickster6988240

band photos by me! (for a change)