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X Brothers, ASPCA Benefit, Union Square, NYC: Now I wanna be your dog April 10, 2007

Posted by Anton A in American music, X Brothers.
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I got off work at 3:00, sped home, wolfed lunch, hopped a train to Hoboken, took PATH under the Hudson to 14th & 6th, & emerged into the chilly 5:30 April sunlight.  Walked up a block, hung a right & headed east along 15th, a block I’ve walked literally thousands of times – this was part of my daily route to work for 18 years.  But this time it was a little different with Burning For You bouncing off the buildings, faintly at first but louder with every step, until I emerged into Union Square where Joe and the X Brothers were already tearing it up, with Dennis Dunaway filling in for Andy Hilfiger on bass.

The ASPCA event was set up at the south end of the park.  I continued down the path, wound up at stage right and stopped right there. I had a great side view of the band. Since I was in back of the PA speakers, the sound was mostly coming from the amps and the stage monitors, crystal clear at a very comfortable level. Couldn’t have asked for a better spot.

A device in front of the stage that looked like something from a low-budget sci-fi movie proved to be a heater; it blew hot air at the stage, since the day was so chilly.  Unfortunately the varying hot & cold zones on stage gave Joe tuning problems all afternoon, but he handled it all with good humor. 

The band quickly warmed up and Joe’s jacket came off.

Here’s the setlist for Set 1:

Purple Haze, Burning For You, All Along The Watchtower, Come Together, Not Fade Away, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Birthday, I’m Eighteen, Godzilla

Set 2:

Walking The Dog, Back Door Man, Roadhouse Blues, I Wanna Be Your Dog, Honky Tonk Woman, Jumpin Jack Flash, Godzilla, Don’t Fear The Reaper

Towards the end of I Wanna Be Your Dog, I notice a fellow walk up and stand next to me.  I take a second look and realize it is Albert Bouchard.

The song ends and I figure this is a good time to start my traditional yells for Cagey Cretins.  Albert looks over at me and laughs.  I take this as a good opportunity to introduce myself and have a quick chat about a mutual friend, which was cut short because it was Albert’s time to be on stage and whack the cowbell on Honky Tonk Woman.  Albert then took over the drums for a blistering version of Jumpin Jack Flash

They closed out the gig with a glorious dual-cowbell version of Don’t Fear The Reaper, with an ASPCA staffer on second cowbell.

At the end of the first set there were two young black guys standing in front of me.  Jimmy went into his drum solo on Godzilla and they were just bugging on it, yelling and urging him on.  After the point where Jimmy speeds up the tempo, the one guy turned to his friend and said “Whoa!  That is just too fast now!  I can not get my brain around that shit at all!”  Jimmy noticed that they were digging it and would look at them and yell “Yow!” after he finshed a phrase, and they would go “Yow!” right back at him.  This went on for some time.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have more fun with a drum solo.

What a great afternoon this was!  It was a special treat to see Dennis work out with Joe & Jim on all those classic tunes.  The rendition of I’m Eighteen was right over the top; I loved every second of it.  But every song was great.

X Brothers / Dennis Dunaway Project, Cutting Room, NYC: You can call me Doctor Music March 30, 2007

Posted by Anton A in American music, X Brothers.
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What a great night!  Most fun I’ve had in a long time.  But you know that you have to suffer along with me to get there.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make this show. Friday is always burnout day of the week for me amd the worst possible night to go out; at this stage of my life I’m generally out of steam by then.  But somehow I got a second wind from the notion of Joe B playing so close to home, at a cool little club I know not far from the Lincoln Tunnel with easy parking.  I mean, it should have all been so smooth.  So I went on line with my credit card at 7:30 and put myself on the will-call list.

An hour or so later I’m eating my roast pork fried rice and watching TV.  One of those little bottom-of-screen banner notices comes on: “Lincoln Tunnel has been closed due to a serious bus accident.”  WTF?  This could blow the whole scheme.

I put on the radio to get the traffic reports.  They say that a bus has split itself on a concrete abutment on the highway leading away from the Jersey side of the tunnel, the highway is closed, there are 60-90 minute delays getting through and gridlock in both Manhattan and the streets of Weehawken and Hoboken.  Traffic at the Holland Tunnel, the usual alternative, is piling up fast.  Traffic at the George Washington Bridge is still moving, but from where I live that’s an extra half-hour drive.

I continue to listen to these reports every 10 minutes.  I gradually realize that it is not at all clear whether they are talking about the highway being closed in both directions, or only the outbound NY-to-Jersey lanes.  I go to the radio station’s online traffic site, which usually has more clear and precise information; it confirms that the closures are outbound only, but that report hasn’t been updated for over an hour.

Finally I decide to call the Shadow Traffic Tips line, which drivers can use to report problems.  The guy answers: “Shadow Traffic, what’s your tip?”  I quickly explain that I don’t have a tip, I’ve been listening to these hysterical radio reports about the bus accident and they’re totally unclear about whether inbound traffic is affected and does he have any info.  The guy immediately understands where I’m coming from; he says, “Inbound is no problem, I’m looking at a camera shot of the tunnel entrance right now and traffic is light and just sailing right in.”  I thank him profusely.  The gig is on!

Just as he said, I fly all the way in to the tunnel area.  I pass the accident scene; there is a bus sitting atop a high concrete exit divider at what looks like a 45-degree angle and all kinds of floodlights and heavy yellow equipment trying to pry the thing off and lift it back down.  Surreal.

On the NYC side I run into a stretch of that gridlocked traffic trying to get into the tunnel.  It takes me 10 minutes to get half a block; then I break free of the gridlock zone and head south.  I get to the club a half hour late and get into the back room not two minutes before Joe and the X Brothers take the stage.  Whew!

Joe is looking natty in a blue blazer, tangerine shirt and black leather slacks.  Andy Hilfiiger has some sort of blue uniform coat over a brown jersey & jeans.  Jimmy Cacala – and I mean this in the best possible way – looks like your classic tattooed shirtless speed freak whose pants won’t stay up.

The coats come off quickly; the room is small & hot.  These guys are all such great players and having so much fun with these songs, it’s absolutely infectious.  Most of the crowd was seated at the comfortably spaced tables, but I couldn’t sit down and just stood at the back of the room rocking out to the great beats they were laying down.

They tore through all of these songs in about an hour:

Dr. Music, Money Machine, Burning For You, Astronomy, Downtown, Dead Man Walking, Do It All For You, Cities On Flame (with special guest Albert Bouchard), Godzilla.

Yes, Albert came up to sing Cities and, after a quick switch during which Jimmy almost lost his pants several more times, finished out the song on drums with those classic machine-gun beats.

It might be a little hard to imagine stripped-down power-trio versions of some of these BOC tunes, but trust me, they work.  Joe’s guitar work is so intelligent and informed, it gives you a new angle on every song.  Andy and Jimmy are clearly having a blast and back it all up with serious kick-ass playing.  It was a great set in every respect.

During the intermission I spotted Joe wandering back towards the bar.  I introduced myself and said thanks for putting himself out there on the BOCFans online boards.  I then asked if we’d ever hear Cagey Cretins live; he just laughed and said he scarcely remembers that one any more, but you know, it might benefit from a remix.

I had to ask whether he remembered anything about the 1973 gig at Gaelic Park up in the Bronx, which was my introduction to BOC.  He said sure, it was a real swampy place up there (that jibes with my memory that it was a particularly humid August night) that was a real breakthrough gig for them, they opened for Jeff Beck, and Flash was there too.  He then mentioned a Central Park gig that had taken place earlier that summer as another breakthrough event.

Now: my memory of the Gaelic Park gig was that, yes, thinking about it, Flash probably was there, but BOC headlined.  I had gone to the gig at the urging of an old college friend, who said we had to go see this band called Blue Oyster Cult: “They’re punks from Long Island!”  I’ve long had this memory of seeing Flash with this same friend, but couldn’t quite place where, so I think this makes sense.

But: I’m pretty sure that I would remember seeing Jeff Beck at that stage of my life, and I have absolutely no memory of seeing him before the mid-1990s.  That isn’t to say absolutely that I didn’t see him at Gaelic Park.  (Subsequent research revealed that Beck was there, arrived late and played a short set; who knows what I was doing or whether I was even still there at the time.)

Back to The Cutting Room: towards the end of the intermission, some friendly Germans at the table I’d been standing behind for the X Brothers invited me to come sit with them.  (The fellow who spoke the best English looked remarkably like new BOC bassist Richie Castellano.)  Turned out they had flown over to NYC for just one night, to see the Heaven & Hell gig at Radio City; someone there had mentioned to them that they should go to the Cutting Room afterwards.  They were flying back to Germany tomorrow.  Ain’t that the life!  Anyway I told my Ronnie Dio & The Prophets / Electric Elves stories and we had a good little chat.

The Dunaway Project came on.  Dennis had this sweet lime-green bass.  Rick Tedesco had a cream-colored Mick Ronson model Les Paul, and did he ever get a range of excellent tones out of that thing.  They have a grey-haired madman on keyboards with a voice not far from Ian Gillan’s.  I thought he was wearing a rug that seemed to need a little more glue, but in retrospect he was probably just adjusting his headset microphone.  I couldn’t see the drummer, but he was good.  They really brought it to that little stage.

I don’t know their material so can’t write a set list.  They did a couple of really epic pieces, including one featuring a belly dancer who emerged from the audience and was rather  mesmerizing.  They played for well over an hour.  The crowd kept dwindling as it got later; towards the end they were playing to around 20 people.  That’s kind of surreal in itself.

I felt myself fading pretty badly as the clock ticked past 1:00; not knowing what kind of traffic nightmare I might still be facing, I left while they were still playing, so I can’t tell you either whether there was a monster jam with both bands at the end.

Emerging from the near-empty back room, I was shocked to find that the bar/lounge area in front, which had been deserted when I’d arrived, was now a meat market, drunken twenty-somethings packed wall to wall.  What a scene that was!  I think I had sex three times squeezing my way across the room, but it might have been four.

I walked the five blocks back to my car, fired it up and clicked on the radio for the traffic report; I wasn’t going to move until I knew which way I needed to go.  Naturally, it was no more edifying than it had been four hours earlier.   I won’t bore you with the details.  I decided to head up to the Lincoln Tunnel area  and case things, and if it looked too bad I hoped to be able to swing past it and take the long way home up across the George Washington Bridge.  Happily, the Tunnel had completely cleared out.  I sailed on home, singing “Call the doctor!” in my fabulous falsetto to keep myself focused.