Friday, January 25, 2008

1st Annual Holiday Bonanza, NYC Cypher, Staten Island 12/22/2007

All performance photos © Robert Barry Francos/FFanzeen

It is amazing to me how the legacy – or rather legacies – of the late Brooklyn-based Punk Temple lives on. When it closed, other venues opened, such as the phenomenal and legendary Monty Love Christmas Spectaculars, held at Dock Street on Staten Island. When that ended with the demise of the band Monty Love in 2006, another door shut.

This opened a window of opportunity that Dov and Phil D of the band Racing Exit 13 picked up, and now they are starting their own (potentially legendary) legacy with the 1st Annual Winter Bonanza, held at the NYC Cypher club on Broad Street, practically around the corner from Dock Street.

I’ve been acquainted with Dov since he led the Washington Riot, and Phil D from even before Quantice Never Crashed, when it was still Howard Finster (and both bands played at the Temple in the early fin de sicle). When I heard they were spearheading this show, I was quite pleased.

The NYC Cypher is an interesting space to hold a show. The downstairs is an urban music and clothing store with a stage, and the upstairs is a mixed-medium art gallery. The plan was brilliant: while one band was playing in a space, another band would be setting up on the other. Basically, one could go from floor to floor and see bands play with very little lag time between. In that fashion we were all able to see eight bands in 5 hours. Even with a late start for the show, we were out of there by 1 AM.

When I got there, I found out that one band had dropped out, and that both the Young Hearts and Up For Nothing had been added. I looked forward to finally seeing the former, and it’s always a blast to see the latter. While I waited for the show to start, I had an enjoyable conversation with Barrie, who I am always happy to see (if you don’t know who I mean, well then you haven’t been to enough local shows).

First up was A Telltale Heart, playing the upstairs room. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen most of them before either in different bands, or in a similar line-up under a another name. They had a pretty good sound with some incredibly strong musicianship. The vocalist was a bit stationary, rocking the mic back and forth, and seemed to need a couple of songs to get into it, but he sure did. Toward the end of the set, the bassist (who started off by wearing an elf ears-hat combo), jumped up on the drum kit, straddling the bass drum, with his back to the crowd. Still playing, after a bit, he jumped up onto a huge speaker. After a number of bars, he jumped down to the ground, STILL playing. This earned him a well-deserved cheer from the crowd.

When they finished, we weaved through the stairs and corridors to get to the lower half of the complex to hear That Hideous Strength (THS). They have their fans: the singer of A Telltale Heart was wearing a THS tee. For those who don’t know, THS has two singers who alternate between screamo and more standard pop punk styles. Matt Zambito, who is bearded and pierced, is the more screamo of the two, and spent a lot of time crouched in front of the bass drum while the extremely tall Mike Costello roamed the stage and infiltrated the audience, switched between the two styles. Their energy was consistently at a very high level, and through it all, the rest of the band kept up. While the pace was fast and furious, with members of the audience singing right along with Mike as he shared the mic, I noticed that there was no pit. THS is both a strong and fun band, and everyone seemed to be having fun. The floor was packed, with people singing along word for word. Though a less than (literally) slammin’ audience, everyone sure seemed to be having a good time. Maybe it was just early, or perhaps it was figuring out the space. Either way, a good time was had, including, it seems, the band.

After the set, it was back upstairs for next-comers Racing Exit 13. [I must digress here… I am assuming that Exit 13 refers to the exit on the New Jersey Turnpike that leads to the Goethals Bridge, gateway to Staten Island. Okay, I’m back now.] As with most of the bands playing this eve, RE13 seemed to be having a lot of fun. Dov seemed a bit more serious than usual in the pictures I took, but being there I could see he was in the zone, as it were. They also got a resounding affirmation from the enthusiastic audience, who lifted Dov so high he was hanging onto the rafters. Other fans present included Bek’s old bandmate, Monty Love, and Mike of That Hideous Strength. RE13 is currently down a guitarist and they called for anyone interested to let them know. Meanwhile, Bek retained the pace, Steve kept up the bass rhythms and side vocals, and Phil showed that besides the bass, he could handle some skins.

Next up on the lower level was Tick Tock Boom, a trio who came all the way from Virginia. I was really looking forward to seeing the group, as I’d heard of them a few times. But wait, what was that Seth Davis had in his hand? Could it be one of those guitar-shaped synths? And was that a synth tower next to him? Yikes. This did not bode well. Sure enough, they were the only band of the evening that was a complete disappointment to me. As someone who has always loved powerpop (as opposed to bubblegum), I also am not a fan of electronica. Unfortunately, I was right to be afraid. Their songs were full of whoop-whoops and twees and bloop-bloops. After nearly three songs, I said fuck it and headed up the stairs to watch the next band set up. And I wasn’t the only one, as there were more people upstairs waiting than there was watching TTB. Funny thing is that they actually sounded better reverberating through the floor than they did being in the same room.

[Ally, Vonny & Monty waiting for Dead Set o Destruction]
While Dead Set on Destruction set up, Debo sat at his drum with Monty Love standing behind him. It was then I realized that with Debo, Bek and Monty present, that was three quarters of the Monty Love band in the same room, getting along. I am guessing that I wasn’t the only one hoping for what never happened: a mini-Monty Love reunion. It was also around this time that I first noticed Jen Love in the audience, whom I haven’t seen in a while. Not surprising she was there, as so many of her buds were playing, such as Philly Rabbit of Quantice Never Crashed. I remember the two of them jumping around like maniacs to bands at the Temple, having so much fun! And I have the “blackmail” pictures to prove it!

Dead Set on Destruction is dead set on entertainment. Maybe that was a bit too glib? Perhaps, but DSoD is a solid punk outfit fronted by Todd, who proves the man has moves. One thing I like about the band, beyond the good songs, is that it has some of the more idiosyncratic looking members, with vocalist Todd, who is a large man, an Amish beard style bassist named simply b, a handsome guitarist with the rare moniker John, and powerhouse Debo on drums. The band gave a unyielding performance with solid musicianship. And when John’s guitar gave up the ghost, Bek jumped right in and loaned John his, helping DSoD finish a fueled set.

Early in the evening, when the bands were unloading, I talked with the Young Hearts after they brought in their equipment and settled in, waiting for the show. They came across as earnest and while having fun with the whole music biz, were also serious about what they were doing. Barrie had told me how excited she was that they were playing, so I was curious. While they were closer to the rock end of punk rock, they sparkled. This is the first time I had seen them perform, and was glad for the opportunity. For a late addition to the roster, they showed up ready to play, and they certainly did that well. The set just flew by. Toward the end, a guy showed up dressed like a pope, with blood sprayed on his front. He danced in front of the band for a while.

Upstairs for the last time of the evening, we crowded around to see local faves (though they’re from Brooklyn), Up For Nothing. Earlier in the eve, just before A Telltale Heart’s set, Justin told me how they had signed with the Boston label run by the Dimwits, Winter Street Records, and how excited they are. I am not sure what else to say about this trio that I haven’t said before, but I will reiterate that I think there are a lot of fun. Justin has a banter between songs explaining little things about the song they are about to play (“This is a short song”…”this may be the last time we play this…”), and about their first show playing at the Temple (not only was I there, a couple of days later Justin posting a ffhoto I took of that show on my MySpace comments page). By giving timelines for the songs, it makes it a bit easier to follow their trajectory over the years, and one can see how their songs have grown and improved over time. But their material is always catchy, even the 15 second one (possibly inspired by the Descendents’ “I Like Food”?). And thanks for the nod from the stage, as had Bek earlier. I ALWAYS appreciate the acknowledgement, and I never ever take it for granted. Meanwhile, drummer Jesse is heading off to California to stay...and get married (I wish him a lot of luck), so UFN islooking for a replacement, if you’re interested. Jesse's tracks are already layed for the new release, and his last gig will be Up For Nothing record release party on May 10. Check it out!

As we went downstairs the set there was already in full force, with the rap group Lost Soulz commanding of the stage. The long stage was packed with people I had not seen during the other bands, with the exception of the bloody pope, who was on stage now as well. It was also the first time that evening that there was not only a pit, but it was thriving. I took to the left side of the stage and stood on a sculpture to gets photos above the fray. Yet through all this, Quantice Never Crashed still managed to get set up. Amazing; though they certainly are used to large crowds storming around them, as well. For me, watching the crowd was fun, but I was not into the music at all. There are only two rap groups I can tolerate: the Last Poets and Public Enemy. The rest I find repetitive and dull. It’s gotta be rock’n’roll music, if you wanna dance with me (as said by the TRUE king of rock’n’roll, but that’s for another day).

Last up was the re-formed band made up of the sons of Staten Island, Quantice Never Crashed. They broke up when lead singer Philly Rabbit left, but he came back and the entire local scene showed their appreciation. The last time I know I saw them play was the Monty Love Xmas Spectacular in 2005, two years too long. Even before they started, the energy was way high. The Lost Soulz may have helped, yet the normal intensity for QNC is quite forceful anyway. As usual, the music started slow, with Phil D (drummer of Racing Exit 13) on bass, John and Vinny on guitar, and Mikey on drums. One can almost count down… Wait for it…. Waaaaait for iiiiiiit. BAM! Like a shot, Philly is off in the audience (hoodie in place), throwing himself around, flailing like he’s being electrocuted, or huddled in a small circle with all limbs pulled in like a turtle. Surely he was just having a blast, huge smile on his face when he’s not in full screamo mode, grabbing his own ass as seems to be the official screamo pose. And the audience loves it, singing along with him, sometimes even taking the mic FROM him. As passionate as it got, between songs there were laughs from everyone and this was just the release everyone needed to help end the year. Welcome back, guys!

I can’t remember if I said this to Dov and Phil D directly after the show: thank you for a great evening. You guys did a bang-up job that easily kept in the tradition of the Monty Love Spectaculars, and having Monty there himself made it all the more special. Hopefully, these guys will continue on the tradition for a long time to come, and that they know their hard efforts were greatly appreciated. And when you do your next show, call on me and I’ll be there (this I swear. Shit I never….).

The rest of the ffotos can be seen here: