Thursday, July 28, 2016

Super Rock in Jersey City

l-r, Ken Fox, Peter Zaremba, Keith Streng

DOWN AT THE ROCK & ROLL CLUB—The Fleshtones' performance in Jersey City, New Jersey proved once again that this band of veterans knows how to pace themselves—over four decades, that is. Playing in front of a full house at WFMU's Monty Hall, a small, square room with great sound and incongruous carpeting, the Fleshtones knocked out a rockin' fifty minute set with style and humor, an old blend that works so well because the guys love each other and what they do. Though they live far distances from each other—they move within an axis of Brooklyn, Beacon, and Troy, New York—they play with the verve of a young band banging out a song they learned that day, charmingly disguising well-worn showmanship and rhythmic tightness forged over decades. (Bassist Ken Fox, once the New Kid, has been in the band for over a quarter century.) This isn't 1985, of course: Keith Streng, clean and semi-sober since the late 1990s, confessed to me that he crashed for a nap in the band's van before the show; and the only pharmaceuticals coursing through this once coke- and speed-fueled band would've been antihistamines. But Peter Zaremba, Streng, Fox, and Bill Milhizer have each been blessed with Herculean native energy, on which ample supply they drew for this sweaty, fun show, and the Fleshtones' true legendary status issues as much from the energy in last week's show as in the ones they played back when Reagan was president. Viva Super Rock.
Bill Milhizer

Monty Hall, a small, boxy joint on Montgomery Avenue, blocks from the Hudson River waterfront and a knock-out view of lower Manhattan, is a blessedly lo-fi affair, the state-of-the-art live video streaming on monitors dragged back to divey respectability by the cans of cold-ish beer plucked from a picnic cooler by the front door. I'm a fan of the place.

Of the opening bands, I was especially happy to see the great and timeless Paul Collins again. I caught him two years ago in Berwyn, Illinois, and though he's got a new crew of kids behind him, his songs sounded as effortlessly spirited as ever. Collins gives the impression, especially at the merch table while peering through his readers, of your cool uncle, wide around the middle and full of great R&R stories. He was his genial self onstage, laid back before detonating beautiful, desperate songs, old and new, powered by his Rickenbacker which somehow both rings and slashes. He's a local— "I love playing this place because I can get on the PATH and I'm here in twelve minutes!" he crowed—and vibed off of the crowd's goodwill, at one point genuinely besotted with a fan's vintage Paul Collins Beat t-shirt. I recognized his new bass player, the diminutive Joi La, who I last saw a few years ago at the Bowery Electric ably holding down the low end in Eric Davidson's fierce band LIVIDS; she gave the impression then of holding down the corner of a large tent about to blow away in a mammoth summer storm. She's great onstage; she obviously loves Collins's songs and plays with confidence and enthusiasm. She looks a bit like a Soho art gallery intern, especially when her hair's pinned up against the venue's heat, but one look below at the hot pants, tights, and pointy heels reveals the flip side of her record collection. See Paul Collins if you haven't yet, in a joint like Monty Hall all the better. His is eternal rock and roll that's best heard and seen close up in sweaty quarters.
Paul Collins Beat

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