RADIO BIRDMAN
Independent Day Festival, Bologna, Italy
Sunday September 7, 2003

OK, maybe Messina, Sicily, is not the closest place to Bologna. Maybe half an hour of ship travel, 10 hours by train and then 20 minutes an a bus is not the most comfortable example of an average, early September Sunday. Well, consider this: when a band you’ve always dreamed of is going to play in the same nation you live in, no matter what happens, you have to be there where the action is. At any cost.

So, I'm heading to Bologna. Direction: Independent Day Festival. A few melodic hardcore punk(?) bands first, an awful lot of freshly mohawked-and-bleached haired teenagers, 10n million Rancid/NOFX/Millencolin t-shirts, too many, really too many baggy skate trousers. I guess I’m a little out of place/out of time here.

A quick look around reveals all my fears: There are too many of them and not enough of us. Like a well trained spy, I start to spot the rock’n’roll militia. We’re all in our '30s and more, we’ve long sideburns, we all wear sunglasses after dark, tight blue jeans, leather jackets and not a trendy t-shirt in sight!

Well, I guess you wanna know about the gig now, don’t you? OK. What could I reasonably say about it? Even if they’d have played polkas, well…it would have been wonderful just the same. Not that they did, anyway. The fact is Radio Birdman are one of those bands that I knew everything about without even hearing one note! Music came last. First it was the legend, then the story (should I say History?), then the distorted coolness factor (I guess it’s called the loser fashion) then again the mystery, and last the music. When I finally heard the songs, I wasn’t amazed at all. It was kinda of a natural following to all of of the above.

So, the image of six Birdmen in their 50's on stage was like: "It’s about time!!" OK, here I am, in front of a shades equipped Chris "Klondike" Masuak’s amp. Ergo, I’m gonna be deaf in a matter of minutes. Rob Younger looks like an athletic and softly-spoken Uncle Creepy. Jim Dickson is clearly having a good time, and he looks dangerously like my high school’s old math professor. Ron is a little beefy and smiley, the exact opposite of Pip Hoyle, the real Man Of Mystery, in his black shirt, red tie, black baseball hat with the Radios symbol, eyes wide shut and all. What a style. Then, least but not last, the man, better, the Iceman. White Epiphone Crestwood equipped, he’s clearly gonna play some hot-assed solos tonight, or so I guessed it was the case. But. There’s always a "but". I didn’t hear one note at all from him. Standing in front of Klondike’s amp I felt all my chromosomes were going to be rearranged from the gigantic volume!

Not so bad, mind you, not if you think about the fact that, an hour or so later, I had to stand the torture of a 50-minute Mars Volta gig, right-in-front of not one but two Orange 140 watt played by Omar Rodriguez. Shit, if I d have to choose the man who will make me deaf, I’d surely go for a bald-headed Canadian Birdman rather than a micro Texan with afro hairdo, right?

OK, tunes. All the hits. All of ‘em awesomely played. Ron lost his grip on the sticks a couple of times but managed to keep the time really well. Chris played some solos in a cool style, not flashy but, dare me to say that, greasy, bluesy, full of feeling. Best performance of the day for the "Non Stop Girls" riff! Come to think of it, I managed to see his pelvis shakin’ through his transparent lucyte Dan Armstrong. Deniz counted "onetwothreefour" a coupla times while launching some tunes, gazing left and right under his blue sunglasses, beating the hell outta the little Epiphone and, despite a intimidating 100 watt 4x12 Marshall pointing on his back, I barely heard him ripping out his trademark fluid, surf-influenced, Detroit style leads and riffs. Shame on me! Nice mover too, the quintessential cool.

I wished I could be in a better place (a "better place", probably, being a mere seven bodies to my right), but sure you have to pay big dues in order to be there in the very front row. Me and all the rockers of the above, we were all there (like, all 200 of us), out of the darkness and ready to go back into the crypt the very minute after the Radios leave stage. There’s also a nice pogo-er a few rows back, and I still wonder who could possibly go pogoing in the middle of a song like "Descent Into Maelstrom".

Anyway. tt’s odd to see how the tall Dickinson attacks the strings of his Fender Precision with (seemingly) clueless abandon during "Anglo Girl Desire" and still doesn’t miss a beat, and a quick look at Pip Hoyle reveals a feeling I’ve always had about him: If he’s a doctor, he surely have to be a relative of Dr. Frankestein or Doc. Phibes. Really scary and really competent in all of his keyboard fills-in. Rob Younger is skinny and mesmerizing, launchin’ the "NO" of "Do The Pop!" with a scream like only a man possessed could. He rules the stage like a god (for us cool rocker, at least. I’ve heard less flattering comments from the teen punk crowd. Very less flattering. But, hey, them all were there for the Rancid so it’s not a big concern, right?), singing, faultlessly, every tune with passion like you wouldn’t expect from a man who’s been in the business for more than 25 years. Maybe that’s what’s supposed a Radio Birdman Reunion is about: Passion. And Legacy.

Talking about legacy. I hoped (against hope, given the mere 45 minutes gig) to hear "TV Eye" and/or "You’re Gonna Miss Me". Oh well, I guess I can live without it. I can because of the monster versions of "Steve Aloha and Danno" and "New Race" they played to end the show. It’s over.

OK, my personal legend went full circle. I knew about them, someone told me a story, I started prowling for some Radio Birdman stuff, become an addict, bought records, found pictures and posters then I saw them live. Full circle, like I said.

One more image, the last. Picturing them leave Bologna on a van, in the darkness, ready to strike some other town, for some other rocker in his 30s who first knew about them, when someone told him a story about six OzMen who changed the world of Rock’n’Roll with a mere two albums and……oh, well, you know it all already, don’ t you? - Alessio Caspanello

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