Independent Day Festival, Bologna, Italy
Sunday September 7, 2003
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 youve 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 Im 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 rocknroll militia. Were all in our '30s and more, weve 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, dont you? OK. What could I reasonably say about it? Even if theyd 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 its called the loser fashion) then again the mystery, and last the music. When I finally heard the songs, I wasnt 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: "Its about time!!" OK, here I am, in front of a shades equipped Chris "Klondike" Masuaks amp. Ergo, Im 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 schools 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, hes clearly gonna play some hot-assed solos tonight, or so I guessed it was the case. But. Theres always a "but". I didnt hear one note at all from him. Standing in front of Klondikes 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, Id 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. Theres 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. tts odd to see how the tall Dickinson attacks the strings of his Fender Precision with (seemingly) clueless abandon during "Anglo Girl Desire" and still doesnt miss a beat, and a quick look at Pip Hoyle reveals a feeling Ive always had about him: If hes 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. Ive heard less flattering comments from the teen punk crowd. Very less flattering. But, hey, them all were there for the Rancid so its not a big concern, right?), singing, faultlessly, every tune with passion like you wouldnt expect from a man whos been in the business for more than 25 years. Maybe thats whats 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 "Youre 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. Its 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 RocknRoll with a mere two albums and oh, well, you know it all already, don t you? - Alessio Caspanello
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