Posted June 22, 2004

The Barman's Rant
Occasional thoughts on Real Rock Action


Being a flack for a multi-national does have its upsides. Travel’s one of them, even if the rest of the world is – literally – half a world away from Sydney, Australia.

I recently had the good fortune to be required to attend a conference in Chicago, with meetings subsequently lined up for Ann Arbor, Michigan, and New York City. The schedule was reasonably flexible. Armed with a contact book, and in the knowledge I’d be away for two weekends with appropriate down time, I set off.

It’s a hard life but someone has to do it. Away from home, anyway, I never sleep…

* * *

It’s 10.30 on a temperate March Chicago night. Despite the 25-hour plane trip from Sydney (30-plus hours, if you work it out door-to-door) I’m unlikely to sleep. I pick up a throwaway guide to what’s on and settle into a bar, around the corner from my hotel.

The gig guide yields a revelation: The Bellrays are playing the Empty Bottle with the D4.
Guess my dance card just filled up…

The Empty Bottle is a Chicago rock institution, about a 10 buck cab ride north of downtown. To my surprise, the show isn’t sold-out so I fork over $US12 and stroll in.

The D4 are done and dusted by the time I arrive but I run into Dion, the lead guitarist, and we have a chat. He’s obviously road-weary and besieged by well-wishers after what was a well-received set. I make a tentative booking for an interview with the band and move inside the band room-proper.

It’s a room the size and shape of the Annandale in Sydney, holding about 400. The stage is off-set to the right and sightlines maximized by a flying PA, suspended from the roof. The Bellrays saunter on-stage after a short time and the excitement level raises a notch as they rip into their first tune.
Can’t say their last album knocked me out (too many jams, too few songs) but you have to give Lisa her props – she has a helluva voice. Good to see Tony Fate in the guitar seat, as I’d heard he’d left the band for a while. Can’t say a lot of the material is familiar, newish as most of it seems to be, but it’s a set of awesome energy levels and searing volume.

The fact occurs that I’m seeing one of the best live bands on the planet, bar none.

Lisa gets into the crowd, urging them to testify, on the final song and it’s over. Seventy-five minutes of sublime Rock Action.

I leave happy.

* * *

My immediate schedule doesn’t allow a lot of time for extra-curricular activities so it’s not with much confidence that I call David Thomas, director of the film "The MC5 - A True Testimonial" to advance his invitation of a private screening. I doubt that he’s going to be able to oblige at such short notice.

This movie, if you didn’t already know, has been years in the making and is doing the rounds of various film festivals around the world, pending negotiation of a theatre release. It's a product of Future Now Films, an independent film company getting by on grants, merch sales and the smell of an oily rag.

Can David do Sunday afternoon, one of the few holes in my calendar? You bet. He even offers to come to my hotel and pick me up, sparing me what would certainly, for me anyway, be a time-consuming navigation through the suburbs.

David arrives in the lobby of the Wyndham on Eyrie a few hours later, easily recognisable by his leather jacket (and I by mine). We hop the subway – the easiest way there, he tells me – and spend the short trip to Logan Square swapping stories about music and, of course, the Five.

Dave reveals his musical epiphany came in St Louis in the early ‘70s when he came face-to-face with Iggy (literally) during a typically chaotic and confrontational show by the "Raw Power" Stooges. "I didn’t know whether to kiss him or hit him," David says. I can only listen with awe.

We arrive at the Thomas home in short time to be greeted by David’s charming wife and the film’s producer, Laurel Legler. The drinks are fixed and the corn chips are dished up. I’m staggered by the hospitality as I settle onto a comfortable lounge and the sound’s cranked up.

The couple apologises that there’s only a VHS copy to watch so some of the picture quality is second-hand. It’s like someone telling you that your first class seat in Concorde doesn’t match the colour of your shoes…

My mate Jelly from London caught up with "A True Testimonial" when it played London recently (his review’s here). It’s everything he said it was – and more. Funny and fascinating…sublime and sad…it draws you right in.

Told through the eyes of the participants, their ex-guru (John Sinclair) and their ex-wives, it’s riveting stuff. Wayne Kramer’s pieces-to-camera are priceless, emphasizing his star quality. Archival interview footage with Fred Smith and Rob Tyner round out the picture. Mike Davis conveys bemusement, Dennis Thompson craziness.

The Thomas-Leglers even managed to track down Michael Davis’ replacement on bass, Englishman Derek Hughes, and "High Time" producer Geoffrey Haslam.

And the footage…it’s been previously unseen, for the most part, and even includes a USArmy surveillance film of the band in all their glory. There’s stuff from the Phun City festival, even the disastrous Wembley gig (Sonic in his chicken-from-out-space-suit, Wayne glammed up).

There’s a magnificent quality TV clip from an outdoor show in the grounds of Wayne State University that’s simply amazing. Its juxtaposition of a busy highway flyover as the background while the Five go through their paces is neat. Rob Tyner’s stage presence is compelling; Bro Wayne is ever the showman as he hangs out his guitar to dry and then machine-guns the crowd as Sonic Smith anchors down the whole thing. Apparently, it's culled from a local TV live-to-air.

As for the big picture, there’s a sense of sadness and inevitability that the Five’s demise was sealed way back in the days when they first shook the establishment tree. The footage of the MC2 – the band was reduced to a rump of Sonic and Wayne in its final days, plus some British hands who were hired to fulfill a European tour commitment – tells the story better than words ever could. Both look more than a little fried and embarrassed as they go through their paces.

David and Laurel leave me to watch as they go about their business, but alternately drop in during the two-hour-plus runtime to see how I’m doing. This must be the thousandth time they’ve both seen the movie but it doesn’t show. Their enthusiasm for their baby is infectious.

After just over two hours, it’s over and I’m staggered. I reckon that it’s is the best rockumentary I’ve ever seen, outdoing Julian Temple’s Pistols piece, "The Filth and the Fury". It’s edited tightly with nary a second wasted.

Perhaps one of the best moments is the Hudson’s store meeting its just desserts.

There’s considerable "back story" to the whole piece. Suffice to say it’s a fascinating tale. Of course, the Five continue to generate their own controversy to this day (witness the Levi’s sponsorship saga).
We say our goodbyes (I have another commitment) and David sees me to the subway, me loaded up with promotional freebies. We make an undertaking to get together when the movie screens at the Melbourne Film Festival.

Evangelists and great people. We all owe them a debt for the blood, sweat, tears and dollars that they’ve sunk into their labour of love.

* * *

The House of Blues is like a theme park for diners who want a little music with their burgers and tourism experience. If the enormous portions – a hallmark of American food – don’t get ya, the souvenir shop might.

I’m here for a work function and none of the people I’m with have heard of Queens of the Stone Age, for whom a long line of punters has formed outside the entrance to the upstairs auditorium.

It’s sold out anyway, and I have to make do with a fairly straight-up-and-down blues band in the dining area. First, they’re preceded by a radio station promotion, featuring a very commercial Cheryl Crowe-type singer and a polished band. She and the QOTSA guys look a little out-of-place, sitting alongside each other for an obligatory disc-signing.

My night moves on to a claustrophobic piano bar (that looks mafia-owned, judging by the framed "family" photos on the wall) and, later, a subterranean nightclub.

* * *

If it’s Sunday night it must be Chicago. I’m free of my night-time meeting and heading to a place, somewhere in the northern 'burbs, this time to see Sonny Vincent.

Sonny first came onto the I-94 Bar radar screen a few years back with the release of "Parallax Wonderland", a staggeringly great album full of fire and guitar. We’d corresponded sporadically since and it was serendipity that I we happened to be in the Windy City at the same time.

Sonny had been crisscrossing the country as support to Rocket From the Crypt, using members of that band as his backline. The main act has the night off and Sonny’s headlining in his own right, with the hand drawn posters at the venue promising an evening of songs from his old band, third-wave NY punk minimalists the Testors. We had an arrangement to hook up at the venue, so I jump a cab.

This is Sonny’s first run of US shows in seven or eight years as he plies his trade almost exclusively in Europe these days, but there’s a reasonable crowd in evidence as support band The Baseball Furies take the stage, their faces obscured in stockings. They play a cross between oi and new wave, tinny keyboard sounds bouncing off crude chants.

What is it about Chicago punks and their dress sense? Tonight’s indispensable fashion item appears to be striped ties and white shirts, a la Walter Lure of the Heartbreakers. Sonny strides in about an hour before showtime and we catch up over a beer or three in the upstairs band room.

Measured by his music, Sonny seems the World’s Angriest Punk. In person, he’s charming and unbelievably enthusiastic about The Rock and hearing about its various permutations on the other side of the world. I’m flattered he’s such a regular visitor to the Bar.

We’re sitting around a conversation circle with a club owner from Cleveland, a veteran of the Bowery scene who’s made the trip up especially for this show. Also there are Wanda Chrome (Wanda Chrome and the Leather Pharaohs. aka Marie) and her partner Cliff, who plays drums for the band. Discussion turns to various distractions of life on the road and local customs. Before we know it, it’s showtime.

I can’t name every Testors tune aired but "Let’s Get Zooed Out" and "Ultra MK", the latter with its seething "Secret Agent Man" guitar line, are obvious stand-outs. "What I Want" is razor sharp, and so "Surfing Motherfucker". The Rocket from the Crypt guys might not share his dress sense but do a great job as backing band. The guitarist in particular enjoys seeing Sonny swap his Les Paul, temporarily, for a Strat when a string breaks.

For a guy who leans on a lot of outside help on his albums, Sonny’s soling is more than up to the job.
It’s a savage set and the appreciative crowd is right into it, moshing hard and making photography difficult. (I do my best and you can catch "What I Want" here).

Sonny’s customized vinyl jacket (he bought a stack of them in Germany and hand applied studs and Testors logo) comes off early in the set and ends up being given to a fan. Post-gig, a steady stream of punters makes its way to Sonny.

One teenage girl is clearly starstruck. Tired and still trying to wind down, Sonny is kind to a fault and his generosity is astounding. He loads her up with T-shirts and music, including his latest CD,"The Good The Bad The Ugly", all gratis. It doesn’t do anything for the bottom line of the tour but it makes one fan very happy. She’s still gushing as she makes her way to her waiting boyfriend’s car.

Sonny settles into a booth and beers are consumed while stories are told. He has a 10-hour ride ahead of him to Kansas City for one more show. There are a handful of further US dates and then it’s back to Europe (he lives in Germany and the south of France) for more shows, with ex-Voidoid Ivan Julian in a three-guitar line-up.

I buy a copy of his latest single for the jukebox from the merch man - "My Guitar" b/w "Funny Now (She Blew It)" on Flapping Jet - and we say our goodbyes. (You can catch a clip of Sonny in action in our TV Lounge).


* * *

I’m in a town car being taken on the 40-minute drive from Detroit Metro Airport to my digs, about two miles outside Ann Arbor. It’s just above zero Celsius and it’ll later snow, though the tiny flakes scarcely make it to the ground before melting.

We’re on I-94 and it isn’t full of holes, contrary to the Tek/Jones song.

My hotel is in the southern fringes of A2, within sight of that ubiquitous American innovation and gift to the world, a shopping mall, and not far from the site of the Funhouse, which was home to the Stooges, circa 1968. It’s now a drive-through bank, though the high-rise apartment building in which the Raw Power Stooges lived still dominates downtown A2. (You’ll find it mentioned in the opening chapter of Iggy’s "I Need More" when he scopes a nearby bank, waiting for opening time so he can cash a cheque and cop drugs, only to be arrested on suspicion of murder).

This is a student town, hosting the University of Michigan, and also one of the cultural touchstones for the I-94 Bar, being home for both the Stooges and the MC5, for a time. A bloke called Deniz Tek also learned some of his musical chops here, growing up in the local musical hothouse before moving to Australia in ’72 and taking those influences with him.

The first and only time I’ve been to Michigan was in 1986 as a backpacker with an air pass. I touched down at Detroit Metro, and immediately rang a few record stores to see if Destroy All Monsters were playing. Disappointed they weren’t, I flew to New York to catch the Celibate Rifles at CBGB (yep, the "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" album show).

I’m here in Michigan for a meeting in A2, prior to flying on to NYC for more business.

* * *

The Blind Pig is easy enough to find, down on First on the fringe of the Ann Arbor commercial district. Tonight, I’m in the downstairs Eight Ball Saloon, waiting for Scott Morgan, late of the Rationals, Sonic’s Rendezous Band and his own solo groups and more recently leader of the Hydromatics and Scott Morgan’s Powertrane.

If Sonic’s Rendezvous Band had mythic status in Australia it’s as much due to the reasonable availability of their "City Slang" single (at least in bootleg form) in the 1980s as for anything else. Issued in stereo form with a mono cut on the B side, it’s as powerful a slice of aural carnage as rock and roll can be, a herd of guitars stampeding over the top of Sonic Smith’s enigmatic (and buried) vocal. A smattering of lo-fi boots and live tapes enhanced the mystery until MacAborn’s excellent "Sweet Nothing" official release in the ‘90s.

The plan is to catch up with Scott at seven, sink a few beers and catch part of jazz guitarist John Schofield’s set upstairs before adjourning to the rehearsal rooms a two-minute walk down the road where Powertrane are set to practice. Scott walks in a few minutes after the appointed time, instantly recognisable in trademark beret (just like on the cover of "Rock Action"), and overcoat.

Scott’s friendly and laidback, unassuming and modest. He's obviously a popular fixture at the Pig and Eight Ball Saloon where all the staff know him. We chat before dropping by the music room upstairs to watch Schofield and band at work.

If your standing on the circuit can be measured by the size of your tour bus, Schofield is doing OK. The coach, with its onboard sleeping bunks and loungeroom, dominates the kerb outside. Onstage, he and his band turn on some stunning stuff and the crowd that’s three-quarters filled the Pig is right into it. Samples augment the jazzy free-forming. We catch about 40 minutes before moving on.

The rehearsal room is a labyrinth of disused factory rooms right by the infamous railway bridge which wrote off the Stooges equipment truck (and almost did likewise to Scott Asheton in the process). I’m later to hear that the rehearsal complex not long for this world, the site being earmarked for a YMCA. The loss of cheap rehearsal space is likely to be a bodyblow for A2 bands, starved of venues as they are.

Powertrane bass player Chris "Box" Taylor is already in the room, which is their regular one and decorated with an amazing collection of Scott Morgan Band/Sonic’s Rendezvous Band/MC5 handbills. I’m in awe, but Scott seems to be off-handed about the need to carefully take them all down when the boom is finally lowered on this place.

"Box" is a friendly, forthright young guy, fanatically into the Real Rock and Roll for which Powertrane so obviously carries a torch. He also plays guitar for local punk band Mazinga, whom I’m given a disc of and which I later find to be pretty good. Next to arrive is guitarist Robert Gillespie, looking very rock in yellow-lensed sunglasses and black jumper. I feel like I’m intruding, but he and Chris make me feel at home.

Robert’s an absolute Stones fanatic and tells me about the last L.A. show he caught. It also transpires he saw the MC5 show in front of the freeway overpass – the footage of which blew me away in "A True Testimonial". It was one of two that he caught as a youngster, growing up on Detroit’s East Side. He’d later go on to play with Rob Tyner (you can here their first live show on Motor City Music’s Rob Tyner Band release), which was an experience in itself, he says.

Robert’s only here for a couple of hours, with an 11-hour drive pending tomorrow to Upstate New York where he’s playing with Mitch Ryder and band. Ryder is something of a Michigan music elder statesman. He and Robert spend at least one tour a year in Germany where Mitch does major business. Robert also slips me a copy of the latest Ryder disc, a live one recorded in Germany. I later find it to be pretty good stuff, dotted with scorching guitar.

Everyone’s ready to roll but MIA is drummer Andy Frost. A couple of mobile – sorry – cell phone calls later, he’s located at some bar about 20 minutes away. A lift is arranged and easygoing Andy’s soon behind his traps, impervious to drummer jokes and counting his way in.
What follows is a blissful 70 minutes – the current live set – which includes a sprinkling of new songs, as well as selections from the back catalogue. "Love and Learn" is one of the latter tunes and rocks righteously.

The band is tight and works extremely hard, even in the practice room. Robert is right into the new ones and at close quarters is an amazingly fluid player who makes it look deceptively easy. There’s also "Taboo", a song Robert wrote that was on Rob Tyner’s "Bloodbrothers" album in the early ‘90s. (There’s an album that could have benefited from the Gillespie touch, given that guitarist Joey Gaydos overplays to the hilt).

"Taboo" is another Gillespie-penned song that features in current Powertrane sets. It’s one of eight tunes the band has so far put down in the studio for a forthcoming album (and the rough mixes I’ve heard mark this disc as a monster). There's another Tyner-Gillespie song, "Inner Flight Head Royale", on the next Powertrane album. Stand-outs of the newies that I hear tonight are "Chilly Willy is Missing" and "Beyond the Sound".

Rehearsal room sound systems aren’t conducive to great audio but I get the feel of what’s going down. It’d take more than shitty foldback to collar Mr Morgan’s soaring pipes, and Chris and Andy lock in as an engine room with horsepower AND swing. Add a bunch of screaming kids and a Barmaid telling me to turn it down and it'd feel a lot like my living room.

Robert cuts rehearsal short before "City Slang" but I’m not complaining. My ears are still ringing when Box and Robert make their goodbyes and Scott, Andy and I adjourn to the Eight Ball for a few wind-downs.

Andy’s full of questions about Australia and we have a real cool time, even though we’re all deaf by now. Andy’s fascinated by sharks and the ocean, open water being something he’s seen only rarely. I forget that Lake Huron’s the closest thing to a sea they have around here.

Andy and Scott cross paths with a Canadian band, in town to play one of the handful of venues left here. They’ve been tagged as an act that plays both sorts of music – country AND western – much to their amusement, after they issued an album of bluegrass underground cover songs.
Conversation continues until the early hours.

* * *

It’s lunchtime on a Friday and Ben Waugh’s on the line. Singer, guitarist and central fixture in the Sillies, the band that billed itself as Detroit’s first punk band (before anyone else beat ‘em to it), he’s not waking up. I didn’t want to ring too early, as Ben’s not an early riser.

He hasn’t been to bed.

Ben and I have been trading e-mails for a year or so, during which the Sillies re-grouped (or Ben and LA-based keyboardist Kurse-Ten did, with new players) to do some Vans Warped Tour shows in support of their retrospective and worthy album, "America’s Most Wanton".

Ben lives in Detroit, "within spitting distance of I-94", and makes arrangements to borrow a car on Saturday night to meet at the Blind Pig, where John Sinclair is playing. Ben says the MC5 drummer Dennis Thompson is keen to meet me and he’ll try and track him down.

(This is also the weekend of the Hash Bash, a long-established gathering of heads, which starts with a rally in the University of Michigan grounds and ends in various shows around the place.)

The other arrangement for Saturday night is a rendezvous with Mike Leshkevich, part-time head honcho of Motor City Music. Mike’s doing a lot to keep a flame of ‘70s Michigan music alive. More on that later.

I call Scott Morgan’s cell phone and find him at Kinko’s, packaging up posters for a forthcoming show in Chicago. We hook up and head for his parents’ home, where Mrs Morgan is all warmth and hospitality. Scott’s dad arrives soon after. The living room walls are dotted with memorabilia from their sons’ careers, including a gold record for "Hi-Visibility", the Hellacopters album on which Scott contributed lyrics to "Hurtin' Time".

A contact in NYC has posted Scott a copy of the official publication wrapping up the 2002 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction because it has a feature on blue-eyed soul, in which the Rationals are spotlighted in text and with a picture. This is the first Hall of Fame wrap I’ve seen and it’s pretty impressive. The rest of Scott’s time is taken up catching up on e-mails and posting material to venues.

A Powertrane T-shirt is generously thrown my way, from the 2002 tour with Dr Tek and Ron Asheton.
Scott does call Ron and ask him to come and meet me but only reaches the answering machine. We find time to pay a visit to the MC5 House (site of the mythical Stooges Wax Museum) at 1510 Hill Street. It’s now a community facility of some sort, having thrown off its frat house status. Mike Davis looks like he had the pick of the rooms, away to the side with its own access.

I’m keen to find Discount Records, former employer of a young James Jewel Osterberg. Scott points it out – it’s now a café-restaurant – and recalls buying a jazz album, Yufeef Lateef's Detroit, from Iggy, from which a riff almost certainly mutated into the chord progression for "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

Maureen Ferrell is Scott’s girlfriend and lives in a smart looking home on A2’s west side. She’s charming and effervescent, quick-witted and quick to offer up a beer after Scott’s done the introductions. Maureen’s also Scott Morgan Music’s Minister for Information, with a library full of books and magazines and a perpetually open cable Internet connection. No surprise that Maureen used to teach and worked in database management.

We chat and I give Maureen and Scott a quick Australian geography lesson, via her atlas. Scott’s dream tour would be a run through Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. There are people keen to see it happen, so you never know.

Dinner’s spent over beers, wine and burgers at a local eatery (and the warning not to touch the extra hot chilli sauce is prescient). The conversation is lively and broad-ranging before Maureen makes her excuses and turns in. Scott and I adjourn to the Pig, where a hip hop band briefly holds our attention. There’s a lot of hip hop, and what locals term "jam bands", happening in A2, and I tell Scott that you’d be hard pressed to find either in the live context back home. The night ends in the Eight Ball Saloon.

* * *

The weather turns to shit on Saturday and I don’t make it out to the Hash Bash. I’m told it would have been all over by lunchtime anyway, so I do a bit of shopping.

That night, Mike Leshkevich arrives in the Eight Ball the next night dead on time. He’s a father-of-two in his 40s wearing the same leather jacket he used to go to shows to from 1972-78. We’re instantly on common ground, talking about some of our musical intersections.

Motor City Music is a part-time venture for Mike, who dropped out of the live scene for the best part of a decade. His label aims to put some of the great Detroit music of the recent past out there, and kicked off with the Rob Tyner Band disc. Releases followed by the Torpedos, the vehicle for the enigmatic Johnny Angelos, and the Punks, a bunch of guys who owed a lot to the Stooges.

A constant in the catalogue is Robert Gillespie. He’s become friends with Mike and played on the Torpedos and Rob Tyner band releases. One of his bands, Motor City Rockers that also numbered Romantics drummer/singer Jimmy Marinos, is the subject of a new release I’ve not heard on Motor City Music.

Mike’s heading to Yspilanti for a show at the Elbow Room, featuring the Bitter Pills and Gutterpunx. I’d probably hitch a ride if not for prior commitments to meet Ben Waugh. (As it turns out, there’s a mini riot at the show and the cops turn out to close it down). As well as running his label, Mike promotes shows by like-minded bands. One of the old bands on his label, The Punks, are still a going concern.

I wise up Mike on some of the Australian sounds he might like to hear and make an arrangement to send him some stuff on disc. Mike’s selection of "Starship" on the Saloon’s well-equipped jukebox is fitting, seeing we’re in a town that was a hotbed for the Sinclair-era Five. Post then, Mike still has fond memories of venues like the Second Chance (a couple of blocks away from where we are, though regrettably a disco these days). He's also a big fan of the Michigan Palace, R.I.P.

Ben arrives after a couple of hours, sans Dennis Thompson but brandishing a live Sillies video and some CDs by his alter ego, Scott Campbell. There was a plan for the Sillies to play a show while I was in town, but the band’s been shoved off the bill by some local politics.

I reckon Ben must have been 12 years old when he originally played in the Sillies, because he looks amazingly well preserved. We spend a while swapping stories. The Sillies did what Radio Birdman did in Sydney in the early days – got themselves banned from so many venues, they started their own. In the former’s case, it was a club called Bookies Club 870 - which Ben used to book for years.

(A listen later on to the Scott Campbell stuff reveals an influence for which there’s a clue on the Sillies video I was given. A Roger McGuinn interview was added as a filler, and there’s a Byrdisan influence on some of the Scott Campbell singer-songwriter material. Ben/Scott’s also a huge fan of the 1930s comedy duo Wheeler and Woolsey, a short film of whom also finds its way to video tape.)

The name "Ben Waugh" is a mystery no longer, by the way. It's pronounced "Ben-Wa" - and if you want to know what they are, take a course in Japanese or consult your local sex toys shop. Our meeting's all too short and Ben's an interesting bloke.

Scott Morgan’s arrival prompts a move upstairs to the Blind Pig, where John Sinclair has finished his set with a local jam band and is settling in near the bar. I found his spoken word discs interesting, if not essential, with the contributions by Wayne Kramer and his band the notable thing on "Full Circle", but thanks to Scott I do get to meet The Chief.

* * *

New York’s always an amazing city but snow in April is not usually on the cards. I cop four inches of it on my first night there, which puts paid to plans by Real O Mind Records chief Geoff Ginsberg to come up from Philadelphia. Pity, as I was looking forward to meeting Geoff in the flesh.

Business meetings apart, there’s a bit of spare time to have a look around one afternoon. I catch a subway to Astor Place, and cross-country it to St Mark’s Place.

Old punks complain about the gentrification of St Mark’s Place (and the Lower East Side). There certainly seems to be fewer music shops along the venerable strip this visit (although the quality is still high).

I move on by foot to the Bowery (which is tough going when it’s icy). The door at CBGB’s is open but the bar isn’t. Hilly Kristal is sitting in his "office" at the entrance, and directs me next door to the CBGB 313. Karen Kristal (his ex-wife) is in residence in her "office" at the end of the bar (what is it about these guys and work space accommodation?) There’s a 20-buck minimum on credit cards, so I move on to Manitoba’s, which is still to open. I make a vague plan to double back, but never do.

Next stop is The Mercury Lounge to scope a ticket for the Sahara Hotnights show that evening. Alas, it’s sold-out (no surprise when you see the modest size of the venue) so next port of call is Subterranean Records in Cornelia Street. Damage is done to plastic and it’s back to the hotel to pack. - The Barman