‘Blank Generation: A Night Of 70s NY Punk’, Saturday December 30th 2017
FOXES Magazines has organized some very special nights in Los Angeles lately, I have attended their Batcave event a few weeks ago, when they had decided to recreate the ambiance of the famous London nightclub, and they also had an Andy Warhol’s Factory Lives!’ last month. The theme of last night was ‘Blank Generation: A night of 70s NY Punk’ and an attempt to recreate the New York influential decade at this same DIY warehouse location.
The 70s in NYC have been so influential that the songs of this period are still very well alive in our present culture, who hasn’t heard about the Velvet Underground, the Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie or the New York Dolls to only cite a few? The new generation of Los Angeles local bands had gathered at the new Non Plus Ultra location to cover the classics, and more obscure songs (to me), that you swear to have heard a million times without remembering the title or the performers. Do you remember this one that has ‘radio on, radio on’ in repeat in the chorus? With this throbbing driving theme and this monochord tone? it took me a while, it wasn’t a song by the Sex Pistols (although they covered it) but ‘Roadrunner’ by the Modern Lovers!
Two bands opened the night, first Tenement Rats, and a very explosive brand of punk, ran through the set with heavy muscles and sweat as if they were running for their lives. But their garage rock anger was real, and they were playing in a sort of 70s NYC backyard. Then, Girl Tears may have been as loud as them, but their bullet-like songs seemed to be doing a speed competition with each other, while slaughtering the place and abruptly ending. In a sense, you could tell why theses bands had been picked for the night, although I expected covers right away!
The night was dedicated to 70s New York punk rock and present day Los Angeles punk rock was there to sing the classics. Each of them ripped the songs apart with excitation and happiness, and you have to excuse me if I don’t have all the song titles, because after being almost knocked out by a mic stand that fell down on my skull during a thunderous performance by Josh Landau, things haven’t been very clear. Joke apart, Egrets on Ergot’s Adam Brooks tore down a cover of suicide (”Ghost Rider”) with his usual angsty style, then, the house band, which consisted of Andrew Taylor and John Tyree (Cheap Tissue), Christopher DiPino (The Warlocks) and Greg Foreman (The Pharmacy /ExStains) changed the tone of the night with a blasting rendition of The New York Dolls’ ‘Pills’ and The Dead Boys’ All This And More’. Of course the big attraction of the night was punk legend Lydia Lunch whom I knew very little about I have to admit. But before Lydia, Arrow de Wilde (of Starcrawler) became all bloody during her crazy psych-cover of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ ‘Chinese Rocks’, Guy Blakeslee (of The Entrance Band) screamed his way through the Modern Lovers’ ‘Roadrunner’in a triumphant manner, and Kate Clover (of Ex Sage) ripped another brilliant hair-flying Blondie cover followed by Josh Landau (of The Shrine) and some mind-blowing guitar shredding by the band, plus a jump in the pit to duet with Arrow. The Ramones’ ‘I Wanna be Sedated’ was sung by Fox Magazine’s editor Julian De La Celle, but, very appropriately, Saturday was Patti Smith’s birthday, and Laena Geronimo (of Feels) truly did a perfect cover of Smith’s ‘Gloria’, a slow burn going crescendo in fury, with intonations so close to the original it was scary.
Lydia Lunch came on stage with a two-packs-a-day raucous voice, and immediately a bunch of young girls with black hair, ribbons and punk outfits came very close to the stage, and even climbed the stairs to be able to touch her. Lunch threw a ‘Let me tell you a story about David Byrne’, and did the recognizable-at-the-first-note Talking Heads-classic, ‘Psycho Killer’, moving left from right at the edge of the stage, and interacting with her audience as very few performers do.
She said ‘Let me tell you a story about Richard Hell’, before performing ‘Blank Generation’, ‘That bitch also used to run away from me when I was 17!’ She was screaming, moaning, while the young crowd was trying to eat the iconoclastic no-wave goddess alive. She was herself getting very close to these young girls and some interesting tongue action followed. Her last song was a Suicide cover (‘Harlem’), a long art-noise throbbing one with Lydia wailing her way out with these girls still hung to her black dress. Her short set was brutal, raw and aggressive, she looked several times right at my lens, and I don’t think I get to see her smile once. But why would she have smiled after all? There are so many reasons to be angry and stay angry and she seemed to be one furious woman swallowing the public with rage, and fully aware of her place in the history of New York scene post punk. She looked like someone not to be messing with, someone who can survive us all, even with her chain-smoker voice, after all she had just called Richard Hell ‘that bitch’. Despite the fact she fled the US more than a decade ago, she was here to remind us we can still be angry in this country and we should, she was there to let us know that the 70s cultural rebellion is still happening.