When it was announced that The Wildhearts would be making a very rare US appearance in NYC to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Earth vs. The Wildhearts, I knew it would be hard for me to miss. I have been a devotee of the band since the late nineties and two of my closest friends and music compatriots, Dan in Minneapolis and Chris in Brooklyn, each list The WIldhearts as their favorite band of all time. Cheap Trick hold that title for me but The Wildhearts are definitely one of my favorites, as you may know if you read the lengthy tribute I posted earlier this year. The problem was I did not see how a trip to NYC would factor responsibly into my budget. Then Dan gave me a call: “I’m not going if you’re not going, but I’m going, so you’re going.” That’s called the process of deduction. My May 30th direct flight to Laguardia actually departed early and I landed in Queens at around 10:00 AM. I headed straight for the restroom and was welcomed to New York by a large quantity of fresh feces in the urinal. I utilized the adjacent urinal, sense of smell and peripheral vision be damned, then hopped on a bus into Manhattan, caught the subway downtown at 125th Street and before noon I was at Generation Records on Thompson Street just east of Washington Square Park.
I had fun flipping through every rock record in the store and walked away with a few gems: Face To Face by The Angels (this is the band’s second LP from 1978 and only two songs from it are on the 1980 US release called Face To Face by Angel City), Adam Bomb’s Fatal Attraction (Adam was in Seattle metallers TKO and his solo band for this record featured former Joe Perry stand-in Jimmy Crespo and former Riot/future Ace Frehley drummer Sandy Slavin) and the UK band Mr. Big’s 1976 album Photographic Smile.
After sitting in Washington Square Park for awhile watching two schizophrenic homeless women threaten each other with violence that did not appear to be forthcoming I decided to venture further downtown to see the new building being erected at the World Trade Center site. Majestic, I must say.
I also endured the shockingly tight security at the unfinished 9/11 memorial. Thankfully they stopped short of a rectal exam.
At this point I hopped on the subway, got off at 23rd Street, managed to catch a ridiculously crowded bus and soon found myself at the site of the famous loft where KISStory was born.
The band’s makeshift rehearsal space was located at 10 E. 23rd St.
The former site of the loft had until recently been occupied by a comic book store, Manhattan Comics, which I discovered has closed.
I ventured inside the building and was stopped by a man who told me that the room where KISS once rehearsed and experimented with make-up and costume designs was locked and he did not have a key. He seemed unfazed by my trespass, I’m guessing he’s used to dorks like me wandering in off the street mumbling about KISS. Dejected I began the long walk down 23rd Street to the corner of 23rd and 8th Avenue where the photo that graces the cover of KISS’ third (and best) album Dressed To Kill was taken.
Of course there are four corners at the intersection and much has changed in the forty years since the photo was taken but I believe (hope) that pictured below is the corner that the band was standing on. Maybe that’s the same light pole?
I capped off my Thursday NYC excursions with a trip to a Ramones landmark. My phone rang as I was taking a picture of the iconic streetsign. It was my friend Jerm, who asked “Where are you?”
“I’m at 53rd and 3rd.”
Friday afternoon my friend Chris, who was kind enough to put me up at his Brooklyn apartment, took me to a record store in Williamsburg called Academy where I found two records on my “must have” list, a rare 1985 power pop EP by The Mosquitos called That Was Then This Is Now (the title track of which was covered by The Monkees on their 1986 greatest hits set called Then & Now and became a surprise top twenty hit), and a rare record by The Wanderers called Only Lovers Left Alive. The Wanderers were essentially Sham 69 with Stiv Bators in place of departed singer Jimmy Pursey. The record is poppy punk somewhere between Stiv’s post-Dead Boys solo work and his subsequent work with Lords of the New Church.
Friday night I found myself back on 23rd Street to attend the first Wildhearts show at the Gramercy Theatre. The show was opened by Wildhearts mainman Ginger’s solo band, The Ginger Wildheart Band, consisting of guitarists Chris Catalyst from Eureka Machines and Rich Jones formerly of The Black Halos, bassist John Poole from the Cardiacs who has performed with Ginger and the Wildhearts off and on for a decade, vocalist Victoria Liedtke who is Ginger’s partner in his new project Hey Hello, and a young drummer they call Denzel. Ginger opened the set with a very nice song from his recent triple album 555% called “Just Another Song About Someone.” The band ran through a fun mix of Ginger solo material including a couple killer songs from his 2000 Silverginger 5 album (“Anyway But Maybe,” “Sonic Shake“), “Queen of Leaving” from his 2008 solo album Market Harbour, and a few songs from Ginger and Victoria’s new Hey! Hello! album (“Swimwear,” “Feral Days,” “How I Survived The Punk Wars“), among others.
The Wildhearts’ (Ginger, CJ, Jon Poole, and Rich Battersby) set opened with the playing of the band’s 1993 album Earth vs. The Wildhearts in its entirety, after which the band left the stage for a few minutes, then came back and performed another set consisting of a grab bag of Wildhearts tunes, including the early epic “Nothing Ever Changes But The Shoes,” amazing b-side “Beautiful Thing You,” “Turning American,” pop masterpiece “Someone That Won’t Let Me Go,” the wonderful “Mazel Tov Cocktail” from their most recent album Chutzpah, rarely performed 1996 single “Red Light Green Light,” chaotic “Caffeine Bomb,” classic b-side “29 X The Pain,” oddball b-side “Dangerlust,” and hit single “Geordie In Wonderland.” The band put on a great show for the comparatively small (considering the numbers the band draws elsewhere in the world) but enthusiastic crowd.
Saturday morning I made my way to the Manhattan sister store of the Academy record store I’d visited in Brooklyn the previous day and scooped up a couple more rare punk rock records, Storm the Reality Studios by Dead Fingers Talk and the second album by The Gas, From The Cradle To The Grave.
Saturday night The Wildhearts were set to perform again at the Music Hall in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a great venue.
The Ginger Wildheart Band opened again, repeating a few songs from the previous night’s set and pulling out some new ones like “Forget About It” from 555% and “Girls Are Better Than Boys” from Silverginger 5 and they closed out their set with a stunning rendition of the ambitious Wildhearts epic “Do The Channel Bop.” The Wildhearts set was a grab bag of classic tunes, they opened with P.H.U.Q.‘s “Nita Nitro” and also played some of my favorites like their comeback single “Vanilla Radio,” the stunningly brilliant “Sick of Drugs,” genuinely perfect “There’s Only One Hell,” and the awesome b-side”Hate the World Day.” They opened the encore with another surprise epic, the eight minute “Schizophonic.” The band’s former bassist Scott Sorry came out to guest on a few songs and that was that. The band sounded great and it was a killer set but my ears wanted more.
On Sunday morning I made my way back to Williamsburg to attend the Collect-I-Bowl Record Show at the Brooklyn Bowl.
My modus operandi at a record show these days is to walk around looking for boxes or bins labelled “Metal” or “Heavy Metal” and dig feverishly through them. I found the motherlode at one table, the problem being the prices on the records were sky high, the solution being they were “75% off.” Divide by four, that’s the price. I picked out at least thirty, but only bought six.
Sunday night it was time to go see The Ginger Wildheart Band’s headlining set at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan. It seems like the idea to have Ginger’s solo band open The Wildhearts shows was a last minute epiphany, and while it was an added bonus to the weekend it kind of pulled the rug out from under Sunday night’s solo show since those in attendance had already seen the band perform most of the songs over the course of the previous two nights, some of them twice already, but the band sounded great and I’ll watch Ginger sing his amazing songs any day of any week. They also stunned the crowd with an impromptu performance of The Wildhearts’ epic “Inglorious” and capped the night off with an unexpected Wildhearts b-side called “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong.”
During “How I Survived The Punk Wars” Ginger brought out his ten year-old son Taylor to play clarinet and sing along, the problem being that the chorus of the song is “Ask lots of questions, don’t eat the bullshit,” so Ginger declared that for one night only the lyrics were “Don’t eat the biscuit.” Hilarious. They finish the song and as young Taylor exited stage right the band blasted into the next song, “Taste Aversion,” the chorus of which goes like this: “Fucked from behind!” Ginger stopped. “Oh no! There’s loads of swears in this one.” One of the band members shouted out “Fun from behind!” And that’s how they sang it. It was a really fun set to watch, the band is insanely tight and some of the songs they had to pull off were not easy but they made it look that way. Killer set by a killer band, who could ask for more? They had fun, we had fun, and you were not going to find better quality songs being performed anywhere in the world that night.
Over the course of the weekend I witnessed Ginger and/or The Wildhearts impeccably perform more than FIFTY different Ginger compositions. Wow.
Monday morning before heading to Laguardia to catch our flights home my friend Dan and I made our way to E. 86th Street to the Park Avenue United Methodist Church.
Why? It was a door at this church that inspired the design of the door on the cover of KISS’ ill-fated 1980 “concept album” Music From The Elder.
My flight home took off almost exactly five hours after its scheduled departure time. The End.
Thanks to Dan for making me go and Chris for putting me up and the pictures from the shows!
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