Monday, May 18, 2009

Punk Rock Weekend, Part One

We may be a week away from the Memorial Day weekend celebrations, but I just had my own holiday weekend a bit early - a three day excursion to see a couple of good old British punk bands, The Damned and The Business. One of the nice things about living in south-central Pennsylvania is that it is easy to get to a number of regular stops on most bands' itineraries: Washington DC is about a two and a half hour drive; Baltimore is an hour closer than that. You can get from here to Philly in an hour and a half as well, or keep going another hour east to the Jersey shore. An hour west puts you in Harrisburg, PA; three hours north and you're in the heart of Manhattan. This weekend saw a trip to New Jersey, back across to Harrisburg, down to Baltimore and back to Harrisburg before heading back home. Here is my report from the road:

The Damned show on Friday night in Asbury Park, NJ was one of the make-up dates from shows missed back in January when singer Dave Vanian came down with the flu; it was also their final US show before heading back to England. Our plans were to stay overnight in New Jersey. We learned the hard way last time that New Jersey is not a state in which to just "try to find a hotel that night." In fact, last time we wound up driving all the way back into PA before finding a place with vacancies! This time we planned ahead, and made reservations at the Red Roof Inn in Tinton, about five miles outside of Asbury Park. Red Roof is famous among my group for having signs with letters out, so we refer to it alternately as either the Ed Oof or D Oof Inn, but for about $85 a night it's hard to beat.

The Stone Pony in Asbury Park sits right on Ocean Avenue. As I mentioned before, it normally takes about two and a half hours to get there from here. Normally. Don't know what was going on Friday, but it sure wasn't "normal". From Lancaster, PA through the PA/NJ border traffic was insane - bumper to bumper stop-start traffic that added an extra 45 minutes to our trip. But we got there, and promptly found ourselves a spot at the bar. At a bar table right beside us sat Andrew Pinching, better known as "Pinch". Formerly the drummer for The English Dogs, Pinch has been drumming with The Damned since 1999. We had thought ahead and brought some records along hoping to get them signed; we asked Pinch if he wouldn't mind signing some English Dogs records. He chuckled when I produced my copy of Mad Punx and English Dogs for his autograph. "Ah, the classic!" he laughed. Pinch turned out to be very friendly and very funny. He sat and talked with us for quite awhile before excusing himself to head backstage and prep for the set.

Pinch signing an English Dogs record.

No sooner had he disappeared than walking through the club came Captain Sensible himself. As luck would have it, we had chosen to sit at the end of the bar by the door to the bands' rooms, and were therefore in a perfect spot to meet and talk to everyone as they came through. The Captain, of course, always seems to enjoy talking with his fans; I had met him before about four years ago at a show and gotten into a conversation about the music of The Cowsills with him. This time around, he thanked us for braving the three-plus hours of traffic to come see them play, adding, "It's always a good idea to try to see us play before we're all dead." My friend PS asked if The Captain would send Monty out to meet us, because PS's wife just loves Monty and would be overjoyed to meet him. Monty, of course, is Monty Oxymoron, who has played keyboards with The Damned since 1996. The Captain promised to send him out, but warned, "He's a little eccentric..."

The Captain and me.

Now, understand, when Captain Sensible calls you eccentric, you're well beyond just quirky! Monty appeared in short order, looking a bit disheveled with his wild hair and constant nodding of his head. He never said a word (prompting the comment that if he had, his voice would probably sound like Mr. Bean's), but happily posed for pictures and signed Mrs. PS's ticket stub.

Monty is a little eccentric.

Finally, as the first opening band was getting ready to take the stage, Dave Vanian himself comes walking by. Like the other band members, Dave was happy to say hello and chat for a bit. How incredibly awesome to get meet and talk to virtually the whole band (only bassist Stu West was missing from the pre-show festivities)!

Talking with Dave Vanian.

The opening bands were, honestly, underwhelming. The first band, Electric Frankenstein, was musically strong, but I really didn't care for the singer; the second band, The BellRays, I could have done without altogether. But we were there for one reason: to see The Damned, and they did not disappoint! A solid 90-minute set included classics ("Love Song", "Neat Neat Neat", "New Rose") as well as new material ("Dark Asteroid", "Little Miss Disaster"), and even a song PS requested, "Perfect Sunday", which Vanian indicated was "a request for someone I met at the bar earlier."

I managed to take about two dozen photos and about fifteen minutes worth of video. I pieced together the following clip from the video I took. Unfortunately, the sound in the club was so loud as to be overpowering for my cheapo camcorder's mic, so apologies in advance for the distorted sound:

All in all, a great night, and one that I would easily put in my Top Five shows of all time. And this was only the first night of the Punk Rock Weekend -- the following night we would be in Baltimore to see The Business. Would it compare? You'll have to wait for part two to find out...

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  1. Sounds like a good time so far! Love a good rockin road trip!

  2. glad you had a great time Bryan! :) a good concert weekend is good for the soul.

  3. What a great time you've had. Hope you'll have a great time too at Baltimore.