Paul Collins, the renowned king of power pop, played a surprisingly intimate late night show at the newish small yet swanky Lower East Side basement venue called Berlin. “I love to play big gigs, but I live to play intimate shows like this,” said Collins during his set with his backing band the Beat, which, of course, is an homage to his late 70’s to early 80’s band called The Beat, for which he will forever be linked to in the epic tome of rock n’ roll history. So, within a basement that The Ramones infamously used to play back in the day, it all went down in spectacular party-down style.
There was also a rather epic grouping of local party bands opening the show to push it well into the wee hours of the morning. First up was the driving power trio of Jackal Onasis, who’s deliciously diverse sound derives from the polar opposite musicianship of the wild child drummer and vocalist Jordyn Blakely, the muscle-bound Ghoul Man on bass, and the bushy-bearded free-jamming guitarist and vocalist Alex Molini. Together, they mold into one seriously powerful unit, especially for the rocking range they reach.
Then it was time for Brooklyn’s expansive power party band NO ICE. With a bluegrass swing, a redneck stomp, and a catchy party punk vibe, they rise up and conquer the audience every time I’ve seen them play. It happens that vocalist and guitarist Jamie Frey arranged the whole extravaganza evening, and I must commend the man for really pulling off one hell of an amazing night of music. This band fills up a stage real tight with a literal ton of musicians bouncing around despite the lack of space, with Jamie’s right hand singer and fervorous revivalist Gwynn Galitzer, Jesse Katz on drums, Jacob Katz on bass, John-Severin Napolillo on guitar, Sean Spada on keys, Sam Braverman on guitar and everything else, and somehow I’m probably forgetting someone too. They’re dropping the single “Castle Braid” very soon as part of the Mama Coco’s Funky Kitchen Sampler, with a video Jamie directed with Brian Chillemi from Junk Boys that features members of local bands like Prima, Yin Yangs, Junk Boys, Pill, Bodega Bay, as well as Jackal Onassis. They’ve also recorded a full-length album called “Come on feel the NO ICE!” which is coming out this Spring. Also, they just released a single called “Eat This Heart (Summer Version)” b/w a cover of “Fuck And Run” by Liz Phair. They clearly have quite a lot brewing, so it’s going to be a whole lot of fun to drink them in this year.
Speaking of crowded line-up bands, Bodega Bay was up next, a 6-piece band that seems to play right besides NO ICE almost each time I’ve watched either. They remind me of a strange mixture of The Raincoats, Pavement, Pixies, certainly some cheeky The B-52s, and even NO ICE somewhat, although they definitely have more of a touch of electronic wackiness to a bouncy hoe-down of a party down sound. The populous group is comprised of guitarist/singer/songwriter Bodega Ben Hozie, drummer Taiko Aiko Masubuchi, vocalist Josef von Weikmann, vocalist and tiny synth SP-404 player Nikki Belfiglio du Jour, guitarist Chef Jacob Kaplan, and bassist Floor Tom. There was less of the wacky props and costumes than I have seen them utilize before at this show, but honestly I find it hard to believe they could shove another single item on the teeny red-lit stage. They certainly have their own artsy wild child rock style and they are always a fun experience to see.
Then, there was the man with all the hooks, Paul Vincent Collins. For the uninitiated and the clueless who may not know who Paul Collins is, what power pop was, or what kind of music they play, you may be surprised to find out that you probably know more than you think. He actually composed a number of highly infectious songs that went on to be hits as covers by other artists. For instance, his first band, the late 70’s punky pop trio called The Nerves, are still best remembered for “Hanging on the Telephone,” a song later made famous by Deborah Harry and Blondie. His second band called the Beat are often best known as the reason the seminal British two-tone ska band The Beat had to change their name to The English Beat when they started selling records in the US. However, they also are celebrated for a string of chart topping hits that defined what it was to be power pop: a 60’s stripped-down rock harkening both sides of the pond, heavy on melodies that stick in your mind like super glue on toffee, lots of party-inspiring lyrics, and of course enough guitar power-riffing to melt your brain. Even though they did receive a lot of play at the time, they are also often best known for their songs that others covered, like the wildly catchy “Rock N’ Roll Girl” that became an anthem among female-driven bands like The Muffs. Honestly, I personally first knew of them from being on the pinnacle party soundtrack for the movie Caddyshack from when I was just a wee impressionable lad.
Since the Beat split, Paul’s been split among touring and recording as a solo artist and bringing out the mantle of The Paul Collins Beat among his many musical adventures. The last time I saw him play he actually had the original Beat drummer Mike Ruiz on his crew, but now it appears to a largely younger crew of Ryan Masterson on lead guitar, Joi Beth on bass, and Vin Russoniello on drums. They may be a band that could pack much bigger venues, but Paul clearly revels in the more DIY lifestyle, and after all, his first tour with The Nerves was opening for the Ramones, so clearly it’s in his bones. They played many foot burning tracks like “The Kids Are The Same,” “Different Kind of Girl,” and even a newer hit called “I Need My Rock N’ Roll” had all The Kinks-inspired awesomeness of his old stuff. Still, it was a few songs in when he cranked out “Rock N Roll Girl” the place really lit off! It was so amazing to experience the packed basement room really erupt for this classic, which seemed like they dragged out to well over ten minutes. It was all far to amazing to express, so just go experience the King of Power Pop yourself, you won’t be sorry.
Article: Dean Keim