There are few words in New York that conjure up more musical history than ‘Bowery’. The moment I hear that word my mind races from the first time I stepped into the Bowery Ballroom to all the black and white photos of legend from the iconic CBGB. I started imagining the tiny packed rooms full of DIY bands and punk rock forefathers leaving nothing but blood, sweat, and beers all over the floors, and the crowds. I imagine Stiv Bators of the Dead Boys writhing on the floor, and when he comes up he’s chowing down on something found under the mic stand. I imagine primal screams and torn leather, I imagine the music I was raised on but too young to be allowed into such a venue back then. The kind of music that was every aspiring punk rocker’s call-to-arms. You know, the kind of music that gave teens the confidence to fly their middle fingers freely. The kind of music that made parents take notice, and fear what it was doing to their kids. Well, recently I got to experience the music I was raised on, just many years later and a few doors down from where the legendary CBGB once stood, as the newly reformed Dead Boys brought their devastating punk anthems to the Bowery Electric.
Opening the night was Brooklyn’s own Tuff Sunshine. A three piece rock band that edges closer and closer to metal with each increasingly jagged lick by guitarist and lead singer Johnny Leitera. The band welcomed back its original drummer Ani Cordero for this night and you’d never know she hadn’t been around lately.
Next up was a band that is steeped in the punk rock history of New York City. The kind of band that has seen that scene since its inception and moves it forward: Pale Moon Gang. Members of this band have played with legends like the Clash at their height. But this band isn’t just a snapshot of the New York that once was, it’s part of the musical heartbeat that pumps blood through this city today.
Lead singer/guitarist Richard Dev Greene, and bassist Luke Miller have rock in their DNA and exude a sense of style and danger that takes an audience to the edge. Guitarist K.G. Noble shreds with an effortless efficiency and plenty of wild hair flips. And drummer Brian Vigilone (filling in for Daniel Vozzo), hammers away with an intensity that makes you wonder when he’ll break through the skins.
There is something amazing about watching an artist play through tragedy. How they channel unimaginable grief into a performance that moves audiences in ways they weren’t expecting. That’s what Dev Greene did that night as he paid tribute to his late nephew Matt with a pulsating rendition of ‘Live Like Kings’.
And then it was time for the Dead Boys. It took one second of that iconic riff from ‘Sonic Reducer’ to get the sold out crowd moshing, screaming, and rushing the stage. I mean, let’s face it, when you start out with, what is maybe the greatest American punk rock anthem (and any complaints about that ranking can be squarely directed at my middle finger) you better just buckle up hope to be in one piece by the time the show ends.
This incarnation features original Dead Boys, Cheetah Chrome and Johnny Blitz, who decided to get the band back together late last year to tour for the 40th anniversary of their watershed album Young Loud and Snotty. And this time they brought along punk rock legend Ricky Rat to man the bass, Jason Kottwitz on guitars, and vocalist Jake Hout to fill the irreplaceable shoes of the late, great Stiv Bators. Any worries about Hout should be squarely cast aside. He stepped into the void and delivered his own brand of danger that definitely won over the rabid fans slamming into each other all night long.
This was a show that was as much about the crowd as it was the legendary band on stage. From the young man who came all the way from China to belt out as many vocals as he could when tried to commandeer the stage and mic, to one spry silver haired elder daring the pit for the chance to soak it all in. And soaked you’d be by the end of the night, in beer, sweat, and pretty much everything but blood.
Hout was a charismatic engine on stage, jumping, writhing, and furiously screaming out the songs that came to help define a defiant generation and obviously still resonate today. He was ever ready to jump into and on top of the crowd, as he was to share the mic with them. And if you looked over to the lead guitarist on the far right, or the drummer in the back, you’d see living legends in Blitz and Chrome hitting pitch perfect notes with the love, care, and rage they deserve.
This was the kind of night that proves that time travel isn’t a theoretical problem from quantum physicists. All you need to make it work is bands that can bring the past back to life, and move it forward into the present, as long as they’re still loud and snotty, that is.
Article: Omar Kasrawi