Thursday, June 07, 2007

Well-Rounded Radio Book Review: The Show I'll Never Forget

Book Review: The Show I'll Never Forget (2007, Da Capo Press)

How to you write a review about a book filled with writings from esteemed novelists, writers, and musicians writing about inspirational or life-shifting concerts? You don't.

I enjoyed reading this book not because I learned that much about music, but that it confirms, beautifully and lyrically, what an important element music is in so many of our lives and our collective and individual growth and maturation.

Some highlights include Rick Moody on The Lounge Lizards, Chuck Klosterman on Prince, David Gates on James Brown, and Bruce Bauman on Television. For a full list of the contributing writers and the artists they write about here.

The show I'll never forget? Well, I wrote about my R.E.M experience at New York's Ritz in 1983 a few months back as part of my interview with The Rudds, but the second one that comes to mind was The Fetchin' Bones at Maxwell's in Hoboken, New Jersey sometime in 1984.

Their debut album, Cabin Flounder, had come out a few weeks or months earlier on DB Records and it consumed me. Don Dixon had produced it and it's hard to explain what the music sounds like. Part punk, part country, part soul, part ska, part funk, there wasn't a bad track on it. The band dressed in thrift store threads that were not the work of any stylist or the like...these were truly some of the oddest clothes anyone could find in thrift stores and it suited the band's music perfectly.

Maxwell's is still one of my favorite venues. Small, intimate, not fancy in the least...and connected to a great restaurant where, during that period, you'd often get to see Peter Holsapple or Ira Kaplan or Glenn Morrow of any number of New York and Hoboken music luminaries.

In 1984, Hoboken was not yet quite as gentrified (yuppified? starbuckified? pottery barnified?) as it is today, so trekking out to Maxwell's (from Queens, NY, on the other side of Manhattan) always was a bit of an adventure whether you went by PATH train or by car, but after seeing a show or two there you knew it was well worth the ride down Northern Blvd or on the Long Island Expressway, cutting thru Manhattan, and out the Lincoln Tunnel. Loop around the exit ramps and a few side streets, and the smells of the Maxwell's coffee factory (now defunct...probably turned into lofts or condos or such) greeted you as you parked down the street from the club.

I don't recall who opened the show with Fetchin' Bones, but I remember going with my friends Stacey, Stefani, John, John, and John. I remember we ate at the restaurant (probably French onion soup, which was always among the best offerings) and I remember we drank some beers. That much I remember.

From about the second song in, we, and a group of about 20 to 25 other Fetchin' Bones converts in front of the foot-high stage at Maxwell's, starting dancing to the band's mix of punk, funk, ska, etc. Just as on record, Fetchin' Bones shifted gears so dramatically and convincingly live from one genre to the next that we literally were dancing, frugging, shaking, pogoing, and basically sweating for about the next 90 minutes. The Fetchin' Bones members, Marc Mueller, Hope Nicols, Dana Pentes, Aaron Pitkin, and Gary White, all did just about the same, albeit while they were playing music, but I remember having that kind of communal feeling where the line between the band and audience was pretty much non-existant.

In some ways that show was like a hundred other ones that I saw with this group of friends in New York, New Jersey, Long Island, etc., but the intensity of the joy of it all still strikes me as something amazing that many bands could not muster. At the end of the show I was utterly exhausted (and probably craving a cigarette) and completely in awe that a band could keep up that kind of energy for so long and never "lose" the audience. Impressive indeed.

We saw Fetchin' Bones a dozen times over the new handful of years at lots of other venues: The Cat Club on 13th Street and Broadway was a favorite, CBGB's, and we still all reminisce about the week we saw Fetchin' Bones, The Reivers, and Mojo Nixon + Skid Roper about five times during one of the CMJ Marathons, including a show where Stefani somehow finagled us tickets onto the Staten Island Ferry where we had a blast and ended up out in the harbor.

And, ironically, as I was writing this, I did a search online to find out that not only has Fetchin' Bones made Cabin Flounder available on iTunes and eMusic and other digital download sites, BUT they have also reunited and are playing their first reunion shows on June 30th at Amos' Southend in Charlotte, North Carolina and on July 1st at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta, Georgia. I am hoping a Boston visit is in the works...and I'll have to invite a new group of friends to see them when they come!

To find out more about "The Show I'll Never Forget" visit Da Capo Press Music Books.

To find out more about Fetchin' Bones, visit MySpace or buy their mp3s at iTunes, eMusic, or the like.

Back in a few days with our interview with Hallelujah the Hills.


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