Every now and then, a show comes along that makes you glad you got off the couch and into the club. That’s how I felt on May 5 at Long Branch mainstay, The Brighton Bar. The Brighton Bar is my personal alma mater. I grew up there, forming lasting friendships and cutting my musical teeth throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Folks from all walks of life filled that room in the heyday of punk and new wave and the Brighton’s wall of fame is a veritable who’s who of bands that have gone on to bigger things, survived in some different form or have disintegrated into that timeless void of memories. Whatever the case might be, the Brighton Bar still thrives.
The Green Parrot was another phenomenal room that was not so lucky. I believe it is now a hospital parking lot. But in its day, the Parrot was a music scene Mecca that shared many of the same bands and fans as the Brighton. A former restaurant and discotheque, the Green Parrot was an extremely popular venue in the late ‘80s. WHTG considered the Green Parrot home and their best DJs, including Matt Pinfield, Rich Robinson, Loretta Windas and Mike Marrone, spun vinyl there seven days a week.
Located on Route 33 in Neptune, the Green Parrot was easy to get to and easy to get out of late at night, after a couple of dozen beers. But what really made the Green Parrot a name that is still talked about today, was the bold, Yaccarino family booking policies that mixed local artists with some of the biggest bands of the era.
The list of well-known bands that played the little Jersey room was a veritable A-List of rock and rollers. Groups like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Grace Pool, Faith No More, Richard Barone, The Feelies and Joe Jackson sideman, Graham Mayby, all graced that little stage in Neptune.
And, of course, Springsteen is well remembered for his impromptu jam with Jah Love & The Survivors. But the mainstay locals are what really kept that place hopping. The Whirling Dervishes, Mischief, Red House, Bigger Thomas and In Between Dreams kept folks occupied between superstars all week long. The Green Parrot’s run was fast and furious, starting around 1987 and lasting until 1990, when the doors finally closed and the music ceased to exist on Route 33.
But even after 30 years, some bands and bars do manage to hang on in the minds of the fans. Like Halley’s Comet that shows up once every 76 years, the rare brilliance of the original pioneers coming back to wow the crowds is something wonderful to behold. And to me, there isn’t a better way to celebrate the music of the ‘80s than by hosting the show at the still reigning Brighton Bar.
The four bands on the bill are all pretty much defunct now, but, like the sweet Texas tea of The Beverly Hillbillies, they gurgled up from the depths to fuel this reunion.
Well Of Souls, featuring Tom Kanach attacked with their British bronzed set like a unit possessed. Kanach is still a passionate writer that plays in his 40s just as he did in his 20s. If there was one guy who hasn’t let time touch him too much, it’s Kanach. Young looking and in Mick Jagger shape, Kanach scissor kicked his way through favorites such as, “No More Rain,” “Sell My Soul,” “Something Tells Me” and “Killing Frost.” Kanach and crew commanded the stage with all the vigor of their youth. When I asked Tom about his thoughts on coming back he said, “Things really ended badly 25 years ago, so to me, it was great to reconnect with the band, play the songs that brought us together and heal the old wounds once and for all. Doing that in front of the old Brighton gang was the proverbial icing on the cake.”
It was also great to see one of my other favorite bands on the bill, The Wallbangers. The Wallbangers were not only good friends, but also shared the circuit with many important bands. The Wallbangers used their Brighton time to deliver street tough garage magic with Kenny Lembo’s straight up lyrics, and brother Frank’s no frills guitar blitzkriegs. This band cranked out childhood favorites such as “U Boy,” “Chant 26,” “Plastic On The Inside” and “Tiger In My Bed,” amongst others. The Lembo brothers may have been out of sight for the last couple of decades, but their passion and vitality made for a quick comeback on the Brighton stage.
The Whirling Dervishes live on through Don Dazzo and Bob Ardrey’s dark exploration of every luscious sound that probably exists in Roger Moore’s personal record collection. It was good to see them back and in excellent form. The band played songs such as, “Chill,” “Strange And Wonderful,” “Little Finger,” and “Snob Vs. Snob.” Frontman Don Dazzo says, “I was really happy with the performances and the people who came out to see us. It was obvious the bands all took to heart their respective material and actually rehearsed! Of course, the biggest thrill was to see the Wallbangers again as they were truly on the shelf and heading towards oblivion. Special thanks to Greg for keeping the home fires lit for geezers like us to occasionally do this kind of thing.”
The X-Men, fronted by Brighton Bar owner Greg Macolino, was a sight to be seen. As a guitar enthusiast, watching the Hinge (Jack Pitzer) attack the guitar is like watching Bruce Lee throw down some Jeet Kune Do. The band cranked through a solid set of cynical, hardcore gems such as, “I Walk Alone,” “Rear Admiral,” “Kid Blast” and “Parasite.”
Yet another band that this writer feels should be more visible on the current scene. Macolino said, “Playing with these guys for 30 years is sort of like an old shoe, very comfortable. And it’s like that playing the Brighton too. We’ve played there so much it feels like playing at home, and it was great seeing the old faces. I loved the Green Parrot in its day and we saw many great bands at that room.”
The Green Parrot Reunion was well attended by regulars from the old school guard. It was great to see so many familiar faces supporting these bands and having a good time. However, it was disappointing to see that the current crop of bands and performers didn’t show up to see where they came from and witness the style of the bands that paved the way for what goes on now. But so be it. In the end, it did little to diminish the super charged atmosphere of a night that paid homage to some of New Jersey’s original rock and roll scenesters.
As for the Green Parrot, it will live on in the bands and fans that called it a haven for those fast and fiery years. Perhaps Judi Yaccarino will continue to bring this series back for the generations that truly missed New Jerseys best time period of original music.
In the meantime, the Brighton Bar is still on Brighton Ave in West Long Branch. Go check it out and join the family. For more information on the Green Parrot or possible future shows at the Brighton, head over to brightonbar.com