EAST VILLAGE, NY—At Bob Gruen’s annual birthday bash, rock royalty and the post-CBGB crowd joined forces to honor one of rock greatest photographers known for his intimate pictures of John Lennon, The Clash, Sex Pistols and anyone who was anyone in the ’70s. Adorning the walls at 2A Bar in the East Village were Gruen’s recent photos from 2014 and a sign that read, “Please don’t take these photos till 12 midnight!” Don’t you know by 12:01 not one was left. The photo giveaway was a testament to the man’s gracious spirit, as was the full blown, barroom revue that took place upstairs on a makeshift stage at the far end of the bar.
Gruen’s son Kris and friends played house band to the night’s star-studded review as D Generation singer and de facto mayor of Avenue A and the downtown rock scene, Jesse Malin, played MC to the night’s rocked-out affair that included stage appearances by Alice Cooper, Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), rockabilly icon Robert Gordon, Paul Collins (The Nerve), Brody Dalle (Distillers) and Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls). E-Streeter Little Steven and Debbie Harry put in appearances as well as John Lennon/Aerosmith producer extraordinaire Jack Douglass.
After a brief set of acoustified jammies by Kris Gruen, Cooper took to the makeshift stage for a killer “I’m Eighteen” that he sung with conviction of a pimpled teen. Jesse Malin then took over for a few numbers, then added from the stage, “Is Sneaky in the house?” as Billie Joe Armstrong took to the stage. They took on The Clash’s “Jail Guitar Doors” and the rest of the night was epoch. The songs were performed impromptu, on the fly and in the best spirit of punk. Throw in some blood, sweat and spit over three chords of carnal thunder and you get the picture.
Yelling out chords on stage, huddling between songs discussing changes and even singing lyrics from an iPhone that Armstrong did so gloriously bought us all back to the garage and the essences of what rock and roll is all about.
“Sheena Is A Punk Rocker,” “Chinese Rock,” The Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer” and “Hanging On The Telephone” with Paul Collins, who sang on the original version with The Nerve, had the crowd doing the cretin hop. By the time Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” went down, things turned into the blitzkrieg bop, ending an incredible night of power punk on Second Avenue just a stone’s throw from where the fabled dump we will all love and revere forever once stood. Thanks, Bob, and happy 69th birthday.