Snow, snow and more snow. Yes, that powdery white stuff has caused more problems than a clown car full of Amy Winehouse’s and tonight’s storm front was no exception. Multiple inches were bearing down fast and while that usually scares away the lightweights, the Stone Pony crowd and staff managed to turn a dismal night it into a rock and roll “school closing” extravaganza. Tonight was a homegrown event and featured several locals such as Agency, Colie Brice and the New Age Blues Experience, Captain James And The Pain and Dragster.
Agency started things off and quickly drew people front and center as they blasted through a cross selection of early material and settled into a helping from their current disc entitled Revolutions. Agency is a stand-alone band on the edge as far as playing, writing and direction. Not afraid to turn left when all go right, this is an example of a group that have survived in the path of many other disintegrations and I hope they continue.
The New Age Blues Experience grunted and groaned through their voodoo stew, using unpretentious Strats and sax to grease your weather weary mind. Brice’s stint as vocalist with Phantoms Opera comes back to mind, as his vocals are clear, high, and toned. I never really stopped and listened to that aspect of the Brice-man before. Special mentions to horn-man Matthew Gerald Lott for his infectious enthusiasm and unabashed timbre. While he’s one of the cats that play with many, he manages to keep each individual contribution unique. He also played with Captain James And The Pain, another cool group that I covered here recently.
Dragster is a band infamous for its Spinal Tap outbursts of passion and fire. They’ve been known to fight like legendary jackals and because of that they’ve had a few line-ups over the last couple of years. But having said that, it’s always a beautiful competitive effort and the original members were all back for a solid set of cream-toned tunes written by Geena Buono. Geena always comes up with interesting ideas and has been a staple in the scene for several years.
Buono worked her frontperson stance with the precarious off the cuff nod of a surfer. Riding dynamic keys, horns and six-string strategy, the band steered her dark and gritty direction right down the aural pipeline that we all love to hang in. Tunes like the textured crescendo of “Far From Chelsea” and the forward full-jolt gallop of “My Name Is Heaven” are two well-known songs that demonstrate her fast paced pop and rock prowess ala 1980’s Duran Duran, Killing Joke, and The Records. Geena also gave us a taste of something new with the acoustic “Summer Rain,” a cool tune off the yet-to-be-named upcoming debut. She also threw in Asbury favorite “Castaway” and a rousing version of Lennon’s “Glass Onion.”
I asked Geena about the night in general and she said, “It’s always an honor to play for your peers and an audience that really knows music. It’s even hotter when you’re on a bill with other great bands and you walk onto this legendary stage with some of the best soundmen in the business working hard to make your set sound clean and tight. That’s when you say to yourself, ‘Snow or no snow, I’m glad I made it here to do this and I’m not gonna whine like some of these other cross town bitches down on Cookman. We’re out here rockin’ The Pony in a blizzard and I’m really kind of loving that.’” Check out Geena and Dragster over at myspace.com/geenadragster.
The 14th Annual Brookdale Guitar Show—Feb.14
The act of physically picking up a guitar that I’m looking to purchase is still a preferred method over perusing eBay and Craigslist. It gives you the chance to think about attributes, check the overall feel of the instrument and get the pre-buy excitement that the Internet just can’t duplicate. The Brookdale Guitar Show runs the razor’s edge of being able to provide that while at the same time offering peripheral festivities aimed at a wide audience.
That, however, is also my gripe. The two showrooms were so overpacked with people (including strollers and lots of kids) that you couldn’t get close to, let alone really look over, any of the guitars without fighting for a space in the human traffic jam. From the shopper’s point of view, what’s the point of paying $10 bucks if you can’t stop and enjoy the very reason you came?
Even vendors were shaking their heads, knowing that the only buyers unaffected by this overload would be the few wholesalers who at least have a chance of convincing Daddy to buy Junior a cheap little Chinese guitar for $150. I swear I heard a kid blurt out, “Hey Dad, that’s better than the Guitar Hero kind.” The guy selling a 1969 telecaster for $5,000 was basically going back home with that axe.
As far as the actual instruments on display, I found this year to be more focused on common things I could pick up at any music store in the state. Gear that was in the “vintage” category was priced too high in a room that couldn’t afford to pay the asking price. I mean come on, who has $28 grand for a gorgeous 1959 ash blonde Stratocaster with amp? Unfortunately, I think the most successful vendors this year were the ones selling inflatable kiddies guitars and “Tele”-shaped air fresheners.
The good part of the show is always the performers and teachers. Kudos this year goes to Tony Tedesco’s “Filthy Three” who toughed out a 10 a.m. performance and walked away with some new fans. The Filthy Three have been described as, “Duane Allman sitting in with Iggy And The Stooges, entertaining at a Kurt Vonnegut book club meeting, pretending they’re Ray Davies.” While my intention this year was geared towards product, these guys deserve a mention. I mean seriously, rock and rollers up before 12?
One segment in particular stands out in my mind and that was “The Healing Power Of Music,” a panel that included high-end talent like Jo Wymer and focused on the question, “Can the power of music make the brain come alive?” The panel looked at the age-old question as well as well as exploring the role music has as far as in mood elevation, thought process and helping people battling neurological disorders. Demonstrations were key evidence that music does indeed provide the healing power that’s been claimed for years.
If this wasn’t enough, adding Marc Muller, Sonny Kenn, and Chris Buono to the mix always makes the small admission fee well worth the return in priceless knowledge. These talented players explained technique, tone and tenacity to the myriads of up and coming newbies as well as old school road dogs, teaching new tricks from the time tested bag of tricks. When it comes to that aspect of the show you couldn’t have a better day. I can live without the Guitar Hero contests and rubber blow-up Strats, but after all is said and done, it’s still the best show in the state. For more info on next year’s opportunities head over to brookdaleguitarshow.com.