Love Pirates/Arlene’s Grocery/October 9, 2019

A native of Hereford, England, Gass Wild (born Tom Edwards) played drums with Johnny Thunders in the late nineteen-seventies. Shortly thereafter, Chrissie Hynde was looking to form a band that would become the Pretenders, and Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead pointed her in the direction of Wild; Wild introduced her to his Hereford buddy Pete Farndon and the three rehearsed most of the first Pretenders album together. Soon Wild was out of the band and he joined the Hitmen as the drummer. In 1980 he became the lead singer for Lightning Raiders. When the Raiders folded, Wild practiced guitar, wrote songs, and formed Mannish Boys. Relocating to New York City, Wild has played in several local bands, but has committed most of his energy to Love Pirates. Presently, Love Pirates consists of vocalist/guitarist Wild, lead guitarist Seth David, bassist Mitch Rock, and drummer Josh Johnson.

Gass Wild looks like Mick Jagger, dresses like Keith Richards, and brings an unmistakable Rolling Stones vibe to the Love Pirates performances. At Arlene’s Grocery as part of Tommy London’s Rocktober series, Love Pirates played long-haired rock and roll the way it was always meant to be, with attitude, panache, and a solid rhythm and blues base. Johnson’s strong and sturdy backbeat provided the push, Rock’s thumping bass held the bottom, and David’s wailing lead guitar filled all the space between Wild’s gritty vocals. The set provided little breathing space; the hard driving rhythms locked into a groove and ran like a locomotive. Fortunately, Arlene’s Grocery has an open floor, because Love Pirates’ music demanded swaying hips and dancing feet.

Ten Ton Mojo/Arlene’s Grocery/October 9, 2019

While all the indie bands in Brooklyn were getting public attention several years ago, a smaller scene was brewing at Arlene’s Grocery, where classic rock-sounding bands were writing and performing songs that harked back nearly a half century. Ten Ton Mojo was among the pioneers of this renaissance. The members of the original band were similarly-minded musicians who knew each other from playing in other  bands. When the timing was right, they formed Ten Ton Mojo, and released a debut album in 2013. “Pinball Girl” was featured in the indie movie Pinball Donut Girl, and a remixed version of “One and Only” was used in an automobile company’s advertising campaign. Otherwise, Ten Ton Mojo remained under the mainstream radar, yet maintained a solid core following. After several personnel changes, the band presently consists of lead vocalist Dave Anthony, guitarists Scott Lano and Christian Realmuto, bassist Chris Laubis, and drummer Paul “Sugar” Kane.

Tommy London normally hosts $5 Rock Show nights once a month at Arlene’s Grocery, but for the month of October (“Rocktober”) he booked Ten Ton Mojo as headliner of all four Wednesday nights. Ten Ton Mojo’s current musical chemistry has shifted slightly from its earlier southern rock roots and moved more deeply into the classic rock genre of the seventies. Still grounded in soulful blues with soaring vocals, bottom-heavy guitar licks and thundering rhythms, Ten Ton Mojo bridged hard rock with heavy metal, bringing forth the best of both worlds. Anthony’s prominent melodic delivery gave each song its own identity, while the hammering of the musicians kept the music from ever approaching commercial radio blandness. This was more Pantera than Bon Jovi, for comparison sake. Is there a larger audience for this music these days? Ten Ton Mojo is ready to lead the rebirth.

Actors/The Red Party at Mercury Lounge/October 12, 2019

Living in Vancouver, a teen-aged Jason Corbett was playing guitar in a heavy metal band when he switched gears and moved into cowpunk and rockabilly with the Saddlesores in the nineteen-nineties. By the early 2000s, Corbett was leading a straight rock band called Speed to Kill, which evolved into TV Heart Attack. In 2012, he gravitated to synthwave pop and formed Actors. The band consists of vocalist/guitarist Corbett, synthesizer player Shannon Hemmett, bassist Jahmeel Russell, and drummer Adam Fink. Actors released one album, It Will Come to You, in 2018.

The monthly Red Party at Mercury Lounge is a sanctuary for lovers of nineteen-eighties styled new wave and its darker descendents in the gothic, darkwave, and post-punk genres, so this was a fitting venue for Actors’ edgy, danceable grooves. Throughout the performance, steady drum beats, ground-scraping bass lines, light synth lines, and reverberating vocals repeated monochromatically, anticipating another layer of electronic slaps or a variation on the vocal line. Actors was not breaking new ground; rather, it was basing new songs on the kinds of musical arrangements popularized during the early MTV years. Actors’ music matches well with your all-black wardrobe; the music might even inspire you to dig deep for the leftover black lipstick from decades ago.

The Fleshtones/The Bowery Electric/October 17, 2019

In 1976, Keith Streng found musical instruments in the basement of a house he was renting in Queens. This happened during the start of the first wave of punk rock, a time when anyone and everyone could be a rock star, with no musical proficiency required. Neighborhood friends including Peter Zaremba started coming around for basement parties and the Fleshtones was born. The garage rock band became regulars on the local music circuit and enjoyed a few national breaks, appearing in the British punk/new wave concert film Urgh! A Music War in 1980, Dick Clark’s popular American Bandstand television program in 1982, the soundtrack of two movies, Bachelor Party in 1984 and I Was a Teenage Zombie in 1987, and the final episode of Andy Warhol’s short-lived MTV show, Andy Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes, in 1987. Nevertheless, the Fleshtones developed only a cult audience and minimal commercial success. An authorized biography in 2007, Sweat: The Story of the Fleshtones, America’s Garage Band, and a feature documentary in 2009, Pardon Us for Living, but the Graveyard Is Full, did not significantly increase the band’s profile. Now based in Brooklyn, the band since 1990 has been vocalist Zaremba, guitarist Streng, bassist Ken Fox, and drummer Bill Milhizer. The Fleshtones’ 19th and most recent studio album is 2016’s The Band Drinks for Free; the band plans to release The Face of the Screaming Werewolf in 2020.

While many other first wave punk, new wave, and garage rock bands have disappeared and reunited, the Fleshtones never went on hiatus. Returning to the Bowery Electric, the Fleshtones dug into catalogue material and also played newer songs, including the forthcoming “The Face of the Screaming Werewolf.” The show matched primitive-sounding rock and roll with high energy and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. Zaremba sang like an old rhythm and blues vocalist, occasionally played harmonica and organ, and led the quartet’s wild carousing. Although Milhizer was tied to his drum kit, the other musicians repeatedly carved a path and performed in the audience. The set included no moody or meditative moments. Instead, it was a start-to-finish set of raw bootstrap rock and roll party tunes. The Fleshtones demonstrated that old bands do not need to slow down.

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