t. rex, scruffy the cat, lloyd cole, and the perils of aging

sometimes you get little reminders that your brain ain’t what it used to be.

kirk and i had a fantastically fun time last night at joe’s pub in the park. joe is joseph papp, the guy who started doing the shakespeare in central park thing, and his public theater has an adjacent performance space for bands and cabaret and performance artists called joe’s pub, but it’s downtown, and sometimes they produce joe’s-pub-style shows in central park at the delacorte, which is where shakespeare in the park is, and last night was one of those nights.


that bit of explanation aside, we originally went to last night’s show because justin bond was covering the carpenters’ “close to you” album in concert. you know, kiki and herb justin bond. the combination of justin and karen carpenter being, of course, too irresistible to resist. and he did not disappoint. their registers and resonance sound remarkably similar, and he engagingly covered all those bacharach tunes. also did “superstar” as a bonus, and told a chillingly effective story about being a kid and being forced to play softball. it went badly, and he took solace in listening to the “close to you” album with a young relative, and feeling loved and accepted regardless of his inability to hit a softball. it was a favorite childhood memory, and that relative was in the audience, so it was full circle for justin. a lovely moment.

justin was done, but he was just the opening act. two more sets: a guy doing covers of some guy’s music that i’d never heard of, and a t. rex tribute on the occasion of marc bolan’s sixtieth birthday, which was also the thirtieth anniversary of his death. i never knew that marc bolan died on his thirtieth birthday. wow.

i had no interest in the penultimate set, but i’m a bit of a t. rex fan, and kirk was into it, so we decided to stick around. so glad we did.

the second set turned out to be songs by scott walker. i’d never heard of him, but i’m now a huge fan. he predates the beatles — he’s an american singer who got his start as an teenage expatriate in london in the ’50s. if you can imagine it, his music sounds as if englebert humperdinck did a set composed entirely of leonard cohen songs. fantastic stuff, and the singer, david driver, performed it wonderfully. i’m a david driver fan now, but a bigger fan of scott walker. i love it when something surprising, new and cool gets unexpectedly thrown at you — you gotta be open to that possibility, though.

the evening wrapped up with the t. rex tribute. quick t. rex story from back in the day: when i dj’ed at einstein-a-go-go in jacksonville beach in the mid eighties, there was a huge t. rex poster behind the booth. some kid came up to me and asked, “who’s trex?” pronounced as one word. evidently he missed the period. i told him that “trex” was robert smith’s first band before he formed the cure. so he went and told all his friends, and word spread like wildfire, and suddenly all the black clad youth were requesting “trex” songs to be cool. so i got to play lots of marc bolan, and the younguns were none the wiser, at least for a while.

anyway, the t. rex tribute was so much fun. patti smith did “children of the revolution” — how perfect is that? lots of new york rock royalty performed — here’s a list from the joe’s pub site:

An All-Star Collective of musicians including Clem Burke(Blondie/Drums), Tony Shanahan (Patti Smith/Bass), James Mastro (Ian Hunter-Patti Smith/Gtr), Jane Scarpantoni (Lou Reed/Cello), Dave Amels (Mary Weiss/Keys), Tish & Snooky (Manic Panic/Back Vox), Geoff Blythe (Dexy’s-Black 47/Sax), Rob Youngberg (Honeycomb/Percussion), and Claudia Chopek (Violin) will back a glittering array of special guest singers. Performers who will be singing the praises of Bolan & T.Rex include Sylvain Sylvain and Steve Conte of the NEW YORK DOLLS, Richard Lloyd of TELEVISION, Tony Winner Michael Cerveris, Jake Shears (Scissor Sisters), Justin Bond (Kiki of Kiki and Herb), Ragga, Robert Gordon, Richard Barone, Lloyd Cole, Willie Nile, Ivan Julian (The Voidoids), Keanan Duffty (Slinky Vagabond), The Bedsit Poets, Screaming Orphans, Justin Tranter (Semi Precious Weapons), and Marc’s son Rolan Bolan and featuring special guest of honor the legendary T. Rex/David Bowie/Morrisey producer Tony Visconti.

ivan julian was especially good — he sang and played the guitar while seated, and it’s been a while since i saw someone command a stage like that. the chair barely contained his energy, and he was a kick-ass guitarist.

and lloyd cole was there, with his son william. william is a great lead guitarist and has perfect emo hair — the kid is going places. i used to play lloyd cole’s music a bit at einstein’s and i sat there racking my brain trying to come up with the song i loved. and it popped into my head this morning. the song i was so desperately trying to think of?

“you dirty rat”

by scruffy the cat, not by lloyd cole. jeebus. i’m getting old.

but “you dirty rat” is an incredible song — one of my favorite einstein’s-era songs. listen to it — catchy as all hell.

anyway, aging brain notwithstanding, it was a fantastically fun evening. gotta do more stuff like that. david driver does lots of loser’s lounge stuff — maybe i should check that out. i’ve always wanted to.

update: hilary, who stage managed the show, has pictures, a detailed set list, band info, and more on her blog. check it out.