NEW YORK — The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center hosted a phenomenal rock show titled “Turn It Up!” on Aug. 25. It was the second of two shows that were curated by bassist Jared Michael Nickerson and featured musicians from the 1980s rock scene.
The energy was electric. The evening proved that age cannot diminish the vitality and spirit of committed rockers; the packed house received the bands with enthusiasm. I wished there were a dancing section for those of us who wanted to move to the music. Sitting in seats while hot rock music is playing makes me feel my age.
Tape Hiss — featuring Ernie Brooks on bass and vocals, Steve Shelley on drums, Peter Galub on guitar, David Nagler on keyboards and vocals and Peter Zummo on trombone — opened the show with an emotive set of songs by the late avant-garde composer Arthur Russell as well as material originally recorded by the musicians’ respective bands, including The Modern Lovers (Brooks) and Sonic Youth (Shelley). Nagler, whose vocals were stunning, told me that Tape Hiss formed last summer, and that their set represented songs they have been playing live over the last year. (Watch a video of Tape Hiss performing Russell’s “I Forget and I Can’t Tell” below).
The Bongos — Hoboken’s beloved pop-rock band that helped to shape the music scene there in the 1980s — were on fire, captivating the crowd with frontman Richard Barone’s buoyancy and the entrancing guitar interplay between him and James Mastro. Nickerson masterfully stepped in for Rob Norris on bass, and Frank Giannini made the room levitate with his powerful beat. The group sounded fresh and shared many of their classics, including “The Beat Hotel,” “Telephoto Lens” (which you can watch below) and “The Bulrushes.” (The Bongos will play a free show at Woodbridge High School, Aug. 31; visit woodbridgeartsnj.org.)
Closing out the event, singer Cynthia Sley and guitarist Pat Place (founding members of Bush Tetras, who were part of the New York no wave/post-punk era), joined by drummer Steve Shelley and bassist R.B. Korbet, played a sizzling set.
These powerful women commanded the stage with edgy, searing vocals and guitar, propelled by Shelley’s invigorating drums (he is filling in for the late, great Dee Pop). (Watch a video of “Cowboys in Africa” below).
Both The Bongos’ and Bush Tetras’ music is timeless and the groups’ band members have great chemistry. They joined together at the end of the show, along with members of Tape Hiss, to sing Bush Tetras’ anthemic “Too Many Creeps,” about dodging danger in the East Village. Since gentrification has changed the East Village’s landscape, and the sense of danger there has been replaced by bars with pricey, hand-crafted cocktails, the song, for me, loses its original meaning; it makes me think of our modern day “too many creeps” that pose danger as Trump-styled republicans.
If you are new to the group, you can hear their songs on Rhythm and Paranoia: The Best of Bush Tetras, their 2021 career-spanning boxed set.
Fueled by the success of the shows, Nickerson looks forward to curate more of them in this intimate Upper West Side venue — a wonderful place for a concert, with a beautiful abstract mural behind the stage, a bar that is off to the side and doesn’t dominate the space, and seating close enough to the stage to create intimacy.
Here is a gallery of photos and, below them, three videos from the show:
We need your help!
CONTRIBUTE TO NJARTS.NET
Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.