New York Punk, Out of Retirement

These were at Arlene’s with several dozen fellow veterans, those who never quite made the big style. There was a guy in the part who used to play with Johnny Thunders, and a female who employed to sing back-up for Ronnie Spector. There have been those whose record contracts had long expired, and those who under no circumstances landed a contract. They all hugged and kissed because they fulfilled one another yet again in the comfort of a dark club.

Many of their good friends and contemporaries fell victim years back to medicines and hard living: Thunders and many of his fellow NY Dolls, two of the Cramps, almost all of the Ramones, Stiv Bators from the Dead Boys and a legion of the undiscovered. But they had been here that evening to celebrate that they’re still kicking.

In the last few years it has become a tribal ritual, weekly or two, to see old friends play. Some have wandered back again from the suburbs or from retirement to the old area to join a fresh scene, a network that’s risen out from the ashes and bones of the older one.

These survivors are here to keep the wolf from the entranceway – to socialize, to dance and drink. But largely they are below to rock.

And they are not alone. Musicians from back your day – in acts older and fresh like Manitoba NYC, Bush Tetras, Diane Gentile & the Gentle Men, Exit 99, Lenny Kaye, NY Junk, the Phil Gammage Quartet, Gass Wild, Cheetah Chrome, the Skelecasters, The Fleshtones and Walter Lure and the Waldos – will be gigging like there’s no tomorrow. They’re as punk as it gets – with nothing to prove, no potential for selling away and a special company of nihilism that can only come with old age.

The Rousers, Max’s alumni who’ve been playing since 1977, took the stage at Arlene’s within their black shirts and sharkskin suits as the crowd thundered. Their newer tune lyrics and titles – “Back the [expletive] Working day” and “Old Man Band” – poke fun to the fact that they are relics. But they are amazingly limited and rock amazingly hard, with an edge that has only appeared to sharpen with time. Some say they will be in their prime.


As they launched into a furious rendition of a recent most loved from 2009, “Kickin’” – the mirror ball spinning overhead, Tom Milmore’s guitar howling as he balanced at the front end of the stage, the singer and bass person, Bill Dickson, cursing and singing in equal measure – the audience cut loose. Ms. Shaw – purseless – grooved close to the front side of the stage. The show’s MC, Steve Krebs, a club promoter and singer with the Skelecasters, kicked his hip and legs out along to the music along with his German girlfriend, Simone Zimmermann.

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Among the 80-strong crowd, persons held iPhones to document as soon as. Since, frankly, it could be the last instant. Some in the masses were concerned for the sake of the band’s hard-driving drummer, Sal Cappi, whose exertion was a lttle bit alarming.

Earlier that week, Mr. Cappi, 62, was reminiscing about decades playing in NY and on the highway. “These are among the best musicians in the country right here,” he said of the old NY scenesters. Despite the fact that he plays a vintage 1966 set of sparkly reddish colored Ludwigs, he said, “I’m still learning fresh stuff, new tricks.”

Back in your day, the Rousers were attracting $1,000 a present in nightclubs like Hurrah. That they had roadies, and girlfriends in different towns. In 1979 they were supplied an EP cope with Epic Records, house to the Clash, but their manager turned it down. “He advised them we needed a full album or nothing,” Mr. Milmore said, shaking his brain. “We didn’t even understand about it until years later.”

They persevered. Madonna, around the time she kept her option band, Emmy and the Emmys, opened up for them as a solo action at Max’s, right before it closed in 1981. That season they released an individual, made by MC5’s Wayne Kramer. It acquired good press, including a write up from this paper, which known as it “psychedelic rockabilly,” nonetheless it got no traction.

“Things happen for grounds,” Mr. Cappi said. “It wasn’t meant to be. That life, that rock ’n’ roll life, is a life of heavy partying. So being famous might have resulted in my early demise.”

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