Attending your first Smithereens show is an unusual experience. You really do get the feeling that you've crashed a private party. Everybody, including the band, knows everybody else in the whole place except you.
This feeling of Outsiderness lasts for about half of one song. By this time, everyone in the band has pinned you, and the two or three others in the audience who are in the same boat, as NEW GUYS, and they go out of their way to Welcome You To The Club via extensive eye-contact maneuvers. I am not imagining this, it was really palpable. They visibly greet everybody in the place, one at a time, and really do seem to single out the ones they don't recognize. Or maybe we're just REALLY CUTE.
And imagine how amazing it would be if you went to a Rolling Stones show at a small club, and they came charging out sounding exactly like they did in 1964. That's what it was like. Every note, every move, every nuance was just as I imagine it was like at some sweaty little s***hole on Long Beach Island in 1984. Of all the concerts I've been to--and I'm including the Clash's London Calling shows at the Capitol Theatre, Husker Du at Irving Plaza, in 1985, the Stones in 1972, The Blues Project with Jimmy Vivino (oh...you ARE still paying attention? Cool!) BAND OF GYPSYS AT THE FILLMORE EAST, for Christ's sake..... I'm gonna put this show up there in the top ten. Absolutely bone-chilling.
The one big surprise, for me, was Pat DiNizio--maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised, but remember I've only had the records to go by--after 13 years of listening to his great but very Gloomy-Gus songs, sung in his great but very Gloomy-Gus voice, I was not expecting him to be Mr. Happy Feet on stage. But he's a pisser, as it turns out. He even did a little duckwalk out onto our table at one point.......and, later, he slammed a bottle of Bass Ale down on top of his amp, hard, just to watch it foam out all over the amp. His poor roadies had heart attacks, which is always fun to watch.
Jim the guitar player and Dennis the drummer look exactly as you'd expect....like they should be fixing your car. Just perfect. (I've seen enough Motley Crue Haircuts to last my next six lives.) Pat, of course, looks like he should be BLESSING your car after Jim & Dennis fix it. And Mike Mesaros, God love him, looks like he oughtta be beating up your dad. They are PERFECT.
Dennis is pals with our friend Bob from Bergen County Camera--whom we used to work with back in the Sam Goody days--and Bob was gonna go with us; but he has a new baby and the experience seems to have ground his gears down a little bit, as it were--we went to pick him up on the way in and he looked like he had just given blood the hard way. You know, that Tony-Perkins-At-The-End look. So he begged off. He's okay now, I think. And we were afraid that without his Mega-VIP presence (I think probably he's meticulously saved copies of all the Kiddie Porn that Alan Pepper brings in) we were gonna end up sitting in the back because we got a late start. But we were lucky--nobody else showed up early either, and we got pretty close to the stage--three seats back, in fact....right in front of Jim. More on that in a minute. Anyway, that was disappointing; it would've been neat to be introduced. Next time. Bob was rather disappointed as well; he had really wanted to go. Next time! I believe he gave Dennis my Xmas tape a couple of years back, I dunno....I never heard back about it....and I wanted to find out about that too. NEXT TIME!
Another piece of neatness: one o'my heroes, Scott Kempner, was there...from the Dictators, who were a lot of fun, and later from the Del Lords, who were positively sublime. I didn't recognize him. He's got a bleached butch now.
Also, here's another cute thing: we were sitting behind, believe it or not, the band's two Fan Club Maintenance Chicks. Remember those? Harks back to the days of the Left Banke. In fact, these may be the same girls. I mean this as a compliment, make no mistake......they look like they should have been Fan Club Maintenance Chicks about fifteen years ago. How cool is that? They were playing air guitar all night. This is the kind of devotion this band inspires......their Fan Club Maintenance Chicks do not outgrow them and Marry Out Of The Business and open nail salons or something.
In closing: I still bristle when people theorize that Mr. Springsteen represents NJ rock & roll. This is the real stuff right here, pal. These guys have changed their own motor oil. More than once.
I could kick myself to death for missing the last 14 or 15 years of this wonderfulness.