Sunday, March 11, 2018

GGOOLLDD and OMD

This was a week of music that wasn't (for me, anyway), and finally, of music that was.

Last Sunday, Denise and I were supposed to go stay a night in The Mohegan Sun (which we've never done before), and catch one of my favorite modern bands playing at Mohegan Sun's Wolf Den, The Mowgli's. The Mowgli's are an 8-piece Los Angeles band that feel like they should be from 1960s San Francisco. There's kind of a hippy vibe to them, almost a Cowsills feel. A lot of the people on the Sputnik site can't stand the band, at least partially because they feel that their lyrics are so upbeat that it's sickening. I don't find that to be true myself -- in fact, their last album, Where'd Your Weekend Go? (2016) actually had a bit of darkness to it, although the music itself still sounded upbeat. They're definitely a band on my bucket list -- I really wanted to see them live. However, life got in the way. Some family issues caused us to cancel our plans. This was sad, although at least we cancelled early enough to not lose any money on the hotel room. And since the Wolf's Den is a free venue, we didn't lose any money on the tickets, either.

Then, towards the end of this week, I was hoping to pull a local music doubleheader. He Bird, She Bird was playing a gig in Babylon on Thursday night, and The Hank Stone Band had a show scheduled for Friday night in East Setaucket. Unfortunately, I was dreaming, because my proofreading job, which has had hardly any work for me all year, finally kicked into its busy season this week (of course), so I wound up working late both nights. (I'd have liked to ditch the job both nights, but like most people these days, I owe, I owe, so off to work I go).

But finally on Saturday, I got a little something to feed my soul. A few months back, Denise and I had talked about the fact that Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark was playing a show in Manhattan on March 10. They're one of the rare '80s bands she's never seen live before, and of course, if she hasn't seen them, you know I haven't. The '80s is her era.

At first, I said I didn't think I wanted to go. I've gotten so that I really don't like going into Manhattan anymore for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is it's such a hassle. Besides, my understanding was that the venue was one of those that didn't have seats -- they pack you in like cattle and expect you to stand for the night. I didn't used to do that even when I was young enough to endure it, and these days, there's no way Jose. Denise checked into it further, though, and found out that they do set up a section with handicapped seats for those who are older or physically in need of being able to sit.

At first, I was still against it. Then I started thinking, and I realized that the two of us have put so much time into the family for the last 7 or 8 years that we haven't always gotten the time together that we need. And the more I thought, the more I realized that sometimes it's better to push yourself and actually do something, even if it's more comfortable to stay home. I also realized how much Denise would really enjoy it. And it wasn't like I wouldn't enjoy it-- OMD's 2017 album The Punishment of Luxury just missed my Top Ten albums last year, and it was definitely in my Top Twenty. (If the show had been scheduled at a Long Island venue, I wouldn't have thought twice). So finally I told her, "Let's Do It".

We decided to drive in rather than take the LIRR and grab a cab, and Denise researched and prepaid for a parking spot in a lot nearby the venue. We couldn't leave home until nearly dinnertime, due to family obligations, so I was a little nervous about making it on time. But we figured wed give it our best shot.

We took the 59th St. Bridge in, which is unusual for us, but the venue, Terminal 5, in on West 56th St., so we thought it made more sense. Happily, the traffic wasn't bad, although actually finding the bridge was more difficult than we thought -- whoever put up the signs up in that Long Island City area was a madman.

The driving in Manhattan was insane, as usual. After getting across the bridge and onto 62nd St. (don't ask me how the 59th St. Bridge puts you on 62nd St., I'd  rather not think about it) we had five blocks to work our way across five lanes of traffic so we could make a right onto E. 57th St. At one point, while Denise took a quick look behind her to check the position of three psychotic taxi drivers all aiming for the same spot in her lane, a bicycle rider went shooting out in front of Denise, and very nearly was sent to bicycle guy heaven. Nevertheless, we managed to make it across without killing anyone or getting killed ourselves, and surprisingly, the traffic on 57th wasn't too bad. After one minor mishap pulling into the wrong parking garage and having to go around the block again, we were safely parked and on our way.

We made a brief stop at a nearby pub, where some of members of Denise's WLIR Facebook group were getting together before the show. But the place was small and packed, so we only stayed for a moment before heading to the venue early, to make sure we were able to get seats. For once, everything went as planned, and we soon found ourselves sitting on folding metal chairs in a roped off area on the left side of the room facing the stage.

A word about Terminal 5 -- this was my first time to the venue. It's a fairly large room, with a big open floor. You enter it to the right of the stage. There's a big bar in the back of the room. There are two upper floors on either side of the stage, with metal rails where people can stand overlooking the dance floor, and another at a different level midway in between those two levels at the back of the room, over the bar. The funny thing is, it looks like the perfect place for blood sports. I feel as though on the nights when they don't have bands booked, they probably have bare-fisted fights to the death in the middle of that open floor, with spectators up above screaming and howling and giving two thumbs down -- "Two men enter, and one man leaves!"

Prior to the show, Denise and I got to talking to very nice lady who was seating near us because she'd had a leg operation. She was there with her husband and her teenage son, who was out on the floor somewhere. They were upstate from New York, and like us, they go to a variety of concerts -- especially '80s shows. (In fact, we were at the same Blondie/Garbage show at Bethel Woods last summer). She told us a story that once, a number of years back, she and her husband were attending a concert by the band Sponge. She turned her head to say something to her husband just as the drummer decided to hurl his drumstick into the crowd, and as she turned back, it clocked her right between the eyes and knocked her unconscious. To the band's (and the drummer's) credit, they were very concerned, and checked in with her after the set. And they were so grateful that she wasn't going to sue them, that her family developed a relationship with the band, and with bands who were Sponge's friends. They kept in touch for a number of years, and the band often sent them music, comped them, etc. Apparently, she's known in Sponge's circle of friends as "Drumstick Girl".

At 8 PM, with the venue already at least two-thirds full, the lights went down and the opening band, GGOOLLDD hit the stage. (I think they pronounce it as Ga-Gold, but I'm not sure -- I didn't hear clearly). I'd heard they were a synthpop band, but actually they were a little less synth and a little more rock than I thought. In any event, they're a 5-piece band from Milwaukee, WI, fronted by a platinum blonde female lead singer. She came out in an outfit that Thera Marshall of the LI band Folk Fiction might have worn a few years ago. It started out looking like the sort of white terrycloth a prizefighter might wear to the ring (and I immediately thought that maybe she was a sometimes-participant in the weekly Terminal 5 death match events), but eventually, it opened up into a thing with butterfly wings and little white lights all over it. Very cool. Anyway, I liked the band more than not. I don't know the names of any of their songs, but they had some nice moments, especially the second song, and the last song, of their set. (I bought their EP, so I'll hopefully get to know their music better). In comparison to some of the other opening bands I've seen in the last year that I hadn't been previously familiar with, I liked them better than bands like Deap Vally, Judah & the Lion or Palaye Royale, but not quite as much as Potty Mouth. And they not only seemed to really enjoy their set, but they hung out the whole night enjoying OMD's set as well. (I know because after loading out their equipment through a door near our seats, they flitted back and forth past us several times from backstage over towards the bar area. They didn't leave until OMD's encore was over).

In between sets, I made my way across the room to the merch stand and the Men's Room, and by this time, the floor was completely packed. So packed, in fact, that I suspect the fire marshall might have been less than thrilled. Denise pointed out, though, that they might not have actually surpassed their capacity -- the crowd against the upstairs rail was only four or five deep, so there was room up there -- but the dance floor was so full, it took 10 or 15 minutes to work my way across it. Happily, I discovered on the way back that it was actually quicker to go all the way to the back of the room and make your way across behind the oval bar, so I managed to get back before OMD hit the stage. (And so did our new friend Drumstick Girl, who came back with her teen son in tow -- he husband had worked his way to the very front of the stage, and wasn't about to give up his prime spot).

When the lights went down again, the crowd went wild, and it became obvious that this was going to be a very high energy night. And it was.

OMD took the stage to a taped intro of "Art Eats Art" and "La Mitrailleuse" (urging you to "bend your body to the will of the machine"), then launched into "Ghost Star" from The Punishment of Luxury album. I'd seen a copy of their setlist ahead of time (which someone who had been there for the soundcheck posted to Denise's group), so I knew what to expect. And as the excitement grew, for the fourth song of the night, the band burst into my favorite OMD song, "Tesla Girls". For me, this was one of the quintessential pop singles of the '80s, and hearing the band perform it live was really exciting (in much the same way as seeing Men Without Hats perform "Safety Dance" had been when we saw them last summer.)

Throughout the night, the band mixed all of their classic '80s hits in with songs from the new album, all the while drawing off of the energy of the  crowd. (At one point, the crowd on the floor was packed so tightly that a young woman passed out right in front of us, and had to be dragged to a seat in our area until security could work their way over to help her. But as she sat there only semi-conscious, she never stopped bobbing her head to the music. And although security helped her away from the area, presumably to a first-aid room or something, Denise told me that before the end of the night, she was back out out on the floor still dancing and bopping to the music).

While it was clear that the happy audience was most excited about the classic songs from back in the day, the new songs went over very well also. All told, OMD played an impressive 18-song regular set (which included another of my favorites, "If You Leave" from the Pretty in Pink soundtrack), eventually ending with their 1981 single "Enola Gay". Then, after a quick break, they came back for an encore with the one-two-three punch of "Dreaming", "Secret", and their very first single, "Electricity" (which I've always thought of kind of as the faster older brother of The Psychedelic Furs' "Love My Way").

It was a tremendous show. Denise danced her bottom off throughout the night like the true '80s girl she is (and uncharacteristically slept until noon today, heh heh). And Drumstick Girl's teenage son was dancing around so wildly, a couple of times I was afraid he was going to accidentally clock Denise in the head while he was flailing his arms around.  (From what Denise tells me, the online feedback from everyone who else who was there from her Facebook group seems to be in agreement with our assessment -- everyone seems to have had a great time.)

I can tell you that the two of us were so exhausted from the long trip in and back, and from the excitement of the show itself, that today was one of those days where neither us had the energy to do much but relax and watch a little TV. (We were hoping there were some videos of OMD posted on YouTube from last night, but so far, the one that was up there wouldn't load properly).

So anyway, after some frustration in the early part of week, our weekend ended happily. How was yours?

I expect to be back up here on the blog sometime later this week with a special St. Patrick's Day review of the 2010 Black 47 album Bankers and Gangsters, and maybe even another St. Patrick's Day review as well.

Until then, Erin go bragh!