Monday, September 23, 2019

I Got Kidnapped, Part 2: Glam Skanks and Adam Ant

I won't lie, Friday night was a tough night. When we left Foxwoods, we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts on the way home. Denise hadn't eaten anything since dinner, but I'd had a bagel and a really over-sweet (and badly made) iced mocha at Juniors. I should have passed on getting anything else, especially since that Indian food was still rumbling in my stomach. But I'm dopey, like a goldfish that eats himself to death, so I got a bacon, egg and cheese croissant to add to the mix.

We went back to the motel and went to bed. But my stomach was a mess, my back was out of whack, and my feet were throbbing. I slept for about two hours, then got up to go to the bathroom. When I laid back down, my back started spasming, badly enough that I accidentally woke Denise up cursing. I found a somewhat comfortable position, and was afraid to roll over for the rest of the night. Meanwhile, I was up every couple of hours, slowly relieving myself of the Indian food situation. The bathroom took on a gentle, red glow, and I hoped they were sending in a Hazmat team in the morning.

Sleep helped a lot, and we both slept through the free continental breakfast that the hotel offered. We got up at 11 or so. I was better, but my whole body was sore.

Luckily, we had a lazy day planned for Saturday. We headed into Groton to a diner we had eaten at in the past to get breakfast. We passed it the first time, because the Best Western that we usually stayed at in Groton that served as something of a landmark for us had been bought out, and was now The Colony Bay (or something like that). But eventually, we backtracked and found it.

Breakfast was underwhelming. Mine wasn't too bad -- a mushroom and cheese omelette with sausage on the side -- but Denise's "Patriotic Pancakes" were served with strawberries that were well on their way to going bad, and my toast even tasted a little funky for some reason. Next time we're in town, we'll find someplace else to get breakfast.

After breakfast, we took a ride up King's Highway, which we'd never really checked out before. After a little while, Denise figured out that we were running parallel to I-95, heading in the general direction of the casino. She predicted that if we kept going, we'd eventually come to the roundabout where Mystic Pizza II sits, and she was right. We went that far, then turned around.

It was a quiet, laid back Saturday in Groton, and the drive was soothing. I checked in on both of our kids, and found that somehow they'd managed to survive the night without us. We headed back to the motel with the plan of going in the hot tub, and maybe, if the mood struck us, the pool.

We changed into our bathing suits and headed down. Unfortunately, they were doing maintenance on the pool area, so we had to wait a half hour

We went back to the room to kill some time. I spent 45 minutes or so listening to my mp3 player, while Denise played on her phone. This year marks the end of the decade, so I've been starting to think about my Best of the Decade lists. I might have my Top 10 Songs worked out.

When we went down to the pool area again, it was quiet. The only other people there were a father and a grandmother with two little boys: a child or about 7, who was swimming in the pool, and a toddler of about 3 who was leaning over and playing with the bubbles in the hot tub, while grandma sat close by.

I have to tell you that as sore and tired as I was, as much as I enjoyed the two concerts, the highlight of my weekend was that hot tub. As I slowly (and I mean very slowly -- I was moving like a hundred-year-old man) eased into the tub, it felt soooooo good. I wanted to stay in there forever. We soaked for twenty, maybe thirty minutes. When I got out, I tried the pool. But by the time I'd gotten hip-deep, I decided it was too cool. So Denise and I sat and relaxed by the side of the pool as we dripped dry.

After a little while, we heard a sound overhead that sounded like a herd of wild buffaloes trampling across the plains. I made a joke about the University of Connecticut football team doing jumping jacks in the room above us. But as we rose to start to leave, I saw the source of the noise. A pack of seven young boys, ranging in age from about five to eleven years of age, burst in and immediately infested the hot tub. They were followed by two rather beleaguered-looking women. I uttered King Arthur's battle cry from Monty Python and the Holy Grail -- "Run away!" -- and Denise and I skedaddled out of there and back up to our room.

We then made a plan to eat at Mystic Pizza II that night, and laid down for a nice two-hour nap.

By the time we got up, I almost felt alive again. As we drove back up King's Highway, we passed a place called "Gus's Pizza".

"Eff you, Gus!" I cried out. "We're going to Mystic Pizza!"

However, when we got to Mystic Pizza II, the parking lot was jammed, and there were people dressed as if they had just come from a wedding sitting outside, seemingly waiting for a table.

"We should have eaten at Gus's," I lamented. But Denise suggested that the people in the suits and gowns were probably there for a private party upstairs, and she was right. We went inside, and were soon seated. We each ordered a "grinder" (which is what annoying New England people call heroes), and were served shortly thereafter. There was a live musician playing, someone who grew up in Rhode Island but now lived in Nashville, but I didn't catch her name. I bet Denise that she knew Dave Isaac, though.

We ate quickly, so as not to be late for our concert.

So I guess it's time we actually talk about the concert, huh? Oh, OK.

As you've probably figured out from the title above, the headliner was Adam Ant. Denise was always a big fan of his, and I understand why. Besides the whole obvious male sex symbol thing, his music fits her taste. She likes a lot of low end in her music, and between the double drums and the use of a lot of bass, Adam fits the bill. I always found him a little silly (which also fits Denise's taste just fine), so he never really interested me. I didn't hate him or anything. But to give you some perspective, on my mp3 player, on which I currently have over 34,000 songs downloaded, I had exactly two Adam Ant songs: "Desperate But Not Serious", and "Strip". (And "Strip was downloaded fairly recently.) I'd have never in a million years have gone out of my way to see him. But since Denise's other arrangements had fallen through, I didn't want to make her go alone. So here we were.

Denise had also been supposed to see him play earlier in the week at the Beacon Theater -- Tim and Mandy had seen him there -- but that had fallen through also. So this was Denise's only chance to get her Adam fix.

At first, we thought just he and his were playing. But about two weeks ago, I had somehow learned he was scheduled to have an opening act -- an all-female band with the godawful name of the Glam Skanks. This sweetened the pot for me a little, as I was at least curious to see if they were any good. So far, opinions were mixed. Mandy and Tim hadn't been too impressed by them at the Beacon. But someone else on Denise's WLIR Group had posted that they really liked the band, enough to buy both of their albums after the show. So we were hopeful. (Well, I was. Denise, I'm not so sure about.)

As usual, I found and printed out recent setlists for both bands. At that point, I discovered that while Glam Skanks were only playing a fairly short eight-song set, Adam and his band were playing an intimidating full 28 songs, if you counted his encore. And I did.

We entered the main building (The Grand Pequot Tower) of Foxwoods, and made our way to the Fox Theater. We entered through the metal detectors, only to find out that we had to go back outside again to use the restrooms. (Who the hell designs these places?) So we did what we had to do, and entered again.

Tonight, we were sitting in two seats on the aisle way up near the top, on the left side of the theater. You had to go in, then back out a different door to get to the bar to buy water. As I watched Denise ascend through several levels of the ozone layer and into a section obscured by cumulus clouds, I asked the young usher if there was perhaps an elevator. She said that yes, she could take me to one. So I dashed off quickly to buy our waters, met Stormy the friendly usher back near the entrance, and let her take me by elevator up to the top of the arena. Then we surprised Denise by coming up behind her from the top. Denise and I both decided to drink as little water as possible, so we wouldn't have to go all the way back down and leave the arena to use the bathrooms until the end of the show.

The seats were a little tight -- this was an older facility than the one we had visited last night -- but the sight lines were nice and clear, and the fit was doable.

Gradually, some people started to file in. In front of us were two guys who definitely didn't seem like they'd be Adam fans. They were big, beefy fellows in their twenties, wearing well-worn T-shirts (one of which said "Welcome to the Jungle".) I wondered idly if they had mugged two little eighties gals and stolen their tickets. "Rock Lobster" played over the loudspeaker as the crew did a lazy sound check, and these guys made it very clear they weren't B-52s fans. But I guess it takes all types.

The arena was only about a third of the way full when the lights went down, and Glam Skanks took the stage. The vibe was totally different from the one the night before. Last night, there had been excitement from the get-go. Tonight, the sparse crowd seemed to be taking a wait-and-see attitude.

So here's my assessment of Glam Skanks. They're a four-piece all-female band who plays in what I would consider a classic hard rock style. They're an energetic, hard working group. The girls are all proficient at their instruments (the drummer in particular was banging her butt off), and the lead vocalist had a powerful and well-controlled rock voice. I liked them. They were four gals living the rock and roll dream and trying their best to entertain. Unfortunately, I wasn't blown away by their songs.

The band seemed a little afraid to engage in the beginning, instead trying to win over the crowd by playing with a lot of spirit and running around a whole bunch. As the theater filled out some, the singer, Veronica Witkin, made a few tentative attempts to talk to the audience. By a few songs in, she seemed comfortable enough to at least tell us a little about the songs.

They got their biggest reaction of the night with a nicely rocked up version of disco queen Donna Summer's song, "Hot Stuff". They also made one change to their setlist, switching out "Glitter City", the title track to one of their albums, for a song called "Bad Bitch", which some of the ladies in the crowd seemed to appreciate.

Overall, I wanted to like them better than I actually did. If they ever up their songwriting game, they're capable of a making it to a higher level. They definitely have some musical chops, and that likability factor is nothing to sneeze at. They really ought to change their moniker, though. The name "Glam Skanks" really isn't doing them any favors. They're really not a glam rock band, nor are they particularly skanky. The name really isn't very descriptive of who they are. You can find their setlist at

Between sets, I told Denise I wasn't going to try to follow Adam Ant's setlist tonight, and I think she got insulted. "Oh, just because it's Adam, huh?" she asked me accusingly. But it wasn't like I wasn't going to pay attention to his set, or take notes about it.

The reason I print out setlists is that when I'm pretty familiar with a band, it's easier just to follow along and check off what I know. Sometimes, like with OMD, I might hit a song I'm not sure about, and I'll ask Denise, "Was that one "Talking Loud and Clear?'" Or sometimes I can figure it out from a lyric. But with a 28-song set scheduled, I knew that this guy was going to be playing some deep cuts. And I'd be lucky if I knew a quarter of them. So I figured I was better off just to concentrate on listening to the music, and taking the occasional note, especially since I was pretty sure that someone would wind up posting a full song list on anyway.

At some point, Denise texted with Mandy and Tim, and learned that they were in the very front of the room (looked like first or second row) on the right side of the stage. They waved up at us, and we waved back.

"Ask them if they want switch seats!" I suggested, and Denise did. The only reply we got back from Mandy was "LOL." We took that as a no.

One thing I want to say about Adam before talking about the actual show is this: While I wasn't into his music much back in the day, there were things I liked about the guy. He clearly had a sense of style. More importantly, this was a man whose music the critics seldom, if ever, said a kind word about. But he managed to build a pretty happening career, and one that has lasted for four decades now, anyway. So if I entered this show as something less than a fan, I still entered it with respect.

Adam and his band soon took the stage to what I believe was the theme music from the old Roger Moore show The Saint. He came out wearing a hat that was more Australian cowboy than pirate, but he did have a pirate hanky sticking out of one pocket. There was a five-piece band behind him, including his traditional two drummers (but at times, one or even both of the guitarists drummed as well). Interestingly, though, there was no keyboard player (which probably has something to do with why I never got very into Adam's music.)

As soon as Adam and his band started playing, a pair of women in front of us (to the side of the two klunky guys) got up to dance, and Denise (and some of the other people around us) popped up as well. This time, Denise handed me her purse to hold rather than beating me into raw hamburger meat, and I took it gratefully.

I thought Adam's voice sounded a little weak at first -- not bad, or off key, just a little breathless. But I wouldn't rate him as a super powerful vocalist anyway -- that's not really his style -- and as the night wore on, he seemed to get stronger. He never stopped dancing, though, which I guess is another reason why the ladies love him. He moves in a very feline manner -- everything is circular motions, nothing threatening or straight ahead. At times, he reminded me of Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow character. And while I know that Depp has said that he based a lot of the character on Keith Richards, as I watched this show, I wondered if a little of Captain Sparrow wasn't created with some Adam Ant in mind as well.

I also had the thought as I watched throughout the night that there were some similarities between Adam Ant and Alice Cooper. Not that their music sounds alike. But both are very theatrical performers, and both of them write songs that are very tongue in cheek. Alice's is obviously more horror themed, and appeals more to guys, while Adam's is more swashbuckling, and meant to appeal to the ladies.

This was billed as the 2019 Friend or Foe Tour, and Adam and his band played that album in its entirety from front to back, before moving on to various other songs from his long career.

I'll tell you the good and the bad of it. The good is that quite a bit of the show was very engaging, to the point where I picked out a number of other Adam Ant songs I need to add to my monster-sized mp3 catalog. The bad is that for someone like myself, who isn't really an Adam Ant fan, the set was just too damned long. If you were an Adam lover, chances are you were in heaven. But I was mostly checked out mentally by the twentieth song or so, and by the encore, I had lost my will to live. "Just finish," I begged, mentally. And by this time, even Adam looked tired.

If Adam and the gang would have played through the 21st song, "Strip," and then ended the night with "Stand and Deliver", the last song of their regular set, I'd have left the arena feeling I'd seen a solid show. It would have cut a half hour off of the running time. Hell, they could have even thrown the Glam Skanks an extra song or two. As it was, I left the venue drained and tired, feeling like I'd just been through an ordeal. Denise pointed out that if it had been The Who, I'd have much preferred 28 songs to 22. "But," I countered, "Adam Ant isn't The Who".

Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the show more than not. And I enjoyed how much Denise was enjoying it. But from my point of view, this was a case where less would have definitely been more.

Denise also pointed out that overall, the crowd was a little more standoffish than the crowd had been the night before. The people right in front of the stage were up and dancing, and there small pockets of dancers throughout the theater (including the group surrounding us). But on Friday night, it seemed as if most of the building was up and dancing, whereas for this show, the enthusiasm was a little more restrained. Tim and Mandy also reported that they felt that Adam's show at the Beacon a few nights earlier had been a better show. So maybe Adam is just wearing himself a but thin.

Adam Ant's setlist for the Foxwoods show can be found at www.geezAdamgiveitarestwillya?.com.

After the show, we made our way to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner. Tim and Mandy had had enough, and had gone back to their room. As Denise and I ate, several members of the band made their way to the bar there, and presumably ordered food to be delivered to their rooms. Denise thought about asking them for a picture together, but she didn't want to disturb them. I'd have told them "Nice show," if I'd have passed them on the way to the Men's room, but they weren't there long enough.

Anyway, we gambled for a short time at the Smoke Free Casino. That, however, has been cut down to about a fifth of its former size, which I took to be kind of an F.U. message from Foxwoods to the non-smoking crowd. The next day, we found a tiny Denny's in New London at which to eat breakfast, then took the Orient Point Ferry back to Long Island. It had been a long weekend. The concerts had been good, but oh man, that hot tub! That was the best.

So that was the story of how I got kidnapped.