Thursday, July 5, 2018

LIVE REVIEW - Poptone/Automatic: The Middle East, 6/26/2018

Photo courtesy of Shameless Promotion PR

As previously discussed on this site, Poptone is a trio comprised of Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins of Bauhaus/Tones on Tail/Love and Rockets and Haskins’ daughter Diva Dompe. Since April 2017, they have been regularly touring with a live set of material by all three aforementioned bands. Recently, they hit the Boston area for the second time in less than a year, this time in support of a live album recently released by Cleopatra Records (and recorded in conjunction with Los Angeles’ famed KXLU).  

The formation of Poptone last year was a welcome occurrence in the history of Alternative music. Tones on Tail’s two-year existence was over way back in 1984, while Love And Rockets – the trio completed by Haskins’ brother, bassist David J –  last stepped on stage together nearly a decade ago and haven’t released an album since 1998’s Lift. As for Bauhaus… well, that’s a decidedly more complex affair. Since briefly reuniting in the studio in 2006 (and posthumously releasing 2008’s underrated Go Away White), the group’s four members have split into two camps: Ash and Haskins are currently together in Poptone, while J and singer Peter Murphy are gearing up to do “40th Year Ruby Bauhaus Anniversary Tours” together at some point in the near future. While fans understandably bemoan the apparent end of the Bauhaus collective, the idea of audiences having double the opportunities to see the former members perform classic tunes live is certainly appealing.  

Sadly, Bauhaus music was not on tap when Poptone touched down at the Middle East in Cambridge last week. Fighting against the venue’s curfew and Ash’s case of the flu (which led them to cancel the following night’s performance in Wantagh, NY), the band cut their set short after performing 13 songs, leaving off the 1983 Bauhaus gem “Slice Of Life” and a few other numbers. Fortunately, what they did deliver was an absolutely brilliant show celebrating some of the brightest moments of the other two bands’ back catalogs. It has been nearly 35 years since Tour on Tail briefly toured the States, which made the inclusion of “Christian Says,” “Go!” “Movement Of Fear,” “Performance” and other tracks from that era’s sparse discography a long-overdue treat. Musically, the band was on fire, with Haskins’ intense drumming (matched grip, no less!) on Love and Rockets’ “Mirror People” being one of the evening’s many highlights. Dompe delivered her uncle’s iconic bass parts (plus some occasional percussion) with skill and grace (especially on a slick rendition of Love and Rockets’ “No Big Deal”), while Ash’s voice remained strong despite the obstacles presented by his illness.

Formed this past January, Los Angeles’ quite wonderful Automatic opened the show with an all-too-brief set of beautifully lo-fi sounds that fell somewhere between Low-era Bowie and The Raincoats. In addition to their stellar original material (currently available on an eponymous EP that’s worth a listen), the trio – which includes Haskins’ daughter Lola on drums and vocals – hit all the right spots with a cover of Delta 5’s “Mind Your Own Business.” Automatic is an exciting young band with endless promise; check them out as soon as possible.

While all current signs point to a very unlikely future for Bauhaus, all four musicians responsible for the band’s incomparable output are thankfully still out there sharing their gifts with the world. As the powerful post-Bauhaus material they played at the Middle East showed, Ash and Haskins still demonstrate a level of chemistry and sonic magic that can only come from people who were truly meant to be on stage together. Few musicians are ever blessed with a 40-year career, but it is a fitting and unsurprising achievement for two players who effortlessly continue to amaze and inspire. 

Interview with Poptone

Official Poptone Website 


Wednesday, July 4, 2018

GG Allin: Still Dead, Still Hated, Still Missed

Photo source:

Five years ago, I drove to the sleepy town of Franconia, NH on a foggy night to witness an event commemorating the 20th anniversary of the death of everyone’s most beloved musical outlaw/coprophagia enthusiast, GG Allin. Naturally, it was one of the most surreal and thoroughly entertaining nights of my life. On July 1 – less than a week after the 25th anniversary of the man’s drug-fueled demise, I again found myself stepping inside the Dutch Treat restaurant for another round of sonic debauchery.   

Always a much nicer guy that his legend would suggest, GG’s brother, Merle (who has kept the pungent flame burning since the singer’s death in ’93), was his usual affable, approachable self, holding court at the merch table and serving as The Murder Junkies’ public relations director. Thanks to the success of the band’s most recent tour, his usual avalanche of GG/Murder Junkies-related products was reduced to a relatively scant number of items this time around. Next to the table sat a makeshift tombstone for GG, which the band brought up to his resting place in Littleton earlier that day for a celebration. (The original stone was removed years ago to dissuade fans from shitting and pissing on GG’s grave.)

In many ways, the chaos surrounding our modern world has outpaced GG’s insanity. It says a lot about our society when the idea of a guy eating his own shit and singing odes to rape is less terrifying than the realities of regular school shootings, political/social division and economic slavery. Simply put, the horrors of the real word outside The Dutch Treat made anything that occurred inside the place seem downright quaint in comparison. When you set aside the disgusting lyrics and degenerate actions of the man being honored, what you really had this past Sunday was a celebration of family – a point driven home by the bittersweet moment when Merle lovingly dedicated Murder Junkies show opener “Once A Whore” to GG’s daughter, Nico, who was in attendance. Earlier in the evening, fans and friends alike chatted away with the Allin Brothers’ elderly mother, Arleta Baird, who greeted everyone with hugs and wide smiles. (I overheard her tell someone that she enjoys attending these tribute events because “people say nice things about [her] son.”) Much of the evening’s entertainment was raunchy and savage, but my favorite moment of the night was when I spotted Merle quietly conversing and strolling with Arleta with his arm around her.  

Murder Junkies set list or FetLife interests list? You decide. 

Merle has had 25 years to prove that The Murder Junkies have more to offer than just being the guys who played behind GG’s bare, excrement-smeared ass as he caused mayhem and destruction. GG’s undying legend may still bring people through the door, but it’s up to the band to deliver the goods to keep them there. Sure, any 12-year-old boy with a hard-on and access to serial killer documentaries on YouTube could easily write the band’s lyrics, but only a fool would deny that the fellas are formidable musicians who know what the fuck they’re doing. The Murder Junkies don’t just offer audio slime; they deliver shades of Country and Blues in their sound in ways that demonstrate that there’s more going on at their rehearsals than simply writing the most offensive material possible. Full marks go to ace guitarist Sonny Joe Harlan and singer PP Duvay, whose imposing voice ranged from the guttural growl of GG’s later years to a dark crooning not unlike what you’d hear coming out of Paul from Sheer Terrors mouth. The band’s set was highlighted by guest appearances by Jabbers guitarist Chris Lamy (whose history with that band dates back to when GG fronted them prior to going solo in the mid 80s) and current Jabbers singer Wimpy Rutherford (ex Queers). While opinions vary on whether GG was a messiah or a psychopathic joke, there is no question that today’s Murder Junkies are one hell of a band.

(A personal aside: I remember Merle ringing me up in 1996 to see if The Murder Junkies could play at the all-ages Misfits show I booked at Action Park. With GG’s history still fresh in my mind, I reluctantly declined his offer despite being intrigued by the possibility. Merle did his best to convince me that GG was gone and this was a different era, but I was unwilling to budge. “We just want to fucking play,” he sighed. Knowing what I know now about The Murder Junkies as people and musicians, I regret turning Merle down. My belated apologies, buddy.)

As expected, Murder Junkies drummer Dino Sex spent the evening wandering around in an apparent fog. I’m sure he saw and enjoyed things that night that were above everyone else’s comprehension. Although his chops have diminished slightly with age, he’s still a beast behind the kit. While he refrained from shoving his sticks up his ass and flashing his manhood, he earned his place in the spotlight with a lengthy drum solo AFTER the rest of The Murder Junkies finished their show and walked away. It is unclear if this was by design or if the band simply neglected to tell him that the gig was over. Either way, it was great to see the guy still in action. I’d love to visit his planet sometime.

In addition to The Murder Junkies’ grand finale, the night boasted a killer lineup of support bands. They Hate Us – a supergroup featuring PP, Dino and Connecticut musician Malcolm Tent – kicked things off in a gloriously crude fashion, while New Jersey’s fun The Smoking Triples looked and sounded like Jeff Spicoli fronting The Dwarves. New England underground pirate Jonee Earthquake has been around longer than just about everyone, and his too-brief set got the crowd – by this time fully feeling the effects of hours of drinking – up and moving. Armed with an acoustic guitar and an acerbic wit, Tent forever earned a place in my heart during his solo set by responding to an audience member’s shouts of “Free Bird” by passing around a cup to successfully raise enough funds to actually play the fucking thing. (In addition to releasing a staggering array of music over the years, Tent is also a gifted photographer; his short-run book, The Women Of Devo, is worth checking out in all its brilliant Richard Kern-meets-David Lynch glory.)

Your humble narrator with Merle Allin 

There are people who look and sound Punk, and there are motherfuckers who LIVE Punk. Merle Allin is that guy. He turns 65 this year and is still at it. He told me that The Murder Junkies are planning to record a new album next year. That’s great news. Will he still be around at 69 to do a 30th “Deathaversary” show for GG? I sure hope so. There will always be a need in this world for the real thing – which is exactly what Merle and the other filthy bastards in The Murder Junkies still give us.


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Remembering Anthony Trance & The Pipeline

Photo source:

It is worth noting that Anthony Trance of The Pipeline (Newark, NJ) died 20 years ago today.

A person’s impact is rarely understood until they’re no longer around. Looking back, it’s clear that Trance’s passing represented a major change to the NJ underground music scene – and it never recovered from that loss. The Pipeline went on for a bit after he died, but it wasn’t the same. Although The Pipeline had already been around for years (and I played there as early as ’93 when I was my stepson’s age – crazy to think about now), I think most people would agree that the club really made a name for itself once Trance starting booking there in the mid ’90s.

Trance didn’t always make everyone happy (which is a fate that befalls most show promoters), but the guy gave me plenty of great gigs in those days. I’ll never forget playing or attending those Thursday night shows, staying out all night and getting back home in time to take a quick shower and head off to a full day of work. Those Fridays were brutal for many of us.

Trance facilitated those incredible nights and the experiences that went along with them. Twenty years later, that needs to acknowledged and celebrated.

Interestingly, my last conversation with Trance was also the longest and most memorable. One night, I was at Connections in Clifton (which he also booked) on a fairly quiet night. I sat next to him at the bar, and we ended up bullshitting about all kinds of stuff. Away from the chaos of running the Pipeline pirate ship and dealing with pain-in-the-ass musicians like yours truly, he was incredibly jovial and very good company. He was dead not too long after that. I’m glad that he was in such high spirits when I saw him for the last time.

So much is different now. I’m sorry Trance and The Pipeline are gone, but I’m glad most of us are still here two decades later to tell the tales and look back at that special time with fondness.

Anthony S. Machovsky II, a.k.a. Anthony Trance: December 7, 1966 –July 3, 1998


Sunday, June 24, 2018

A Box of Bernie

As anyone who regularly reads this site knows, Bernie Worrell was my favorite musician.

In the summer of 2015, Bernie’s wife, Judie, posted on Facebook that they were in the process of moving to Seattle from their home in New Jersey. Unfortunately, they had boxes of Bernie’s CDs that they couldn’t afford to transport across the country. She asked fans if they were interested in making offers on those boxes before they were taken to the dump.

These were difficult words to read. Bernie Worrell, one of the most gifted musical minds in history, didn’t have the money to keep boxes of his own recordings. Two years earlier, he had to start a Kickstarter in order to raise funds for a tour van.

Like many true innovators, Worrell wasn’t enjoying a particularly comfortable life at the time. Although he had contributed to some of the richest music in history, financial success eluded him – a fact made depressingly clear in the 2005 documentary film, Stranger: Bernie Worrell On Earth.

A Bernie Worrell show was a sonic roller coaster that literally took you somewhere else as the maestro worked his magic. As each song ended, audience members (at least those truly paying attention and feeling it) were delivered back to Earth grateful to have taken the trip. Tragically, very few people knew about or appreciated this. As Bernie’s former P-Funk bandmate Bootsy Collins said in Stranger, “If you’re not watching or listening, you’ll miss him.” Most people did.

When I saw The Bernie Worrell Orchestra perform in Massachusetts a few years ago, he had to shoo away rowdy drunks bumping into his keyboard setup and rise above the hipsters who chose to talk throughout the show. Bernie deserved more than that.

Although I was very short on recreational funds at the time of Judie’s announcement due to recently buying a house, I couldn’t bear to see Bernie’s work simply thrown away like trash. I reached out to Judie and made the best offer I could - $50 for a box of 25 CDs. In my heart, I knew I was committing a moral crime, but it was all I could do then. Judie wrote back, “$50 for one box plus shipping is better than dumping them.” The box arrived at my doorstep a few days later.

A few months later, it was revealed that Bernie was battling cancer and had moved to Seattle to be closer to family and take advantage of the city’s marijuana laws. For years, I had avoided the temptation to reach out to Bernie for an interview. I respected him so much that I felt that any time he would spend on the phone with me would take him away from what was really important – making his extraordinary music. But when faced with this upsetting news and the knowledge that Bernie’s time was running out, I reached out to Judie to see if I could chat with him for a story that would hopefully bring greater attention to his plight and raise funds for his treatment. Judie accepted my request and gave me their number.

When I called, Bernie’s son answered the phone and told me that his dad was sleeping. I urged him not to bother Bernie, but he insisted that it was okay. I really had to make this worth it. What followed was one of the most beautiful conversations I’ve ever had with another human being. He left me with these words: “Be careful out there; [it's a] crazy world.” The article that resulted from this chat is one of my proudest moments as a writer, but I still can’t read it without crying.

In April 2016, good fortune put me in Seattle on the same evening that Bernie was performing a show - on his birthday, no less. The night served as the live debut of his latest project, Khu.√©ex', an extraordinary group of musicians mixing Funk with Native American sounds. Bernie was incredibly frail, but his soul and fingers were as amazing as always. He was nearing the end, but he was still reaching for new sounds and directions. It was the greatest Bernie Worrell performance I ever saw. I left the venue feeling like I had reached a new cosmic plane, but I was also aware that I would never see the man on stage again. It was hard to take.

Bernie died two years ago today. I’ll never get over the loss. I’m glad this box of CDs is here.

More on Bernie Worrell