Ain’t No Shame
Evan Dando‘s show last week was all about smiles. When the crowd loudly professed its love and proclaimed his undying genius, a little grin snuck onto his face and then off again. When Juliana Hatfield—Juliana Hatfield—on bass, chimed in with her Sprite-clear harmony on “Stop My Head,” from his recent comeback disc Baby I’m Bored (“Don’t listen to me, listen to yourself”), he smirked over at her, two old friends with an in-joke. And at the end, when he turned up the lights and asked what we wanted for an encore, and the packed room bombarded him with titles he’d skipped in an almost 30-song set (“Altamont”! “Green Eyes”!) he just looked out at the noise and beamed.
Maybe it’s true that Dando gets “Paid to Smile.” But as he stood there, all lanky limbs, lank hair and linebacker shoulders, even opening his eyes occasionally and leaning back from the mic as if to hear himself out on the choruses, it was hard not to feel that he’d earned it. After all, he had shown up, on time, sober, with a band tighter than the one on the new album, including fellow Bostonian and ex-Come-er Chris Brokaw tearing it up on guitar. Dando sang every old song we ever loved, from “It’s a Shame About Ray” to “My Drug Buddy” to “Big Gay Heart,” and the voice was still there, weathered and golden like a knotty-pine plank—true, the high registers were faded out a little bit, but that only matched the way he sounds on your 10-year-old, passed-around mix tape. Not everybody gets to dig their own way down to rock bottom and then write about it all the way back up, but then not everybody can make being lost sound so pretty. —Anya Kamenetz
“We are rockers—from the new—OWWW!” David Thomas yelps at the start of Life Stinks, the 1990 bootleg released 15 years after the end of Rocket From the Tombs‘ brief, unkempt, unrecorded career, and 13 years before their first New York show, which finally came last Friday. Mixing (which is not to say integrating) mean Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath riffs with artsy Velvet Underground and Roxy Music loft science, these Cleveland misfits left their sentences unfinished; the lineup fractured in dissent, and their avant-tous set soon turned into history when factions went off to form Pere Ubu and the Dead Boys.
At the Village Underground, three original members re-created the group’s rough democracy: Bassist and Vietnam vet Craig Bell sang “Muckraker,” rooted in a stolen Bowie motif, and Cheetah Chrome, perhaps Cleveland’s first dog-collared guitarist, took “Amphetamine” and the sarcastic, doomed “Ain’t It Fun,” written by the group’s long-dead conceptualist, Peter Laughner. Thomas, big as a forest and walking with a cane, shook lyric sheets in his fist as the five-piece barreled through “Final Solution” and “Sonic Reducer,” an outcast’s sci-fi revenge fantasy. The songs, obsessed with death, chaos, high school alienation, and self-invention, are no less new now for being more familiar. And touring guitarist Richard Lloyd of Television—one of Laughner’s chief inspirations—retrofit “30 Seconds Over Tokyo,” a nightmare of urban ignition, with a solo that pulled the song back to its sinew. Posthumous honors (a CD of rehearsal tapes and live shows came out last year) don’t seem to have smoothed over the dissent. Thomas, cranky throughout the hour-long set, glared at Bell and Chrome when they flattened the high harmonies at the end of “Final Solution.” And the singer introduced Chrome, a bald, wide-eyed crowd favorite, by his legal name, Gene O’Connor. “My friends call me ‘Cheetah,’ ” O’Connor quipped. Thomas rose from his chair to riposte: “Wanna make that breakup number nine?” —Rob Tannenbaum
A Male Model
Not that it’s a bad thing, but whatever Prince Paul offered on Tuesday at S.O.B.’s, it wasn’t a show. He simply doesn’t have the troops for that. Call him whatever you want—underground progenitor, early De La Soul linchpin, old-school monarch. Just don’t call him general. Unlike Timbaland or DJ Premier, there’s no roundtable of rappers who’ve pledged fealty to Prince Paul’s ASR. Instead, when battle calls, he enlists a motley crew of ill MCs who may seem like “Where Are They Nows?” but reveal themselves to be “Why Aren’t They Here More Oftens?”
The upshot? When he achieves synergy, you get the likes of Chubb Rock running down Brooklyn’s pre-Jay-Z pedigree, “I think Masta Ace was holding it down on Lafayette/Daddy-O was in Bed Stuy claiming the sonic of Stet/In Marcy there was the Jaz, while Kane was on Louis Ave./I’m from Vanderbilt where niggas don’t take out the trash.” The backwash? It’s kind of hard to get free agents to rep when his latest—presently Politics of the Business—hits the market and he needs to tour. In fact, when Prince Paul stepped onstage his only cohort was a redundant one—a DJ. Oh yes, there was “Kineko the Choreographer” who instructed the crowd, “No taking pictures of my penis,” and later returned as r&b crooner “Tony Massengill.” He demurred, “The new album is called Tender Titties,” then he ticked off a list of producers—including the RZA and Pharrell—who’d be lending their talents to the product. Prince Paul wasn’t mentioned.
In between such histrionics, Paul supplanted the DJ and cued up an assortment of his hits, digging deep for artifacts like “Talkin’ All That Jazz.” Then, abruptly, Paul said “peace” and walked offstage, through the crowd, past me and right out of S.O.B.’s in search of a smoke, a ham sandwich, or maybe just an army. —Ta-Nehisi Coates
On June 15th, the night of what would have been Tupac Amaru Shakur’s 32nd trip around the sun, a gang of people came out to pay respects and learn about the Shakur legacy Technically Tupac’s birthday is the 16th of June but the party and performances rocked way past midnight into the morning of the 16th.
This Father’s Day event was organized by Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Tupac’s stepfather, from inside the walls of a maximum security penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia. The show jumped off in proper form with Black Ice of Def Poetry Jam followed by the screening of an interview with Mutulu Shakur. The lineup then swung into hip-hop acts like G*A*M*E*, Don Divino from the People’s Army, and Grafh of BlackHand Entertainment. Seven-Day theorists believe that this, the seventh year of Tupac’s passing, will be the year he “returns.” I don’t believe it, but in a sense, I guess this year we’ve seen more of Tupac than ever before. Hmmm . . . —Juan Pablo
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 17, 2003