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Posts Tagged ‘St. george theater’

Yes, I know. I’m reviewing a show dated way back from August 30th, 2019, in a blog dated February 2020. That’s what happens when you have a life. (Sighs)

Around Labor Day weekend 2019, I got tickets to see The Alarm and Modern English over at the St. George Theater. When I first started to seriously explore Post-Punk and imported music from the U.K., The Alarm was one of the first bands I brought an album of. The vinyl was brought at some shop on West. 8th street during the early to mid-’80s. It was a choice between an Canadian Punk band called D.O.A, or The Alarm. The Alarm won out. Imagine if I had brought that D.O.A. release? Fret not. For a while I attended the CBGB’s Hardcore matinee during its prime, where I saw bands like Government Issue and Corrosion of Conformity perform.

Now that I’ve seriously dated myself, back to The Alarm. While I loved the big hair and Welsh cowboy look, eventually I went further into more underground bands. It wasn’t until I heard The Alarm was playing at the landmark St. George Theater that I realized, I’ve never seen this band live. Looking for an excuse to visit the restored St. George Theater again, I invited my friend along, and off we went.

I’ve mentioned the St. George Theater in other posts. It’s a gorgeous piece of architectural history. First had a chance to check it out when I went to see The Psychedelic Furs for the third time back in 2018. (First time in 1986, second time they were opening for The B-52s and The Go-Gos, back in the early 2000s, somewhere in New Jersey.) It’s not far from the Staten Island ferry either. The venue sits on a cute block that had a bar, a decent Italian restaurant, and a comic book store with an old school collector’s vibe around the corner. (A shout out to HypnoTronic Comics – here’s their Instagram: hypnotroniccomics)

As my friend and I walked towards the venue, we accidentally ran into Mike Peters himself. The front man from The Alarm nodded and said hello to us. That’s when I should’ve known it was going to be a good night.

Usually the St. George Theater books acts for the Geritol or family crowd. That, and the fact that I live in Queens means I visit the venue very often. On the scorecard, two out of the three times I’ve had a good time at the St. George. Psychedelic Furs was great. Buster Pointdexter along with Southside Johnny and The Asbury Dukes, not so much. To be fair, I only went for Buster Pointdexter, aka David Johansen.

The opening act was Gene Loves Jezebel. Wow. Now that’s a band I haven’t heard of in years. I saw the original Gene Loves Jezebel line-up way back in 1986 at The Ritz, where Webster Hall stands now. Gene Loves Jezebel had some good songs back in the day, particularly with ‘Desire.’ The fact that they were good looking brothers didn’t hurt either. Suppose you can say that the Aston brothers could be considered Goth heartthrobs. My second time seeing Gene Loves Jezebel in 2019, it was just Jay Aston with a back-up band. Still just as good.

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Bad photo of Jay Aston with the reformed Gene Loves Jezebel at the St. George Theater, Staten Island, NY. Aug. 30th, 2019. 

After his set, my friend went to the ladies room. She came back to her seat saying Jay Aston was walking around meeting fans. We left our seats and like my friend, I ran into Jay as well. Just like him and his brother were back in 1986, Jay was still such a flirt! The old charm was still there. He even called me ‘beautiful’ even though I didn’t believe it for one second. Maybe if global warming wasn’t in full effect, then I wouldn’t be sweating so much. It was still endearing to see Jay work his natural charm.

A month or two after this gig, I ended up seeing Jay Aston live again. He was performing solo, doing new material. It wasn’t bad at all. He was opening for Theater of Hate and Chameleons Vox (Mark Burgess, from The Chameleons U.K.) over at St. Vitus. If you’re interested in what Jay is doing now, go to his SoundCloud page.

Back to the gig at the St. George. Next up was Modern English. They’re mostly known for that one big hit ‘Melt With You.’ That song was played so much during my youth, I got sick of hearing it. I remember another friend showing me photos of when Modern English first hit American shores, and she had taken back in the ’80s, when they were doing a signing, possibly at Tower Records. Now in 2020, I’m looking at the band behind the concession stand, signing again for fans.

So they get on stage. During the Modern English set, the lead singer, Robbie Gray had moments of that British sarcasm. Like when they played a song from a later album, and he acknowledged that maybe only ten people heard it. Grey quipped some more biting humor when he pointed out that the venue was only half full. He wasn’t wrong.

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Modern English live at the St. George Theater, Staten Island, NY. August 30, 2019. 

Next up was the headliners, The Alarm. By then the theater was a little more than half full. A mixture of fans, and Staten Island residents looking to do something on a Friday night. Despite not being sold out, there was still a bit of excitement in the air.

It also dawned on me that both The Alarm and Jay Aston were from Wales. Some years back, I had done illustrations for books about Welsh history. Plus my good friend lives in Wales. After the concert, my Welsh friend contacted me about The Alarm gig. He wanted to know how the concert went. He went on to explain that Mike Peters and his wife are cancer survivors. Which Peters did bring up during the course of the show.

During a few songs, Mike Peters jumped into the audience. As you can see with the video footage. Security was trying to get people to sit back down, but after all, it’s still a concert. Even if it’s a rock concert playing music from thirty years ago. One audience member kept on defying security, as he was dancing in the aisles during both Modern English and The Alarm. He would be told to sit back down, which he did. Eventually the music came over him, and the guy would start dancing in the aisles again. By this point, most of the locals left, and it was left up to the fans. The fans loved every moment.

The apex of the night was ‘Rain In The Summertime.’ One other guy sitting in orchestra got lost in the tune, and danced away. After that song, my friend simply said “that was epic.” Which it was. It was really an awesome night.

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View from the Staten Island ferry, Aug. 30th, 2019. On the way back to Manhattan. 

I’ll leave you with a sketch or illustration I did of The Alarm during their classic ’80s line-up. Now I can cross off The Alarm off my concert bucket list.

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The Alarm during their classic ’80s lineup. Illustration by Michele Witchipoo, Feb. 2020. 

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One of the good things about 2018 was the amount of concerts attended. I had the good fortune to get free tickets. Not sure how long this luck will go on, but every minute was thoroughly enjoyed. A friend took me to see Melvins, Mac Sabbath, Slayer, and Royal Thunder (with local Philadelphia band Heavy Temple opening). Won tickets to see Judas Priest and Deep Purple over at Jones Beach, then that burlesque tribute to Led Zeppelin a few weeks later. In between I saw Anvil, Clan of Xymox, Robert Plant, CAKE, and a few others.

While I was this close to catching Ministry live, instead I was given tickets to two concerts happening over at the St. George Theater. Not many people outside of Staten Island know about this outer borough venue.

First of all, when one lives in NYC, Staten Island is kinda-sorta considered the “forgotten borough.” Everyone talks about Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and even Queens. Queens being the borough I live in. Staten Island however, hardly shows up on the radar.

Don’t count out Staten Island however. Within this overlooked borough contains some hidden gems. For starters, you can board the Staten Island ferry for free. Once boardedm one can purchase some cheap beer for the duration of the ride. Cash only, please. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

Once the ferry hits St. George Terminal, the fun doesn’t end there. Only a few blocks away is the landmark venue which went into renovated starting in 2004. If you’re a fan of old architecture, particularly from the vaudeville circuit, then you will appreciate this establishment. The theater itself was designed in Spanish and Italian Baroque revival style interior. It’s original intention was to be a movie palace, popular during from 1900s to 1940s. The Art Deco and Egyptian revival styles was particularly majestic. Like the Drive-Ins, these movie palaces started to decline after the end of World War II, and the arrival of television. During the 1970s, a few of these movie palaces began to show porn to avoid closure.

 Luckily the St. George theater was spared from the wrecking ball. It’s currently under non profit status as it was reborn as a concert venue. It also has schedule of classic films to be shown on the big screen.

Having been curious about the St. George theater since Todd Rundgren played there, I finally had a chance to check it out on October 20th, 2018. It was to see a concert by ’80s Alternative legends The Psychedelic Furs. I already saw them during their height of their popularity sometime during the mid-80s. Figured seeing them again decades later in 2018 was a perfect excuse to visit the venue.

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Going to see the Psychedelic Furs reminded me of why I fell in love with music in the first place. In 2018 was the opportunity to catch many Metal concerts. 2018 was a Metal kind of year. However. My first love will always been anything Post-Punk, New Wave, ’80s Goth, classic Punk or ’80s Alternative. Seeing the Furs live was the reminder I needed. Accompanying me was my friend Kitty Hawke, a member of the NYC Goth band Night Gallery. She had also seen the Furs live back in the ’80s.

 

 

We had time to kill, so we checked out the local (female owned) comic book store Hypno-Tronic. Soon it was time to catch the gig. We were not disappointed. Our seats were floor orchestra – yes! Basically the Furs did all their greatest hits. Songs like “Pretty In Pink”, “Ghost In You”, “Heaven”, and “President’s Gas.” The encore was an awesome rendition of the song “India” from their first album.

Afterward the concert we walked around the venue checking out the interior. There were a few Halloween decorations up for display.

 

 

Exactly two months after the Psychedelic Furs was a chance to see another concert at St. George. It was Southside Johnny and The Asbury Dukes, with David Johansen opening. Okay, straight up. I only went for two reasons. One, to see David Johansen live. Second, to see the St. George theater during the holiday season. Not that I have anything against Southside Johnny. I was just never into that Bruce Springsteen/South Jersey sound. Not my thing.

Arrived at the St. George theater just in time as David Johansen began his set. For those who don’t know, David Johansen was the singer of the proto-Punk/Glam band The New York Dolls. Later on, he reinvented himself as Buster Pointdexter with the pop hit “Hot Hot Hot.” Back in 2006 to 2011, the NY Dolls reunited thanks to Morrissey. Never had a chance to see any of the Dolls’ reunion gigs. Had to settle for the documentary about Arthur Kane as seen on Amazon Prime. So the St. George show was the next best thing.

 

 

For the record, he only did one NY Dolls song. Lonely Planet Boy. Which was okay, it was to be expected. David did a great cover of that Erma Franklin song “Piece of My Heart” but we all know Janis Joplin’s version. Other tunes from the set list included Frenchette and Mannish Boy, a Muddy Waters cover.

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The majority of the audience was there to see Southside Johnny and The Asbury Dukes. I wasn’t feeling this crowd at all. It was the most suburban environment I’d been in a long time. Bad news. There was a guy sitting a few seats away from me sporting a vintage plaid suit, but after David Johansen was done, he hightailed it. As for myself, I wore a black sweater, a loose light colored blush velvet top, black pants and Doc Martin boots. Looking respectable. Meanwhile, I had grandma sitting behind me, giving me silent stink-eye thanks to my blue hair. She glared at me, looking at me as if to say “what are YOU doing here!?!” You think after years of post-feminism, ladies would stop at being unnecessarily catty. I’m ignoring her, minding my own business. Then Negative Nancy tapped my shoulder in very nasty manner. She demanded that my cell be turned away from her. Geez. What did I do to her? Even though I wasn’t even using the smartphone. You know, like what everyone else normally does at shows nowadays, which is tape the entire concert instead of actually watching. She was using any excuse to be a hater. Then she gossiped loudly with her friend. Welcome to the Trump era.

The way the last three months of 2018 was going, this was no surprise.

The lady’s behavior did throw me off a bit with her attitude. All year, and this was the only truly bad experience with my 2018 concerts.

It’s okay. In-between bands, I pretended to to rest my head on my cellphone case, as I silently but slowly turned my cell around so the cover could face her. It was a Rip n Dip design. The one with the cat giving you the middle finger. You’re welcome.

I had a much better time at the Psychedelic Furs gig. Knew I should’ve worn my Junji Ito shirt. Because everyone should have at least one offensive shirt in their wardrobe. For occasions like I just described. For the record, I own a few.

Despite grandma having her Geritol moment, the set by Southside Johnny was decent. They’re fine musicians. Just not my cup of tea. The audience loved them though. Their encore was their biggest hit “Having A Party.”

After the show was over, again I walked around taking photos of the venue. One of the two reasons why I showed up.

 

 

Heading towards back to Manhattan, I met three ladies dressed like holiday fairies. It was perfect for the winter solstice. They were also much, much nicer than Geritol lady. Next time I shall hang out with them.

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