Sunday, July 22, 2012

A portrait of two dancers: Beatle Bob and Jay-Jay

Beatle Bob anointing Enormous Richard at our first reunion show at CBGB.

Last night I went to a local rock band reunion concert at Off Broadway, where the Heebie Jeebies played for the first time in 18 years and the Boorays for the third time since then. My band Enormous Richard came up at the same time as these bands, played many gigs together in the early days of Cicero's Basement, so this promised to be a nostalgia trip.

It really wasn't. I was never transportated back to better days gone by. I just got absorbed into the present moment of two truly great rock bands brilliantly executing inventive and tasteful arrangements of vivid, interesting material. They totally rocked!

They didn't even look bad doing it, as we middle-aged rockers tend to do, since the two front men are aging well. Kip Loui of the Heebie Jeebies looks ageless, sporting a goatee as if to prove he is old enough to whisker. Mark Stephens of the Boorays is a little older than most of us from that vintage of the scene, and looked a little older, cooler and wiser back then. Now he looks like a nicely cleaned up version of that exact guy, wearing newer used thrift store clothes -- still cooler and wiser than us, but now also, somehow, younger.

I know quite a bit about most of the people in these bands and did the inevitable memory lane tripping, but the music was actually better than I remembered it. The songs were better than I remembered and the execution was much better. Surprisingly for a reunion show, living in the present was more interesting than living in the past.

It helped that throughout both sets I was witness to something I must have seen before, but never when I fully grasped what I was seeing and what it meant: I saw Jay-Jay work the same local rock dance floor as Beatle Bob.

It's hard to summarize these characters without losing newcomers, but Beatle Bob was starting to emerge on the scene when our bands were doing gigs in the late '80s and early '90s. With his Beatles mop and suit, Bob did zippy dance moves right in front of the band and showered the anointed band with fanboy enthusiasm delivered by a professional. Bob built this schtick into a brand, now a national brand, they tell me.

Jay-Jay came up on local dance floors later, when Beatle Bob was already more famous than any of the local bands he anointed. Jay-Jay had no appreciable costume or signature haircut, much less schtick overall. That said, Jay-Jay could command a dance floor, call attention to himself with repetitive, mannered dance strokes, and radiate passionate fanboyism at the band like he and they were the only things in the room; on the Earth.

Jay-Jay was the amateur, Beatle Bob was the pro, but everyone understood that an understudy had emerged.

Me and Jay-Jay a few years ago when he bought my drawing, no doubt. of some local rocker.

Last night I got to stand for more than an hour and watch the two of them, Beatle Bob and Jay-Jay, work the same local room, the same dance floor, the same great local bands from their heyday.

Beatle Bob picked a corner early in the Heebie Jeebies set - right up against stage right, at Alex Mutrux's feet - and did his thing there. He came out of his dance groove briefly to introduce the Boorays, but then leapt right back into that stage right corner and stayed tucked tightly in the peculiar, slashing mannerisms of his dance. Bob's solipsism is more total than ever now. A man who did a repetitive dance has become a repetitive dance with a man inside there somewhere.

Jay-Jay, on the other hand, would saunter to the edge of the dance floor like an ordinary show-goer, get moved by the band, or not, get more into it, or not. The difference between Jay-Jay and the average show-goer is when he did get more into the band, he got a lot more into the band. Next thing you know, his passionate fanboy dancing is the biggest show in the room; on the Earth.

It was fun to compare their big shows.

Beatle Bob's signature dance goes dervish when it gets intense. It's a disjointed circling phenomenon that gets faster and a little wider in circumference, with more violent elbow pops and knee kicks. Jay-Jay goes vertical, straight up in the air toward the ceiling, with this human pogo stick quality that he innovated. The shortest man on any dance floor, Jay-Jay hits the heighest heights.

Jay-Jay also digs much deeper down into the raw guts of the human heart than we have ever seen Beatle Bob journey in the dance.

Last night there was one Heebie Jeebies transition, a thrilling jolt from familiar chorus to a new and unexpected melody, a suddenly bright bridge back to where we began, when Jay- Jay did the splits -- his short legs were split open as wide as he is ever going to get them -- then he plunged forward, face-first, and slapped the wooden dance floor with the palm of his hand for all he was worth.

That was rock & roll.


Sorry the pictures are of me and these dancers. It's all I have. Last night I did not want to be running around with a camera.

1 comment:

Mike H said...

Chris, it was great to see you at the show!