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THE DOWNBEAT 5 - Jen & JJ Rassler rip it up at Desmonds bringing their Boston-based band to NYC. JJ, of course, was a co-founder of the notorious and legendary DMZ one of the most influencial of the 70s new wave of 'garage' bands - he also wrote for, produced and played with the Queers (who he joined up with at sold-out CBGBs the night following this gig.)  Downbeat 5's recently released, self-titled album (Sympathy for the Record Industry) showcases Jen's bad-ass vocals and JJ's raunchy guitar - a prototype of  your basic balls to the wall rock 'n' roll band.
NYC's HOT Music Scene
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THE EVERYOTHERS - Owen McCarthy and Ben Toro (left), Joel B. Cannon (below) with John Melville on drums (not shown). Saturday night at the Luna Lounge - is it garage ... or basic three-chord rock 'n' roll? Either way, the everyothers delivered it with NYC style.
In the early 60s a young songwriter from Minnesota, blew the spit out of his harmonica, adjusted the capo on his acoustic guitar and walked up to the microphone at a Greenwich Village club habituated by the poets, artists and writers of the beat generation. In a crude, earthy voice he sang that the times ... well, they were a changin'. A few years later in a go-go bar just a block or two away, an R&B guitarist from Seattle slung his Stratocaster on upside down and started playing sideways, under, over and inside out ... all with soulful taste. Songwriting and guitar playing would never be the same again.

In the early 70s, Max's Kansas City hosted a new band that played loud and trashy rock 'n' roll. But these dolls from New York had a look that was even louder, trashier and certainly more shocking than their sound. And a year or so later, just down the road a piece at CBGBs, a leather-jacketed foursome led by a tall and gangly Jewish kid from Queens launched into a head banging attack of the loudest and crudest rock anyone had ever heard. The traditional concept of the rock 'n' roll combo was gone forever.

Then in the early 80s, a woman with the face and name of a virgin, but with the moves and the mouth of a harlot strutted her stuff at Danceteria. And...well, there's at least a hundred or so more stories in this naked city about the setting it has provided for the launching of the most original, innovative and influential movements and artists of our time. New York City is the place where ideas take off. Those ideas may be refined, cleaned-up or made socially (and commercially) presentable elsewhere, but this is the place where they start. Artists in New York have the arrogance to intuitively know they're the coolest thing ever to come along. So cajones has nothing to do with putting it all on the line, getting up on a stage and throwing their lives into your face just to see what happens. If you can make it here - chances are no one else will understand what the hell you're doing. But, that's their problem. Sooner or later, they'll be selling it at Wal-Mart.

So all along club hopping in New York has always contained the extra added possibility that you might just stumble upon the Next Big Thing - another Dylan, Hendrix, New York Dolls, Ramones or Madonna. Hell, you might even recognize it if you saw it. Well, even if you don't at least you'll probably get screwed, blewed and tattooed in the process. So what's the state of the current NYC music scene? In a word (or two, or so) - garage and spread out. In case you haven't heard, 'garage' is the cover-it-all term being flung about to describe just about every new group that has a drummer and guitarist within their ranks and a punkish approach to song-writing. So the Strokes and the White Stripes and the Hives and the Vines and now the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs and on and on, are all lumped into this bag together. So be it. As ever, the stages of New York City are showcasing the best and also (as ever) the worst of this latest breed of 'new' music.

But this time around, the music scene isn't focused in one area at a time - like Greenwich Village in the 60s or the Lower East Side in the 70s/80s. The Mercury Lounge, Don Hill's, Arlene Grocery, the Luna Lounge, the long-standing CBGBs and dozens of other Manhattan clubs are featuring the most original of these new bands; but a short hop across the East River, Brooklyn venues like Northsix, Luxx and Southpaw are attracting large crowds to great billings.

All and all, these are pretty exciting times for rock again in this city and in the coming issues of NEON, we'll be covering all of it .... once again ... with reviews, interviews, gossip and lots of photos ... so stay tuned!

AUTOMATIC - This UK band endeared itself to the crowd at the Luna Lounge when the female guitarist asked the audience for a place to crash since money to pay for the hotel room had run out. There were a lot of raucous offers - until she let on that her entire band needed a crash pad, not just her. She played it cool and so did Automatic.
Commentary and photos by Jeff Rey
Copyright 2003 NEON, blue door productions