"The Best Rock-N-Roll Weekend of My Life"
So my buddy Dave Champion and I decided to leave Washington, D.C., and drive to Philadelphia a few weekends ago. The climate in DC was that of a DMZ with the IMF protests and all the Moslem/Jewish conflict that we decided it was a perfect weekend to get the fuck outta Dodge.
It didn't hurt that Scott Morgan's PowerTrane (with Deniz Tek) was playing on Saturday night at the Khyber in Philly . . . and it certainly didn't hurt that my band, Adam West, was playing with the Hellacopters and the Gaza Strippers on Sunday nite at the same club. So our plans were made, the Starrmobile was all gassed up, and off we went Saturday afternoon to the City of Brotherly Love.
Dave is kinda my Dean Moriarty when we take these road trips... or maybe I'm his Neal Cassady. Who knows? I'll leave that to all you Kerouackian cocksuckers to figure out after my untimely death. The point is that we take frequent road trips (and sometimes plane trips to Sweden!) that always turn into an adventure. Two such cases turned into the songs "Piece of Ass" and "Gentlemen's Evening" that I wrote on our last album "Right On!"
So anyway, we hit the road and it's fucking hot today. I turn on the frosty A/C in the Starrmobile for the duration of the scant 2.5-hour drive to Philly when the "Check Engine" light flashes on my dashboard just as we enter Philly. Fuck, the last thing I need is car problems at the beginning of my weekend, y'know? I basically ignore the light and park near South Street, a happening downtown Mecca of alternative shopping and ignorant drunken frat fuckers who wanna pound the shit outta someone that looks like me. Dave and I don't get 2 blocks from our car while walking before some SUV with New Jersey tags full of meathead assholes scream, "Faggots! Fucking faggots!" out the window as they cruise past us. Aaaaah, ya gotta love those Jersey shitheads!
We hit the usual shopping spots (record stores) to waste some time and decide to drive past the Khyber to see if Scott Morgan and company are there yet. Now, I apologize in advance for all the name-dropping that you are about to read, but first we need a remedial course on good rock-n-roll. For all you 1st-grade students in the School of Rock, Scott Morgan is probably the greatest white soul singer in the world. He formed the Rationals in Detroit in the 1960s and earned his stripes in the 1970s in Sonic's Rendezvous Band with ex-MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith. He has also collaborated with the Hellacopters over the past few years which brought him to the attention of a much younger rock audience. Scott's band features ex-Radio Birdman guitarist/songwriter Deniz Tek. If you don't know who Radio Birdman is, then fuck off right now and stop reading this. I'm serious . . . you missed the bus, it's too late, just fuck off.
Just our luck that we pull up to the Khyber to see the band slaving their equipment into the club while we get the parking space right behind the van. Rock star parking, I call it. Dave and I had met Scott Morgan and Deniz Tek before, so we greeted each other and helped the band lug some equipment inside. Also in PowerTrane are Chris Taylor on bass and Andy Frost on drums. Chris and I met each other when Adam West and Chris's band Mazinga did a split 7" single and mini-tour a few years back, so it was good to see him again. Andy is also the drummer in the Hydromatics, Scott Morgan's international band that includes ex-Nitwitz guitarist Tony Slug. Sheesh, basically it's a small fucking world and everybody knows everybody else.
Soon, Real O Mind Records honcho Geoff Ginsberg shows up and the circle is complete. Geoff has recently released several Scott Morgan and Rendezvous Band records and is hosting all of us at his house for the night. Also along for the ride are Deep Reduction bassist John Sypes and drummer Clyde, two of the nicest and funniest guys I know. Dave and I know the fun is about to begin.
After soundcheck we all caravan back to Geoff's house for Chinese food and rock-n-roll talk. On the walk back to Geoff's house, Deniz Tek asks me if I know any Stooges songs. "Deniz, I know EVERY Stooges song!!!!!!!" I reply. Deniz asks me if I would like to jump up on stage for their encore and sing "Down on the Street." Well, Mr. Tek, it would be my pleasure. Inside, I was shitting myself! Fuck yeah!
After some greasy Chinese food, it's back to the Khyber and the place is packed. My bandmates Kevin, Steve, and Ben are all there to witness the rock. A big surprise is that Robert Guillespie, guitarist for Mitch Ryder for many years, is also here to play lead tonight. From the first song out of the station, the PowerTrane rocks like a locomotive. Sorry for the childish metaphor! The set consists of Sonic's Rendezvous Band, Hydromatics, Radio Birdman, Deniz Tek solo, and other songs. All of them top-notch.
The set ends, the crowd cheers, and Deniz announces that there's a "celebrity from D.C. in the house" who's gonna help them rock the next tune. I grace the stage, grab the mic, and deliver the best version of "Down on the Street" that I've ever sung. The monitors suck so badly that I can't hear myself at all, but what's new? The crowd goes beserk which just makes my adrenaline surge. We finish to a wall of applause. I take my place at the back of the stage for the finale . . . "City Slang," of course. One of the best live versions I have ever witnessed by any band.
Afterwards, fans are patting me on the back and congratulating me. Some recognize me and say they'll see me tomorrow with Adam West. So far, it's the best rock-n-roll weekend of my life and it's only Saturday night.
Back to Geoff's house with a few groupies in tow that makes everything just that much funnier. I'll leave out these details to protect the innocent. I go upstairs and grab an air mattress next to Scott Morgan's bed and talk to PowerTrane's manager before drifting off to sleep at 5:30 a.m.
Around 10:30 a.m., my mobile phone goes off and the loud ring causes Scott to jump like a cat two feet above his bed. It was seriously hilarious! It's Steve from Adam West. We decided to get a practice space in Phllly to run our set for Sunday night and go over a couple cover songs that we plan to play with Scott Morgan and Nick Royale. We all agree to meet in front of the Khyber at 11:45 a.m. After meeting and driving the couple blocks to the practice space, our drummer Ben realizes that the fucker who owns it is not there, the place is locked up, and we're basically screwed. Ben knows of another practice space a few blocks away so we hightail it there and get a room for an hour. The space has cheap Peavey amps that light up when they're overdriven, so Kevin gives us a light show everytime he strikes a chord. We run through the set, pack up, and go our seperate ways until the show later that night. I get back to the house and Geoff, Scott, Dave and I go to a diner for some grub. At the diner, there is a mother in her 40s and her gorgeous teenage daughter sitting right next to us. Of course, the four of us start talking about vulgar things and Dave and I catch this beautiful teenage vixen putting a thick piece of a bagel in her mouth like she was Linda Lovelace herself. If only. . . . After the meal with a full belly, I am ready to snooze so we go back to the house to crash.
After the nap, a shower does me right, and we all head off to the Khyber for Rock Night #2. We plan to play "Deuce" and have Nick Royale join us on guitar and then close our set with our cover of "Asteroid B-612" with Scott Morgan sharing the vocals with me. He wrote the song so the least I can do is invite him to sing it with me! We arrive at 7 p.m. to find the Hellacopters setting their shit up on stage for soundcheck. Dave and I have known the Hellacopters for years and besides being one of the best bands in the world, they are some of the nicest guys in the world. Dave and I could write a 10-volume tome on the adventures we've had with the Hellacopters. All the greetings are made . . . then the Gaza Strippers make the scene. Adam West played with them in DC in December last year, so we're also acquainted. The Gaza Strippers are another of my favorite bands, so this bill tonight is my dream show. If only Gluecifer could quickly fly over to push it over the top!
The Hellacopters soundcheck and we and the Gaza Stippers attempt to put all three bands' equipment on stage. "Hey, Boba! Can we throw your fucking piano out into the street during our set?" It's crowded on stage, but it's even more crowded in the club. The Khyber can pack about 200 people in uncomfortably but it seems there are 250+ here tonight.
It's 9:40 p.m. and we hit the stage with "Sizzleen." The place goes wild. We tear through our set while Dave films us right in front. I make my usual goofy faces and poses while Kevin, Steve, and Ben rock out like men posessed. We get to the end of the set with "Deuce" expecting Nick Royale to hop up on stage with his guitar to join us when Scott Morgan yells at me from the side that Nick's guitar is trapped behind our equipment and he can't play with us. Oh well, we scorch through "Deuce" without Nick and invite Scott up to sing "Asteroid B-612" with us. Second night in a row I'm sharing the stage with one of my favorite singers! As we leave the stage, the congratulations pour in . . . "You guys fucking ROCKED!!!!"
I get to the merch table to find young Ben Smyth (Angel Witch fan club president) dutifully selling Adam West shirts and CDs to the masses. Aaahhh, how can this night get any better? Well, the Gaza Strippers are up next and put on another magical show. Monkey-Boy Mark Allen is having kick drum trouble halfway through the set, so he quickly spins his drum around and sets up the toms backwards so he can keep on playing. This guy knows what time it is! Rick Sims is doing his rock schtick which is about as gay as my own rock schtick, so I love it! The crowd goes wild.
Now it's time for the Hellacopters. Before they hit the stage, Nick apologizes for not joining us on stage, but asks me if I wanna join them for their encore of the Stooges' "Search & Destroy." Once again, Jake sings the Stooges with his favorite bands! Apparently, Darren and Mike from the Gaza Strippers are gonna join us on stage for the finale too, so it's a solidarity of all three bands in the name of ROCK. Of course, I agree.
I've seen the Hellacopters about 30 times but this is one of the best performances I've ever witnessed. Their set borrowed from all of their material with some great choices from their most recent album "High Visibility." Before they play "Sometimes I Don't Know," Nick announces that the song was written by me, Jake Starr, because there's a line in the song that says, "Jake's looking out for Number One!" I smile from ear to ear. After the main set, they take a short break while remaining on stage. For their encore, Nick dedicates "Hopeless Case of a Kid in Denial" to Dave Champion who shoots me a grin of disbelief when the announcement is made. They end with "You Are Nothin'" and invite Darren, Mike, and me onstage for the finale.
As soon as I grab the mic, I announce the two bands and then myself and say, "Here's a song you might know, so why don't ya sing along? It's called 'Search & Destroy'" and the band launches into the most intense, killer version of that song since Iggy and the Stooges did it in 1974. The crowd is absolutely out of control now. They have smashed the monitors in front of the stage and debris is flying everywhere. I step backwards onto a mic stand that had been tipped over and fall flat on my ass. Of course, I don't miss a beat! I've fallen off plenty of stages before . . . why should this be any different?
About halfway through the song, the energy is driving me harder and harder. I punch my fist upwards and knock through a ceiling tile above the stage. The tile comes crashing down right into my face and hits the stage. I pick it up and toss it into the crowd who proceed to decimate it and throw the pieces back up on stage. Finally the song ends with every guitarist on their knees getting feedback out of their amps. We all hug each other, I throw down the mic in victory, and leave the stage. I am more drenched in sweat from ONE song than from my own band's set earlier!
We all hang out and chat with the crowd and each other and then it's time to bid each other adieu. The Hellacopters go off to their hotel and Geoff, Dave, Scott Morgan, and I stumble back to Geoff's for the second night in a row. Geoff crashes cuz he has to work in the morning, so Dave, Scott, and I stay up and chat for about an hour before the Sandman has his way with us . . . so to speak.
The next morning, Dave and I drive Scott to the Hellacopters' hotel to drop him off. He's going up to New York City with them for their final show. After some impromptu pictures are taken and some manly farewell hugging, Dave and I speed our way back south to that wonderfully shitty, non-rocking town we call home, Washington, D.C.
When I get home, I look around at the Sonic's Rendezvous Band, Radio Birdman, Stooges, and Hellacopters records and posters I have hanging in my room, MANLAND, and reflect that I walked with giants this past weekend . . . the best rock-n-roll weekend of my life.
By Jake Starr (23 April 2002)
Postscript (29 July 2002): While Adam West was touring Europe this past summer, we had one night off in Madrid, Spain, on 10 July 2002. It just so happened that the Hydromatics were in town to play, so I jumped onstage and sang "Earthy" with Scott Morgan and the band. Another highlight in my rock-n-roll life!
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