TWO CITIES, ONE BAND: MICHAEL MONROE AT THE BOWERY BALLROOM IN NYC AND GREAT SCOTT IN BOSTON, OCTOBER 2 + 4
I love Michael Monroe. I think I’ve made that pretty clear. If you want to see Psychotic Frenzy: The Band, you really need to catch his show. I did… twice.
First up was the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I’d never been there before, and my first thoughts upon entering were, “Oh God, he’s gonna die.” It’s not a huge venue, but Mr. Monroe is a fucking monkey. I’d seen him with Hanoi Rocks, and he jumps, climbs, leaps, kicks, flies, swings, hangs upside down, and basically bounces off everything, and in this space, I really was kind of nervous.
Bu nothing too terrible happened. I mean, he fell off the stage and head-butted a guy… It was kind of priceless seeing his face go from total panic to acceptance to thud. It was even more priceless seeing his wife look like she was about to have a heart attack from off-stage. But Michael Monroe is nothing if not the consummate showman, and he kept on going, head bleeding and all.
I don’t know that there’s an accurate way to capture the electric energy of the show. Picture Andrew WK at his party happiest, on speed, in Disneyworld, getting laid, on a mountain of candy, and even that falls a little short on the excitement. The band just does not stop moving. None of them. They run, they scream, they goad the audience, and they bring every song to a fever pitch.
The set-list was mostly songs off of Monroe’s solo outing, Sensory Overdrive, starting out with “Trick of the Wrist,” and including my two favorites, “Got Blood?” and “Superpowered Superfly.” Monroe dedicated the Hanoi classic “Taxi Driver” to all the crazy taxi drivers of New York, and called attention to lead guitarist, local boy Steve Conte (formerly of the New York Dolls). I was kind of curious to see Dregen on rhythm guitar because I’ve only ever known him as a lead singer (Backyard Babies). Between him and Monroe, I really don’t know who put on the bigger show. His bromance with former Hanoi bassist Sami Yaffa was just priceless, though. At various points during the set, they bashed into each other and slammed guitar necks into human heads. They’ve now been added to the list of distinguished men who have smacked me in the face (and open mouth) with their sweat.
If you think the Bowery is a small-ish venue, it’s practically an arena compared to the atrocity that is Great Scott in Boston. I thought it was a mistake when I found out they were playing there. Great Scott is a small bar — not a venue. It does not have the space or the sound system to support a band. The stage is comfortable for two people. Three is pushing it. Five is a goddamn train wreck.
But the show was amazing. From picks getting crammed into cleavage to mic stands falling over to drop-kicking the entire front row, every manner of mostly harmless violence was achieved. Even the band was cracking up at the lack of space and how often they were running into each other. There’s no backstage, for crying out loud! The band had to walk through the audience to get to the stag,e and at the end of the show, they didn’t even bother to do the whole encore, build-up-the-anticipation bit, and admitted as much. They just went straight into it. Needless to say, all in attendance were an exhausted, sweaty mess at the end, and I apologize to drummer Karl Rockfist for not getting out of his way (I honestly could not move and was gently lifted aside) as he tried to leave.
There were some differences between the two shows’ set lists, to. “I Wanna Be Loved,” the New York Dolls song Monroe dedicated to Jerry Nolan and Johnny Thunders, was left out in Boston, as was the bluesy Steve Conte solo that Monroe joked “bored the audience.” The sax antics were definitely toned down as well, probably because he would’ve decapitated Dregen in that space. Ending with a medley of The Stooges’ “1970 (I Feel Alright)” and Golden Earring’s “Radar Love,” it was a fitting finish to two nights of balls out, sleazy punk rock fun. If I could, I’d go again. It’s been a very Michael Monroe year so far, and I’m still not sick of the man yet.