By Matthew Dallman
The week started with optimism. Two of my friends and I had made plans to attend the Strokes/Guided By Voices concert on New Years Eve, at the Apollo Theatre in New York City. A friend of a friend of a so-called friend of a niece’s grandmother’s pet orangutans…and so on, had arranged for us to receive free plane tickets. Things were looking pretty good at this point. So instead of leaving early in the week, as to compensate for the long drive, I spent most of my time eating and watching re-runs of “Cheers” on Nick at Nite.As the date of our departure approached it became apparent that the tickets had yet to be received. Panic? Not yet … that would have been too logical. Instead, more eating; and more of Sam, Carla, Frasier, Cliff and Norm.
Suddenly I realized that the date and time had inched ever so stealthily upon the verge of New Year’s Eve. Now panic? You bet your ass. Several phone calls were made; language inappropriate for use around children and those not owning a Misfits album ensued; one friend had given up any interest in attending the concert and plane tickets were out of the picture. So there I stood, clutching the phone…trying to decide whether or not I should abandon the trip all together.
An hour later, a man of good character pulled into my driveway. This was none other than Hugh Kelly, a young lethargic man with a streak of brilliance and just enough optimism to accompany me on an eleven-hour drive to New York City.
The scene was strictly Keroac-esque: A man, his comrade, a radio rigged by them and barely tolerable, a loud rackety jeep, five ham sandwiches, a carton of cigarettes, and a twelve pack of cola. Only three of the aforementioned items would survive the trip that stretched across Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania; however, Hugh proved to be just as reliable as old Moriarty himself (without the compulsive sweating and reckless driving) in getting us to our destination. We had arrived in New York City; the energy, the people, the buildings, the strange man holding a sign that read “TELL ME OFF FOR A DOLLAR” – the Big Apple … what bliss!
Although the travel uncertainty caused us to lose time, we were still left with a night before the big show. The individual we were staying with, who goeth by the name of Bryan, was kind enough to show us several interesting establishments. With his help, the idea of seeing museums and landmarks, slowly manifested into attending several of Yonkers finest pubs. The following day we woke at approximately 4:00 p.m., aiming to continue the activity (debauchery) we had started just the night before.
Alas, New Year’s Eve was upon us. The city was an entity of excitement and preparation. As the streets became filled with what Bryan referred to as, ‘out-of-towners having spasms over a huge descending ball’; the Strokes and GBV, no doubt, were gearing up for the evenings’ festivities. GBV lead singer, Glen Pollard was probably practicing his emphatic mic whirl and Strokes front-man, Julian Casablancas, well … one can only imagine. The three of us, Hugh, Bryan, and myself, set out on the city with intentions of sending out the old and ushering in the new.
We spent a good deal of our pre-concert time cavorting through the streets of Manhattan; a city as beautiful as it is expensive. However, Hugh (being a man who never misses a bargain) spied a draft special of unparalleled affordability. So we ate, drank, and talked about our ideas, aspirations, disappointments, etc. Basically, we covered everything from the theory of creation…to the debate of whether Burt Reynolds will ever shave his mustache — which could explain why nobody outside of our trio felt a need to join in on the conversation.
We snagged a cab that took us in to Harlem and dropped us off in front of the historic Apollo Theatre. As the vehicle sped away it left a cloud of exhaust and three men, standing in awe of a building graced by the young “godfather of soul” himself.
Finally, it was show time, so we rushed to find our seats; stopping sporadically to gawk at framed photos of Aretha Franklin, Curtis Mayfield, and the like.
The show began with the Strokes playing fast, hard, and emphatic. Building the energy with every riff, drumbeat, baseline, and monotone lyric. Our seats became unnecessary half way through the first song and when GBV came out, we romped downstairs to get an up close greeting from Bob Pollard.
Pollard didn’t disappoint. He strutted around pumping out the words of a lyrical genius unknown by too many, while whirling his microphone like a wild man.
Mentor (Pollard) and Protg (Casablancas) united on the next set to ring in the New Year. People were brought up on stage in the midst of guitars and amplifiers, to create a scene I had never witnessed. The humanity was so thick on stage that one could see nothing but a dancing mass of fans. We had no choice but to join the frenzy and take our rightful spot amongst the ruckus buncha’ bastards.
So, what next? Ahh…yes, the point of this whole extravaganza; the reason why two men endured an eleven hour car ride, just two see a couple of rock bands. “Is this it?”:
“The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus: Let no such man be trusted (The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, scene 1).”
Well, “take it or leave it”. As a great many of you know “it’s hard to explain”.