Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bondy...Egon Bondy (Who--Could IMAGINE???)

"Egon Bondy's Lonely Hearts Club Banned" was the first Plastic People of the Universe album I heard (and the first one they actually recorded) after moving to NYC in the spring of '77, when I was immediately taken with the band's intense, dark atmospheres that drew much upon the music of Beefheart, Zappa, the Velvets and The Fugs, adding a particularly Czech overlay of ironic, mordant humor suitable for these hard case/head case surrealist dissidents in permanent opposition to the prevailing rock orthodoxy of the time (here as well as there, then as well as now). Bondy was a renegade Marxist wordsmith who provided texts for the group and functioned as a kind of totemic figurehead for them for awhile, along with artistic guru Ivan Jirous. And the more I heard the more I liked..when Yardbirds manager/producer/impresario Giorgio Gomelsky invited me to take part in a tribute to the Plastic People in 1989 he furnished me and the other musicians with a lot more music of theirs to dip into... At the tribute we mounted at the Kitchen that fall, I met their longtime saxophonist Vrat Brabenec who was then living in Canada, and also PPU fellow travelers David Nemec (whose mother Dana was one of the original Charter 77 dissidents, along with her friend playwright Vaclav Havel, who both, like the Plastic People, wound up in jail for a spell for their thought crimes)...also the poet Pavel Zaichek, who led a Plastic People offshoot group called DG 307 (the address of a famous interrogation center in Prague under the Russian dominated Communist regime there prior to the Velvet Revolution)...and Bovi, a self-proclaimed "child of the Plastic People" who I ran into wandering the streets of Prague one evening a year or so ago when I was over there performing The Golem at the National Technical Museum...

Anyway all this is preamble to say that last night capped another exhilarating week of music making in NYC as my avant-punk supergroup Gods and Monsters (featuring the full force lineup of Jerry Harrison, Billy Ficca, Ernie Brooks and Jason Candler) were privileged and honored to play before the Plastic People in the Knitting Factory mainspace--and what a great night for music it was!

David Byrne, Gary and Ernie Brooks backstage at the Knitting Factory NYC, Gods and Monsters/Plastic People show, 11/13/06

Vaclav Havel, Jerry Harrison, Gary, David Byrne, and Ernie Brooks, Knitting Factory 11/13/06

Jerry, David, Gary and Ernie, Knitting Factory 11/13/06

Gods and Monsters get serious at the Knitting Factory, Plastic People show, 11/13/06 (Jerry Harrison, Gary, and Ernie Brooks--not pictured, Jason Candler and Billy Ficca)

photos by John Bentham | Click to enlarge

Vaclav Havel, Jerry (behind Vaclav), David, Gary and Ernie, Knitting Factory 11/13/06

photo by Frederic Foto | Click to enlarge

Backstage at the Knitting Factory, Gods and Monsters/Plastic People show 11/13/06 (Jerry Harrison, David Byrne, Gary, Ernie Brooks)

photo by Davy | Click to enlarge

Gods and Monsters played a high energy set in front of a nearly full house (a blessing, considering it was pouring outside, and a Monday night to boot)--and we left the stage sweaty and satisfied to multiple shouts of "encore!" after letting rip for a full hour...and we were graced by the presence of both former Czech president Vaclav Havel in the audience, who came back to greet us in our dressing room, along the new Czech ambassador to the UN, Martin Palous--and also my friend David Byrne, whom I had dined with at Indochine earlier in the week after hearing him sing beautifully with the cool Brazilian-influenced group Forro in the Dark at Joe's Pub (great band, with Smoky Hormel on guitar--and with Miho Hatori and Bebel Gilberto also sitting in)... Havel looked healthy and vibrant... David always looks fabulous, a super-friendly, super-positive and down-to-earth guy with a great sense of humor... David had jettisoned his customary bicycle at a nearby restaurant when the heavens opened up to make it on foot over to the Knit to see us play, and he was extremely laudatory about our set backstage (and now I'm blushing)...and we cracked each other up trading stories about touring in Russia, and elsewhere...

The Plastic People then played their customarily intense set, and I was invited to join them on the last number "Magic Night" (which we had opened our 1989 Kitchen Tribute with...and which I had performed in DC at the Czech Embassy for a concert of my arrangements of Czech Classical Music a couple years ago--the music of Mala Hlavsa and the Plastic People fits in well alongside Dvorak, Janacek and Smetena!), which was a beautiful moment as I joined acoustic bassist/mgr. Ivan Bierhanzel, Vrat Brabanec, lovely electric bassist Eva and the other guys to whip up a maelstrom of sound onstage, and the people in the audience went mad for it, including Giorgio Gomelsky and playwright Tom Stoppard, who's resident in NYC now and whose play "Rock 'n Roll", which I've written about in earlier blogs, makes the Plastic People central, albeit offstage, protagonists...and web mistress Tanya Weiman and her guy, Iris Manzanares and her guy, Paula Amato and Sarah Hoffman, plus lots of folks who had traveled great distances to make this show (band members as well as many in the audience)--and everyone went home BUZZING :-)

Earlier in the week my old friend Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye and I had put on a tribute to our recently departed friend the writer and cultural iconoclast David Walley at the Bowery Poetry Club...David wrote the first and still definitive biography of Frank Zappa and the early Mothers entitled "No Commercial Potential", as well as a biography of the great tv surrealist Ernie Kovacs, and various other tomes of cultural/musical reportage and commentary, and he was an old friend of Lenny's from their Rutgers days, and of me from my earliest days in NYC...and Lenny and I rocked out on double guitar versions of some choice Zappa songs from his monumental "Freak Out!" album, including "Trouble Comin' Every Day", "Who Are the Brain Police?", and a particularly piquant rendition of "Help, I'm a Rock", where we were joined by Jason Candler on alto sax and several members of the band who went on before us, their pedal steel player offering a brilliant version of the Roy Estrada Pachuco falsetto harmony for our take on the song...Lenny brought some gorilla masks and we also did a choice rendition of the Nairobi Trio's classic "Solfeggio" routine from the Kovacs show (go to Youtube and punch up Nairobi Trio and enjoy the original!)...and David's old friend and former Jazz and Pop editor Patricia Kennealy Morrison (yes the same Patricia Morrison, who had married Jim Morrison in a Wikka ceremony) read some of Jim's unpublished poems...and David's friend editor/literary agent Michael Dorr and NPR journalist and writer Mitch Myers (who was at the Knit last night, hi Mitch!) read poems and paid tribute with reminiscences of David's abundant generosity. warmth of character and particular genius...and his widow Gelli and kids were surprise guests who has come down from Maine for this...this was the first time Lenny and I had actually played together since talking about doing so in 1973 (at the first--and only!--International Rock Writers of the World Convention down in Memphis) and hey, if it took only 33 years to finally accomplish, it was totally worth it--Lenny is a soulful and beautiful guy, and we plan to do more playing together...

Speaking of soulful guys, my pal Alexei Pliousnine the avant-Russian guitarist was in town and I also did a duo set with him the Bowery Poetry, he was formerly the artistic director of the SKIF Festival in St. Petersburg (please check out my "Russian Fireworks" DVD of solo guitar live at SKIF available at garylucas.com) and now leads to Apositia Festival there, wanted to do more playing with him Lukas Ligeti, Frank London, Daniel Carter at Tonic on Sunday but had to beg off for family reasons...anyway I'm off with Caroline in a couple hours for London with Phillip Johnston and the Fast 'N' Bulbous crew to play the London Jazz Festival both Wed. and Thursday night...then it's Amsterdam at the BimHuis, the Taktlos Festival in Bern Switzerland (hope Marianne Adank and Hans Ruprecht make it to that one, I know my Swiss guitar playing partner Gerald Zbinden is due to show all the way from Gruyere), the Porgy and Bess Club in dear old Vienna, the Eremitage in Schwaz nestled in the lap of the Austrian Alps, not far from Innsbruck...and we finish in fantastic Llubljana Slovenia, one of the most beautiful cities in the world...have to dash...see you soon I hope!



ps. Check out these great new clips of my friend Elli Medeiros live on French tv with her band here.


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