Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Smithereens @ 29th Street Stage, Va. Beach, VA (9/1/02)

Because of Labor Day weekend's off-and-on rainfall which had flooded my street for the first time in nearly two years, the chances of seeing one of the greatest crunchy-pop bands in history had seemingly gone up Dalrymple Creek without a paddle. Luckily, Captain jOhn A. threw me a life preserver to save myself from drowning in my own tears. Sailing towards the Oceanfront aboard the USS Corolla, we found a suitable spot on 17th Street to drop anchor. Once docked, jOhn haggled with a female attendant below our rank about a military discount. She apologized about her failed recognition of us naval officers and let our ship rest for five dollars instead of ten.

Just as always, we had gotten our way. A normal complication in a typical day. Making tracks to the show's commencement, I was approached by a homeless gentleman outside of a library whose graphic lettering suggested an out-of-commission '80s arcade game from nearby Flipper McCoy's. He asked me for fifty cents; I posed two questions to him: 1)Tron or Robotron and 2)Will you tell me that your name is William Wilson? The beach bum answered both incorrectly, thus I lied to him about being crazy and mixed up myself. Another destitute soul played a mean pinball, wanting seventy-five cents for a few tilts. I held the poor old woman's hand and said to her, "Maybe I've seen your face -- a long, long time ago. Maybe I've kissed your lips. Maybe I just don't know." The fragile femme responded to my faux flirtations by telling me that she only dates womyn and how my outpouring was much too much for her. Guess I was gonna be alone at midnight. Abandoning Tracey's (the lady's name) world, jOhn and I met up with the light crowd that had gathered stage side on this gloomy Sunday. Before the deep black sky would signal time for us to look for something new, I shuffled through soft sand to the nearest beer tent. This was my third career beer on the beach proper but the first legal imbibition (one of my fondest recollections of Virginia's four-man goobernatorial race in the early-90's involves watching mi amigo Joe Newlon surf at 7 AM while taking swigs of King Cobra). Heading back to the stage's edge twenty quarters lighter (including gratuity), jOhn and I listened to some DMB-type sandal-wearer boasting how he'd downed some brewskis with the members of Cootie and the Suckchickens at Mahi Mah's earlier that afternoon. Oh yeah -- I'd once made out with Laura Branigan in a Saab outside of Rogue's parking lot in 1984. She took my self; she took my self-control. Oh oh oh... After exchanging a few more spun yarns (Did you know Pat Benatar and I had dined together at the Twysted Fish restaurant after her free concert at some huge field in Norfolk?), our thoughts were only green as the 'Reens were ready to start painting ears with smooth strokes.

The band had read my mind, as Mr. DiNizio and company led off with two formidable chunks from their best el pee (the rockin' remembrances of "Only A Memory" and "House We Used To Live In"). After a few more loud 'n' poppy forever-classic gems ("Behind The Wall Of Sleep," "Blood And Roses" and "Yesterday Girl" among them), the 'Reens turned their keys into a lower register with a trio of fine balladry ("In A Lonely Place," "Especially For You" and "Blue Period" [minus Belinda Go-Go]). Everyone up front was jumping around and singing along, including a security guard directly in front of me who was packing heat and drinking on the job. I motioned to jOhn, "Now THAT'S a fan!!!" During one of the calmer moments, the guy wanted to temporarily move from his detail and get another Bud ("Man, I need to get to the beer garden."). But there wasn't any way the guard could remove himself from a stuffed sandwich. No matter -- he continued to dance crazily and mouth with the band (unaware that his gun was in near proximity to my leg). Paying respects to a couple of influences, the 'Reens shined a lil' light on The Who's "Behind Blue Eyes" (replete with cliché Bic-flickering) and Ed Sullivan's favorites The Bugs...uh...The Beatles' "Hold Me Tight." The hyperactive guard should've taken the latter number to heed, in regards to his holster. Three more songs were presented by my count ("Top Of The Pops," "Everything Changes" [the deep-track award winner of the night from God Save The Smithereens] and John Cusack's pick-to-click "A Girl Like You") before the 'Reens would celebrate Jim Babjak's birthday with microwaveable White Castle burgers from Farm Fresh. But he wasn't the only one blowing out candles. In addition to the great music, I received another gift: a guitar pick from Mr. Babjak which ricocheted off jOhn bOy onto the sand and into my hand. The twelve years in between Smithereens shows ('90 @ The Boathouse -- Norfolk) broke my personal record previously held by Otis Day and the Knights ('87 @ Seawall Festival -- Portsmouth, '98 @ Chesapeake Jubilee -- duh). But the 'Reens ain't no Oldies 95.7 act. The hard pop resonated as fresh as if it were written yesterday, girl. Pat, Jim, Dennis and Mike are the same guys that you used to know.

Oh, that security guard was actually a 48-year-old man from New Jersey (the 'Reens' home base) in town for whatever reason. His gun revealed itself to be an umbrella. He chatted us up briefly before heading off to catch Steppenwolf ten streets to the left. The sound of that idea took me away, so I looked for the adventure a Port-A-John would bring instead.


  1. Hands down, the 'Reens have to be on any short list of the most underrated bands of all-time.

  2. Saw the 'Reens a few months ago. They're still an awesome live act. I believe DiNizio and the boys will be eligible for the RNRHOF next year.