austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

This is the house we used to live in

I never really had traditions for what to do New Year's Eve. Watching Dick Clark, mostly. When I moved to Singapore I had even fewer, since they don't care about the Times Square Ball Drop, and while I did some things like going to the Time Ball there it wasn't really celebratory to any big extent. bunny_hugger hadn't much tradition either. The first New Year's Eve she came out to New Jersey we spent it with my brother and his wife. After that we went with my parents to a concert in Redbank. Last year she and I went to a show at the Wonder Bar in Asbury Park. What to do this year?

The Wonder Bar was having another show. Not the Gashouse Gorillas or a similar tightly-focused band, but rather a tribute to the Fillmore East and apparently some kind of recreation of an iconic concert of the past. That was an interesting idea. My mother, searching the Park Press for stories of stuff we could go to, noticed a nearby concert from The Smithereens, who we hadn't really thought about since 1992 either, but, hey. Sure.

It was to be a concert with a dessert bar, which inspired from my brother one of his occasional brilliant analyses: if we were going to a place that was just serving desserts, the desserts would be pretty good. But this is something and a dessert bar, so the desserts were not going to be much. He compared it to Breakfast with Santa: Santa's the attraction; the breakfast isn't going to be very good. Point well taken.

bunny_hugger bought tickets just to the show and the desserts. They had an option to buy dinner with the band, which we didn't feel like because it just seemed an invitation to awkward conversations. (bunny_hugger's extrapolation: ``Hey, yeah, I have that album of yours that everybody bought.'' ``Ha ha. Thanks. Now begone!'')

Parking was a blessed non-problem: the theater, an historic one that opened ``circa'' 1922, according to a plaque indicating either an interesting history or that nobody does know what ``circa'' means anymore, may be downtown but it's a relatively sleepy downtown and there were acres of municipal parking around. I realized once inside it was probably a theater that back in the glory days held Broadway play tryouts, and the capacity was probably on that order, although the seating went incredibly far back, without any overhanging balconies or the like. Possibly that was (somehow?) an adaptation for the summertime operations it would (in my imagination) have conducted, back in the 1920-ish days?

We got there just as the opening band, Eddie Tesla, began. This was a pretty appealing, rather fun group, doing every manner of moving get-this-party-started sort of music you could hope for. They played just about an hour and straight through, without pauses for returning or fiddling with the audio mix or even clearly identifying themselves. I'm not sure exactly how I got their name while bunny_hugger missed it; she had to refer to them as Southside Johnny's Understudy.

The Smithereens came on and immediately undercut the joke bunny_hugger meant to ask --- wondering if they might play ``Beyond the wall of sleep'' --- by starting with that. But we didn't have any complaints about the show, at which more than a few potentially drunk folks started crowded into the wheelchair-access area or the aisles (the theater was only about a third filled, which is a depressing state of affairs to consider, so let's not) to do that sort of slightly spastic lurching about which passes for dancing in a 90-year-old theater at a New Year's Eve concert.

I also managed to completely baffle bunny_hugger by not understanding the question when she meant to ask if I knew about the album Tommy; I thought she was asking about the Smithereens' cover of Tommy, part of which they played; she couldn't imagine how I could possibly have not heard of it. Neither of us had heard that the Smithereens had done a cover of the album, though (at least, the parts they liked best).

They played what they claimed would be the last public performance of ... I want to say ``The House We Used To Live In'' but admit I could be mistaken. Lead guitarist Jim Babjak referred to bass guitarist Severo Jornacion as ``The Thrilla from Manilla'' so many times it got to feeling really awkward and we speculated about when Jornacion was going to spin around and smack him. And the performances were all smooth and steady, including a part where something or other went awry on the drums and the tech folks ran out to fix it while Dennis Diken kept right on drumming.

I didn't think to bring earplugs, but I don't believe I did any permanent damage to my hearing. (Of course, the Tommy question may be contrary evidence.) The show wrapped up at about 11:30 and the band disappeared to go get ready for desserts and the New Year.

(Also at some point the subject of Tex Antoine, onetime New York City weatherman, came up, in banter between the audience and band. He's a little before my time so I explained the thing I most remembered about him --- my father mentioning how he was reliably drunk but dead-on accurate --- and on looking at Wikipedia I realize I had forgotten wholly just what it was that got him turned into an ex-weatherman with speed.)

bunny_hugger bought some actual merchandise, specifically the Smithereens' cover of Tommy, and the experience let us learn the'd done multiple albums which were entirely covers or tribute bits, including two Beatles covers and an album of just Christmas songs. She would go on to get this autographed by several of the Smithereens, who were set up at a table in the dessert room showing reasonably good spirits for having to work so long on New Year's Eve.

The desserts, as my brother said, weren't great; they were along the lines of the dessert bar at Old Country Buffet. But, hey, cheese wedges? I'm in. They also had adorable tiny brownies with ``2013'' inscribed in frosting. The most baffling dessert item would be shish kebab skewers, each holding one good-sized slice of mango drizzled with chocolate sauce, and one glazed doughnut hole. It threaded the gap between hors d'ouvre and art project.

Also present was a guy wearing a Kinks ``Father Christmas'' t-shirt --- that song was almost the theme for this season, particularly after bunny_hugger tried to identify how many covers of it could be gotten on iTunes alone; it was around two dozen --- and who indeed looked a bit like a compact edition of Ray Davies. It's not surprising to see a Kinks fan at a Smithereens show, considering the music styles there, and it made for a nice little bonus to the night as bunny_hugger and he talked about who they had seen in concert.

And that, in a room with the Smithereens, Eddie Tesla, some Kinks fan, and skewered doughnut holes, is how we saw in 2013.

Things broke up not long after midnight, and we were near enough my parents' home we could get back home and see in the New Year for other time zones. We got to sleep after midnight Pacific Time, with the thought that we would try to do something genuinely hard for New Year's Day.

Trivia: The 500th store acquired by the J C Penny's chain was the Hamilton, Missouri, J M Hale & Brothers store where James Cash Penny had got his start clerking for $2.27 per month when he was nineteen. Source: The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History of America's Great Department Stores, Robert Hendrickson. (I confess to a quirked eyebrow considering the picture-perfect story that anecdote makes, but, as ever, I don't claim to be correct, merely sourced.)

Currently Reading: Great North Road, Peter E Hamilton.

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