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for March 15, 2002

[Every generation has that one defining moment that demands that any creative mind that can bear witness to it, do so as lucidly and completely as possible. On the other hand, Leif Garrett played the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ last Friday, but several of ALTROK's writers decided to chronicle it just the same. Today, Rich Robinson grins and, surprisingly, bears it.]

Balls and Bandanas
by Rich Robinson

Sometimes it takes both to get on stage and stare down an ugly crowd. Not verbally abusive; just in over-aged-groupies ugly, squirming for position in front of the low riser (a.k.a. the stage), staring into your eyes like a puppy dog, oblivious to the fact that you're not the pop icon of their dreams, you're just singing rock 'n' roll, while trying to re-invent yourself in the process.

Last Friday night, a couple hundred people braved the fog bank that blanketed NJ, and dutifully paid their fair share to see Leif Garrett take the stage at New Brunswick's seminal underground sweatbox, The Court Tavern. I went for several reasons: First, the opening two bands (Frankenstein 3000 and Mars Needs Women) consistently kick ass, and have fun doing it. Secondly, I like a good car wreck, just like everybody else. I didn't know what to expect, but what I saw did surprise me.

I saw a decent rock band. Not great, but decent.

In fact, the more you drank, the better they sounded; kinda like a lot of bands you'd see at just about any bar in NJ on any Friday night. The only difference is that this bar band had a bunch of groupies who seemed to have been locked away in a time warp. (I've always said that the major growth area to invest in has to be mirrors, since there obviously aren't enough of them around. How else could you explain so many people leaving their houses dressed like they were on Friday at the Court Tavern? I felt like I was at a costume party, only no one told me to wear a costume).

As far as Leif and his band went, they didn't entirely suck. They may have showed dubious taste choosing to tackle Buffalo Springfield's "For What its Worth" and Zep's "Hey Hey, What Can I Do" for covers. It took guts. Leif doesn't have Robert Plant's pipes (or hair, which explains the bandana), but he gave it the old college try. His voice leaned more to Tom Waits than Plant, but that could be the result of too many cigarettes (he smokes incessantly), too many dates in a row on the road, or maybe he just sounds that way. Their originals sounded a little too much like unreleased tracks from Appetite for Destruction: loud, fast, and a bit dated. Some of their songs were actually pretty catchy. Turns out that Leif's band, F8, have been around for a while, having toured the same bubblegum circuit that Garrett was stuck in 25 years ago, backing up Shaun Cassidy.

I have to give these guys credit. They're trying. They want to be a real rock band, traveling around in a rented RV. They're not a novelty act trading on a shared dubious history. Admittedly it felt at times like I was watching the out-takes from VH1's Behind the Music special, but by the end of the night, I didn't need to feel sorry for Garrett. It takes balls to face that mirror, and move on with your life, starting something new and facing the criticism.

Now if only those groupies could face their mirrors...

©2002 Rich Robinson

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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