Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Dickies @ The Open Arts Theater - Bordentown, NJ 11/7/13

There are concerts that I regret not seeing.  Sometimes you do not realize it until the opportunity has passed.  As I get older I find myself taking every opportunity to see a band that I missed seeing in my youth.  The Dickies are one of these bands.

I first heard The Dickies on TSR (Trenton State Radio).  First it was 'Manny, Moe & Jack'.  Then 'Stuck in a Pagoda (with Tricia Toyota)'.  How could you not love it.  It was punk with Pop sensibilities.  Much like the Garbage Pail Kids version of The Ramones.  It was fast.  It was fun.  Quite simply, it was awesome.

They were known for being the first LA Punk band to sign a major label deal.  We would often hear The Dickies at Shadows Night Club at the Sheraton in King of Prussia, PA with DJ Steve Singer in the late 80's. After reading about their wild, on stage antics I had badly wanted to see The Dickies live. It was around this time that I learned they would be performing at the legendary City Gardens in Trenton, NJ.

City Gardens was in a very bad part of Trenton.  Although it seemed like an unlikely place it was the home to burgeoning punk and alternative scene thanks to its proximity to New York City and Philadelphia and also Randy Now for having great taste in music and booking these bands and bringing them to us.  I started to frequent the club in the early 90's and saw bands like Lush and Psychedelic Furs.  My sisters had gone in the early 80's to see local Philly bands like the A's.  But to me, in the late 80's, it was still a myth.  Without having been there, or having a friend that had been there, we only knew it by reputation.  And so did my parents.  We had heard of fights and Skinheads.  We had heard of parking lot violence and vandalism.  All that I had to say was "Calhoun Street Bridge" and my parents had designated it off limits.  After which The Dickies toured less often, became increasingly involved with drugs, their recorded output slowed down and I forgot about The Dickies.

Almost 25 year later I find myself in Randy's Man Cave in Bordentown (Owned by Randy 'Now' Ellis), NJ buying vinyl record to learn that he his bringing The Dickies back to NJ.  The Dickies tour so infrequently I feared that this may be the last time to see them live.  They still consisted of guitarist Stan Lee and vocalist Leonard Graves Phillips which, in my opinion, was all that mattered.  They would be performing at The Open Arts Theater in Bordentown, NJ next to the famous Mastori's Diner.  I bought my ticket.  I was not going to miss it this time.

The Open Arts Theater is an intimate setting.  It only holds about 300 to 350 people.  The stage is only on step up so you are face to face with the artists.  It was announced that the opening acts were to be The Fiendz and Daikaiju.  I did not know either of those two bands.  But I was quickly going to learn.

Before the show The Dickies were going to do a meet and greet at The Man Cave so I headed over to hopefully meet the band.  The Man Cave encompasses all that is pop culture.  Records, books, bobble heads, and if you wanted a product with bacon in it he has it.  Randy is quick to greet you when you visit and before you leave you will feel as though he is an old friend.  He has fantastic stories from the City Gardens days and his music knowledge is second to none.  The venue only seemed fitting to meet the band.

When I arrived the Dickies were in the store...and shopping.  Had I not known what they looked like I might have just mistaken them for customers.  They were reliving some memories with Randy, who had tour managed them in the 80's.


Phillips, Lee, and Ellis

 They were both kind enough to snap photos with me and sign autographs.  There were a lot of happy fans that night who got to meet their idols.

I headed over to the venue so that I could get a good seat.  The floor had been set up with seats so that you could sit.  I grabbed my concert T-shirt, which happened to be from The Killer Clown Tour and started to talk to the audience.  I was surprised to see so many fans that were seeing them on multiple stops on this leg of the tour.  The couple next to me had seen them just days earlier in New England.

The opening act was The Fiendz.

A 3 piece that was a staple at City Gardens.  They played a very smart, tight set full of catchy pop tunes with high energy and precision.  The vocal reminded me of Eddie Money singing the Beach Boys.

Next was Daikaiju and I really was not prepared for what was about to happen.  If you search YouTube videos of Daikaiju you can get a sense of what they are.  They play a sped up, caffeinated version of surf rock.  All while wearing Kabuki masks.  There are no vocals.  Just Actions.  And you think you have a sense of what is going on.  But you have no idea.

They must have been sedated during the making of that video.  When they came out they attacked the crowd.  They were in your face.  They demanded you get up.  They served you drinks. They sweated on you.  They flat out ROCKED!!!

They were roaming the crowd all while playing killer riffs and solos.  The energy was electric.  During the middle of the set they moved the drum kit from the stage to the center of the crowd...and lit it on fire.

They finished the set by moving the crowd to the stage and applauding us.

and covering one unsuspecting audience member with all of their instruments.

At one point during the set Stan Lee himself was in the audience snapping photos with his phone.  He walked over to Randy Now and asked, "How are we supposed to follow up this?"  They would and well.

The crowd was ready.  The current lineup came out hard hitting.   Within the first couple tunes they played Killer Clowns from Outer Space, Fanmail, and Nights in White Satin.  The fact of their age did not matter much.  They sounded great.

They ripped through their set with precision.  They played everything you wanted the Dickies to play (With the exception of Tricia Toyota).  They even imitated Daikaiju.

One of my own personal highlights was to hear them play Stan.  

As always, they thrilled with props for such songs as 'You Drive Me Ape' and  'If Stewart Could Talk'.

There was moshing.  There was dancing.  There was singing along.  The crowd was having a great time.  The banter and chemistry of the band was great.  The final number was The Banana Splits.  And after that I was spent.  

Does this compare to having seen The Dickies in their prime.  Probably not.  But it was a fantastic night.  Almost magical.  I think we all kind of felt we witnessed something that we've never seen before.  And I wouldn't have missed it for the world.  Hopefully The Man Cave keeps these show coming.  I am looking forward to his upcoming Robyn Hitchcock and Jonathan Richman shows at The Open Arts Theater.  

See you at the next show1



  1. Nope no mention of me and my event coordinating skilz ; ) BTW, This is a brilliant blog! Thanks!


Popular Posts