Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sugartime at Rocky Sullivan's - Red Hook, Brooklyn -October 17, 2007

Click image for more Sugartime photos

Back in the late 1970s, I used to head over to Bleecker Bob's Golden Oldies on Bleecker and W. 8th Sreets on payday, hungering for the latest punk rock records from England. I probably had a budget of $20 a week, which considering that my rent was $180 a month for a little studio on West 20th Street in Chelsea, my alcohol budget was probably $60 a week, and food...well who needs to eat when they are 19 years old? My take home paycheck came to around $130 a week, which didn't leave anything for savings...and I had to walk everywhere.

Anyway, I'd walk into Bob's store...and ask him what was new. To be perfectly honest, I didn't really trust him....he reminded me of a younger version of the cigar chomping salesmen in the garment district where I worked. But Bob would always try to cut me a deal...but I could never be sure exactly who that deal ended up in favor of. I may be wrong, but I had the feeling that Bob saw me coming a mile away. After a while, I learned to steer clear of him and just browse until I could catch the attention of this younger guy who worked there. The guy's name was Peter Jordan, and he seemed much cooler, and was definitely way friendlier than Bob. After a while I learned that Peter had been a roadie and then finally the bass player for the New York Dolls...which was probably the coolest thing I had ever heard of at the time.

I would see Peter week after week (as long as I hadn't drunk up my record budget first) and one day Peter told me he was in a new band, called the Nitecaps, and I should check them out. I have no idea where I first saw them play...it could have been almost anywhere, Hurrahs up on 70th St, Max's, CBGBs...I really don't remember. What I do remember is that were absolutely incredible, and soon they became one of my favorite bands. If you ever find a copy of the Nitecaps one and only album "Go to the Line" snatch it up! You won't be disappointed.

The Nitecaps were Jahn "X-Sessive" Bonfiglio, who at all of 16 or 17 years old had stepped in on bass in The Voidoids. The rest of the band consisted of Al Maddy, Sammy Brown, and Peter Jordan. The Nitecaps were a band that if there was any justice in this world, would have been huge. But there is no justice and the Nitecaps broke up after their first album.

In 2003 I was introduced to Jahn by a mutual friend. I didn't know who he was at the time, but after talking to him for a while, it sounded like we knew a lot of the same people from the late 70s early 80s NYC music scene. But Jahn actually knew all these people, whereas I was only a fan who would go see them live.

Cut to 2007, I've become good friends with Jahn...and he tells me he's going to be playing some R & B covers just for fun with new band called Sugartime. Well, it turns out that Sugartime consists of Jahn, (The Nitecaps, Richard Hell & The Voidoids, The Ghosts), David Conrad (Black 47, the Uptown Horns, Solomon Burke, Phoebe Snow, Chill Faction, Sylvain Sylvain), Thomas Hamlin (Black 47, Major Thinkers, Chill Faction) & Al Maddy (The Nitecaps, The Royal Wylds, The Dots, Joey Ramone). This is a band made in heaven...a band I would consider as a 70s/80s/90s NYC supergroup (if there had been any justice in the world).

I went to Rocky Sullivan's (which at the time as on Lexington & 29th Street, since moved to Red Hook, Brooklyn) to see one of their first gigs...and was blown away. I hadn't seen Jahn and Al play together since the early 80s...and it was immediately clear that their long friendship (both musical and otherwise) had made them into almost one person...but one person couldn't make that incredible sound on their own. The rhythm section of Dave Conrad on bass and Thomas "Ham" Hamlin is one of the strongest I've ever heard. Yeah, they sound great...but the best thing is, they have fun doing it! They clearly enjoy playing together.

They take soul and R & B songs from the archives, and make them their own...as if they had been the first to play them. They do a version of the OJays "Backstabber", which somewhere in the groove melts into the Rolling Stones "Miss You", then back to "Backstabber". I can't describe this...you just have to hear it. Listen to their version of Etta James "I'd Rather Go Blind", and you'll be sure that Jahn is going to break down at any moment. There is Otis Clay's "Precious, Precious", O.V. Wrights "If I Could Reach Out", and an incredible version of the Bee Gees "To Love Somebody". They might close with a medley of "(Ain't Nothing But A) Houseparty (The Showmen)"
/ "(I Just Wanna) Testify" (The Parliaments) that'll have you on the floor.

Now if there were any justice in this world, the MTA would build a subway line that takes you to Rocky Sullivan's door. If there were any justice in the world, you wouldn't care that there isn't a subway line...you'd be out there every Wednesday night rocking your ass off.

Take a chance and check them out...Rocky Sullivan's is on the corner of Van Dyke and Dwight St. in Red Hook...just 8 minutes away from the Smith 9th Street stop on the F train via the B77 bus...which runs all night and drops you on Rocky Sullivan's doorstep. Rocky Sullivan's also serves great brick oven pizza and delicious burgers.


Unknown said...

What can I say. My story sounds soooo much more interesting and notable when you tell it. If it weren't for friends like you I'd have given this up many moons ago. Thanks for the encouragement.

Amazing photos all throughout the site. You've got a great instinct for opening the shutter at peak emotional moments. Love you, my brother.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the kind vote of confidence, and the great eye!