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Media Reviews

MOJO - January 2001

Cavestomp! 2000

New York,Westbeth Theatre
November 3, 4, and 5


Line-Up:The Blues Magoos, The Gants, The Makers, Richard & The Young Lions, The Troggs, The Beau Brummels, The Syndicate of Sound, and a Cast of Hundreds



The first weekend of November, while thousands converged upon Manhattan for the New York City Marathon, several hundred more came there for a different kind of marathon: Cavestomp! 2000. At the latter, the most fashionable runners make that stompers favored drainpipe trousers over running shorts, winklepicker boots over plimsoles. But the most obvious difference between the two was that, at Cavestomp! 2000, the real race was not against distance, but time; six hours a night, 8 p.m. to 2 a.m.

An annual event since 1997, Cavestomp is a beloved tradition among Sixties garage-rock lovers the world over, who come year to see the festival's trademark mix of original Sixties bands and the modern-day bands who love them. Most of the crowd at the first night of Cavestomp! 2000 was there for reunited Sixties rockers the Blues Magoos and the Gants, but first they had to endure some of the weaker opening acts of the weekend. Exceptions included the Gruesomes, from Montreal, Canada, who played a decent set of garage and freakbeat covers, and the Dirtbombs, from Detroit, who played a hybrid of Ramones-style Seventies punk and frat-rock.

"How many people can raise their hands and say they were someplace in 1967?" Blues Magoos guitarist Peppy Castro quizzed the packed house. As about half the crowd's arms went up, Castro sighed. "Wow. Brought to you by AARP."

The American Association of Retired Persons may not have really sponsored the Magoos' homecoming, but it surely wouldn't have denied the group their glory as one of the few New York City garage bands to have a U.S. Top Five hit ("We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet," covered in the U.K. by the Spectres, an early version of Status Quo). They boasted their original lineup, save for their bass player and their Echoplex tape-echo machine. The former was replaced by Cavestomp's "house ringer," Peter Stuart, while the latter, sadly, was irreplaceable. Still, the group more than managed to recreate its vintage sound, playing such acronym-laden titles as "Albert Common Is Dead" and "Love Seems Doomed". (They also revealed for the first time that they wrote "Albert Common Is Dead" for their friend and future Bee Gees producer Albhy Galuten, to celebrate his quitting his job at a bank.) The original lineup of the Gants, four Southern gentlemen from Mississippi rounded out the evening with a solid set of Merseyfied covers and originals, most from *Road Runner! The Best of the Gants* (Sundazed).

Night Two had better openers, including Canada's energetic Les Sexareenos, playing crunchy Mod-influenced party music, and Spain's hormone-fueled Dr. Explosion. Although Dr. Explosion omitted the crowd-pleaser that they did when the group played London, a garage-punk version of the Village People's "Y.M.C.A.," the stompers didn't seem to mind.

Richard & The Young Lions are one of the most-beloved might-have-beens of Sixties garage, having carved a mountainous reputation on the basis of a few hard-to-find 45s. The advance word on them was fantastic, based on a warm-up show that they had done at a local club a few months earlier. The evening's M.C. Lenny Kaye, proclaiming, "it's a nugget if you dug it," was clearly elated to introduce the group, who were on Rhino's version of his genre-making garage compilation, *Nuggets*.

As soon as the seven-man group (including five original members) played their first notes, it was clear that the hype was justified. Lead singer Richard Tepp, his leonine face now obscured by multifocals, tore into their Nuggets track, "Open Up Your Door," and the crowd exploded. It was what Cavestomp was all about; an exuberant conflagration of noise, melody, and attitude.

They played all their singles, plus enthusiastic versions of cult classics like Them's I Can Only Give You Everything, which Richard dedicated to an old friend of the group, E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who was in the audience.

Overheard, between bands: "So, are there any good drugs backstage? Like Geritol?" While the Troggs' solid performance put to rest rumors of iron-poor blood, the years had understandably changed them. One stomper observed that, of the two original members, lead guitarist Chris Britton looked remarkably like Star Trek's Patrick Stewart, while singer Reg Presley was like William Shatner reunited with his original hair. The crowd, adoring throughout, went crazy during the final number, Wild Thing, especially during the solo, when Presley whipped out his ocarina.

Sunday, those Cavestompers who weren't stomped out turned up early for opening acts like the Movieez, a fresh-faced mod/freakbeat combo from Rochester, N.Y. whose debut CD is produced by members of the Chesterfield Kings. London's own Embrooks followed with more freakbeat and a groovy female drummer.

The Beau Brummels had only two original members, singer Sal Valentino and bass-player-cum-guitarist Ron Meagher, but they filled out their lineup with devoted and capable superfans, including house ringer Stuart , guitarist Jim Babjak and drummer Dennis Diken of the Smithereens, and three members of local psych-rockers the Gripweeds. They performed an exquisite set of extraordinarily authentic San Francisco folk-rock. Songs like Don't Talk To Strangers captured that perfect Wall of Jangle that would seem all but unattainable in 2000. Valentino's throaty warble remains beautifully intact, showing why he is the closest thing America has to a Colin Blunstone.

The all-original Syndicate of Sound closed the evening, and Cavestomp! 2000, with a decent set that leaned more towards R&B than garage. They looked extremely happy to be playing a New York nightclub and not at a state fair.

The Syndicate of Sound's lone hit, Little Girl, is notoriously difficult to play; it's the only garage hit that contains a circle of fifths. As they launched into it, one could feel the eyes of dozens of musicians in the crowd straining to see the lead guitarist's fingers.

---------Article by Dawn Eden, Mojo Magazine, January 2001


 


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