Turn Your Television On

verlaine-television-marquee

Television was the first band to play CBGB. That fact was not lost on the Rough Trade music venue when opening night was scheduled.

It was also not lost on me. I had to be there. I would be there. Maybe I would be there.

Spoiled by easy access to internet scalping, decisions were put off. Stay or go.  Friday or Saturday. There’s only one opener but the second night somehow seemed more alluring.

Then, apparent disaster. Stubhub had zero tickets. On Craig’s List, there were reports of counterfeits. Some were explaining that due to a will-call policy, reselling was almost impossible. Others claimed to have tickets in hand. It was time to sweat. What was the actual scenario? The answer was in Williamsburg, a subway stop away.

Rough Trade is a hole in the wall of huge warehouse almost on the East River. The interior is impressive, at least at first. There’s a huge room, all corrugated walls and distant ceilings. Lovely, shiny LP covers fill this space.

roughtrade

Then the realization.This is it. This is the successor to Tower Records. One room, a few bins. It might indeed be the biggest record store in New York in terms of empty space, and it certainly is the place to get your Black Friday Record Store Day Lana Del Ray picture disc, but for music, try the rest of Williamsburg, or the East Village, or the West Village. Or just get down to J&R. They really have it all. Oh yeah.

A line had started to form within this steely structure. People were waiting to get in. A quick poll of the future attendees produced an explanation. Both camps were right. Some would have to go to will call but many already had ducats. Where there tickets, there would be sellers. I was as good as in.

There was time to kill. A river to gaze upon. A shirt to stain with pizza.

Back at the shop things were happening. Suddenly tickets “held at the box office” were available. There would be no bargaining, no schemes. I was in at list price.

I had never seen Television, a group that some – or maybe just me – called the punk Allman Brothers for its twin lead guitar attack. The closet calls were an almost forgotten solo show by now former member Richard Lloyd and a somewhat recent appearance by Tom Verlaine as a member of Patti Smith’s band. She was opening for Bob Dylan. Bob was off; she was on. Verlaine’s vibrato was a thrill

The Rough Trade venue is nice but small. It did not seem majestic enough. Soon they wandered out on stage. And meandered. Verlaine’s guitar cable was tangled. He enlisted a patron to sort it out and then fiddled with his Vox combo. New guitarist Jimmy Rip had the same amp. The stage seemed sparse.

Eventually the cable was straightened out and Verlaine led them into the arms of Venus de Milo. All was right. I remembered the Bangles doing this as an encore of yore. Yet it seemed a lack presence. You could hear but not feel it. The place was packed and the amps small. Fred Smith played his Precision with a pick; drummer Billy Ficca appeared overly polite. But they gained momentums and swung through the familiar – “Prove It,” “I See No Evil” – and kept the bar busy through the rest.

Image

Finally, “Marquee Moon” rose on the horizon. Verlaine mesmerized, Rip harmonized. This was indeed a Television show.

Forty years later, they had christened another another club. I am a witness.

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