What better way to add to the Halloween weekend than add music to your rock star costume? That’s what five local bands did Saturday night at the Hi-Dive, as they resuscitated some of early punk’s most influential New York bands — via a celebration of the seminal Bowery venue CBGB’s. Each band chose one of the pioneering bands from the ‘70s scene — Sauna played tunes from Richard Hell & the Voidoids, Accordion Crimes played Blondie, Kissing Party did the Ramones, Wire Faces did Television and Hindershot played Talking Heads — and they all did a damned good job dressing their parts to boot.
All did a solid job at short sets of tunes that have been far too long relegated to bargain bins in used record stores or piles of dust-covered cassettes. But, if the intent were to have been a contest, which it clearly wasn’t, Wire Faces’ tribute to Television stood as the clear winner, both in skill and accuracy.
The Fort Collins group was joined by the show’s organizer Chris Fowke as they played a brilliant, almost awe-inspiring live rendition of “Marquee Moon,” minus a few even lesser-known cuts. Drummer Shane Zweygardt played a convincing Tom Verlaine on vocals, while Fowke and Ian Haygood traded all of the complex guitar tricks that defined Television’s sound. Their versions of “Venus,” “Marquee Moon” and “Friction” truly felt like seeing the band way back then. But it was their version of “Little Johnny Jewel” that pushed the whole set over the top and had the entire packed Hi-Dive jumping and shivering by the time it ended.
Kissing Party may have had the hardest job of the night, covering Ramones songs that are admittedly pretty simple, but still trying to show them their deserved respect. Gregg Dolan’s band more than looked the parts of Johnny, Joey, Tommy and Dee Dee; They did a great job recreating them.
Sadly, Accordion Crimes seemed to have the most trouble living up their chosen tribute. Uncharacteristically, their attempt to bring in a flavor of late ‘80s noise-punk into Blondie’s sound made both bands sound below par. Sauna as Richard Hell & the Voidoids pulled it off by the end of their set, and Hindershot’s Talking Heads just never really reached the apex you’d have expected.
Still, it was a memorable night that channeled at least some of the feeling from those Bowery days, and everyone in the house seemed to feel it.