It can sometimes take digging to find silver linings in the cloud that is the Dictators’ current break from playing together. One positive by-product is the recent blitz of solo product and live appearances by band members. Most recently, we’ve been gifted by the rarest of the rare — solo acoustic gigs by Andy Shernoff. There were four hush-hush affairs at the Lakeside in November and December, one snow-delayed show at the Brighton Bar on New Year’s Day, and then last night’s show at Café Nine in New Haven, the first “official” road test. The DFFD brain trust have been lucky enough to catch three of these gigs, his first solo shows ever.
If you have ever been to the Lakeside — or to Café Nine — you know that it’s in your best interests to arrive early for two reasons: 1, there are maybe three good places to sit in front of the bandstand before you end up standing in the obstructed views, and B, to take maximum advantage of the 2-for-1 drink specials.
One thing that hits you right away is how much huevos it takes for an artist to present himself and his songs in rooms this small. There’s nothing to hide behind — no wall of amps, no stage lights (except for the 20-watt red cathouse bulb) no loudmouth bandmates, no moat of separation between the performer and the audience. It’s literally up to you, your guitar and your songs and stories, with the skeptics three feet away.
Andy was a little nervous, and upfront about being so. This set of shows is a work in progress for him. Songs were being reworked and stripped down, new meanings were found in stuff that had previously seemed wrung out. It was a pleasure to hear the classic songs with such radical rearrangements. Who knew smart-a** anthems “Master Race Rock” and “Next Big Thing,” which we’ve heard 1,000 times in the loud and proud format, would also work lower and slower?
The songs were amazing, but the real treats were the stories. Besides being the Christopher Columbus of punk, it seems that he also was the Zelig of punk! He was there when it all went down, he had stories about everyone who was anyone from BITD, and he told them with both humor and heart. I pity the fool who didn’t get verklempt when hearing Andy’s story about his friendship with Joey Ramone.
This series of shows is starting to take wings. There’s whispering about a show in Cambridge, Mass., at Club Passim, the Mecca of acoustic history. Hopefully there will be more shows to follow. Do not miss the chance to catch him if he comes your way. It’s amazing to see an artist be both low-key and exciting all at once.
— Salvi C.