April 12 marked the anniversary of 1997’s star-studded Tom Clark Benefit at Brownie’s in NYC. The DFFD Blog asked Dictators fan Adam Gerstein for his memories of the show.
So I get an email from Sal, who I have not heard from lately, asking me to remember the night that the Dictators played at the Tom Clark Benefit at Brownie’s in 1997. How can I forget that night — it was the night I rediscovered the band who probably has been my favorite band of the last 15 years … and that is saying a lot, as I go to a lot of live shows. Below is a review I did after the show for the Babel list (Patti Smith list) in 1997:
“Lenny Kaye was the first band that I saw last night. I used to see the Lenny Kaye Connection all over NYC and they were always fun. However, I always appreciated Lenny more of a backing musician with Patti rather than on his own due to the limited range of his voice. He put on an animated set and the interplay between J.D., Tony, and Lenny was great.
Jim Carroll surprised the hell out of me. I have seen him stumble on many stages since the seventies, but last night he looked fit (hard to imagine) and healthy. Then again he never played with a band as good as the guys last night. In addition to playing with J.D., Lenny, and Tony, he also played with Adam Roth, who added tasty slide leads. “Catholic Boy” and “People Who Died” were the standouts last night and Carroll definitely impressed the crowd.
I have always taken Marshall Crenshaw for granted. To me he has always been the guy who pretended to be a contender but could never get out of the first round. Last night he made me reevaluate my views. He came out and played a great four-song acoustic set. I never realized what a terrific guitarist he was, and I really enjoyed his set.
Patti was radiant, and clearly delighted to be performing. By now the band was warmed up and as JDaley stated in his post, they were terrific. For me, “People Have the Power” and “I’m So Lonesome, I Could Cry” were the standouts. Oliver played a solo on the latter song that was right on. These guys sounded like they are ready to hit the road, and I heard last night that Patti is supposed to play Irving Plaza in May in addition to the Randall Island show.
Tom Clark played with his band after Patti, and Marshall Crenshaw joined him on electric guitar (a Fender Strat which everyone was sharing). Tom was playing guitar sitting down and joking how tough it is to play guitar sitting down since he is used to jumping around.
The last band I stayed for was the Dictators, who I was looking forward to. Gosh, I had not seen these guys live for twenty years and was real curious about how they would sound. The last time I saw them was at the Palladium in ’77 when they had AC/DC opening up for them. They were always a fun band to see, sloppy but intense.
Tom Clark introduced them and played with the band for the first song, “Hey Boys,” which he said that Ross the Boss claimed they played only one time, which was the Palladium show I mentioned. The band was mostly original members with Ross the Boss on lead guitar, Adny Shernoff on bass, Scott Kempner on rhythm guitar, and of course Handsome Dick Manitoba on lead vocals. No Mark “The Animal” Mendoza. I didn’t recognize the drummer.
Next to Patti, these guys put on the best performance last night. Ross was all over his guitar playing lead, and Scott was banging his guitar especially after he took a couple of tokes off the side of the stage. Handsome Dick was wearing a black
leather jacket which said Dictators on the back, leather biker gloves and a Ranger jersey with tape over the R along with with a knit wool hat that said the Bronx on it. A true New York City boy who looked a lot like Rocco Rock of wrestling fame. I know that Dick would appreciate this comparison since he has always been a great wrestling fan.
These guys would have blown away any band in the world last night. Unfortunately, the set was brief but if you ever get a chance to see them at their reunion gigs, they are worth making the effort to see live.
Handsome Dick and Lenny Kaye deserve a great deal of credit for making last night happen. Brownies is a great venue and for the first time that I can recall, every band performed pretty much on time. I was proud to be from New York last night.”
Looking at it 14 years after the show, it started a love affair with the band who I made sure to see as much as I could afterwards. Must have seen them at least 20 more times before they broke up. (Andy, will you please agree to play with the guys?) The performance that night was incredible and I was completely blown away. They also performed a Blues Magoos cover along with “Stay With Me” and some other songs but the intensity and monster sound was completely unexpected. Just a magic night with a band that, as I wrote 14 years ago, was the best live band on that given day in the world.
— Adam Gerstein