Tag Archives: OFF!

OFF! NYC 3/26/11

March 26th 2011 presented a bit of a quandary for the crew of “Riot on the Dance Floor.” There were two major events happening that night, both of which we, as a crew, felt needed to be documented and captured on film. For any other production that had luxurious amenities like money or a crew of more than, say, five people, this probably wouldn’t have been an issue. Group 1 would take location A, group 2 would take location B… Problem is, Tozzi is pretty much the only one right now who has shot anything of this magnitude. Sure, Salerno is a genius with the stills, but you don’t want to take his camera out of his hand. Besides, I don’t think it would be humanly possible. So, we decided to split the duties. Tozzi, Salerno and Pete Tabbot went to the gala extravaganza that was Sick of it All’s 25th Anniversary show and me and Pookie went to Santo’s Party House for Keith Morris’s new outfit OFF! and their NYC debut. Tozzi gave me a camera and told me to just get what I could…

The first disclaimer I would like to put out there is this: I’ve never filmed ANYTHING in my life. I work in words, not pictures, and seeing that I haven’t heard from Tozzi since the show, I’m guessing that my camerawork was beyond horrible and mostly un-usable.

Everything about that day was hectic and up in the air. I have interviewed Keith Morris several times over the years, and not only is he one of the best interviews out there, he is so accommodating and nice that it almost makes you sick. I had already interviewed Keith for the “No Slamdancing” book, and had some great stories from him about the Circle Jerks shows at City Gardens. From someone who has seen and done just about EVERYTHING in Punk Rock, Keith is a veritable font of stiffly sarcastic humor, unique perspective and an unending stream of choice quotables. So I had been working this thing for about a month, back and forth with Keith. He said he would be happy to sit and talk on camera if there were time to do it, but that I should not expect much as this was OFF!’s first trip to NYC and the demands on his time were going to be multitudinous. As a veteran in this game of trying to “get the interview” I’ve heard this all before and understood that I might have to undertake some unconventional means to get this done. It was agreed amongst the crew that if we got Keith to talk, great. If not, we’d get some live footage and see what we could do with it.

So the roadtrip began with me and Pookie meeting up with an old friend, Mark Doyle, bass player for one of Philly’s best groups out there: The Bad Vibes. Known Doyle since we all first started going to shows WAY back in the day and I was very glad he decided to come along. I knew we were going to have to try to get this interview guerilla-style, and just hope we could catch OFF! loading in or just after a soundcheck or something. All I knew was that they were coming in from Baltimore, that Keith had no idea when they’d get into town and, even better, that Keith did not have a cell phone. Fuck it, I love a challenge. Left Philly around 1PM with the intention of meeting the rest of the crew around 3 or 4 to discuss strategy…

Those bastards had it easy. Tozzi, Salerno, Tabbot… they had the whole hook-up: photo passes, a guaranteed spot to film the show, all-access… Fuck it, I’m too grimy for all that rock star shit: me and my crew were going at it total punk rock style: no communication whatsoever, a backpack stuffed with cans of cheap beers to be pounded down in the bathroom stall before the doors opened so we could be drunk as hell and not have to pay those RIDICULOUS NY bar prices, and the idea that, if all else failed, we KNEW we were going to see a great fucking show.

DISCLAIMER NUMBER 2: here is where I want to say that I love Sick of it All. Between 1987 and 1990 I had probably seen them play well over 25-30 times. City Gardens, Revival, CBs, The Troc, Unisound (where we were ALL friends!) and probably half a dozen other venues throughout PA, NY and NJ. They were and are a GREAT later-generation Hardcore band. But… I was WAAAAAY more excited to see OFF!

We all met up early, it was windy and cold as fuck and we found some bar to kick back in before we went our separate ways. I have to say here that, while sitting in a back corner waiting for drinks, that Ken Salerno, a man whose artistic talents I have come to admire like no other, stopped a conversation by paying me some of the highest compliments I’ve ever received from someone whose work I so deeply respect. I was floored. Thank you, Ken.

We went up to Santos to check out the scene. There were a few people milling about outside and we kind of wormed our way into the venue to take a look around, see what we could find out. OFF! had yet to arrive and I think the sound guy was getting annoyed because they were supposed to be sound-checking. Thus began the period of waiting that is well-known to anyone who has ever gone to a gig early, whether to get interviews for zines or to try and get in during a load-in so you don’t have to pay at the door, or just to hang out with friends. Back in our day you could usually get all fucked up, either drinking or getting high while you spent the endless hours waiting around for the doors to open or something to happen. Nowadays everything is so safe and sanitized, I was afraid to even smoke a goddamn cigarette outside…

Now, Pookie has never lived this life, so everything is new to her. Doyle and I were really amused by her hesitation when we just opened up the doors and walked in. “Can you really do that?” Doyle explained to her the theory of WWA: walk with authority. No one questions you when you look like you belong there, and, if they do, you have a hundred and one viable stories to use. Us being us, no one even gave a second look.

And we waited. And waited. Salerno took some great shots of nothing happening. And we waited some more. Before long, those boys had to trek up the street to set up for Sick of it All, so I was given a fast lesson in how to work the camera Tozzi gave me and they took off. And we waited.

As the first band was playing (I think Doyle said they sounded a little like Philly legends YDI. Or maybe it was Brendan Keenan who said it, I can’t remember) OFF! finally arrived at the venue. I saw them pull up. I already knew there was no chance of getting an interview with Keith before the show and he started to apologize for being so late but I told him not to worry, we’d figure something out. They literally pulled up, unloaded their gear, set up their merch table and then hit the stage…

I jumped right up on the stage and secured my perch. Some twenty-something dude was like “hey man, can you move, I’m going to be taking pictures…” Sure dude, I’ve been going to shows for 25 years… of course I’ll defer to you… HA!

Then OFF! came out. AND THEY FUCKING BLISTERED THE PAINT OFF THE WALLS! This wasn’t a “remember when” type of revival show, with washed-up, sad and hoary old punkers trying to relive the glory days of years gone by. This was pure adrenaline; thunder and rebellion clocked in minute-and-a-half segments of white-hot purgatory that hit you right in your metaphorical balls. Searing, seething, semi-familiar riffs that rode hard and fast and made you remember why you devoted your entire life to music in the first place.

Well, after the show everyone was drained from front to back. I managed to steal a setlist off the stage and gave it to Steven Yu, because he fucking rules. We met up with Tozzi, Salerno, and Tabbot afterwards and their experience was just as memorable. Keith was besieged with well-wishers and fans after the show, so I just thanked him for such a great time. He again apologized, but, no worries, we’ll get that interview in the film. THAT much I promise you.

And still, the highlight of the night was this: after making our way back to the car, me Pookie and Doyle began our trip back to Philly. We had to wind around a few Manhattan streets to get on track to the tunnel and back onto the turnpike. It was a Saturday night in New York town, so all the swells and hipsters were out and about their trendy evening. And as we were stuck in traffic for a quick minute we pulled up alongside one hotspot that had a long line of well-dressed metropolitan-looking people who were obviously way cooler than we. And us, being the scumbag assholes from Philly that we are (well, me and Doyle, anyway. Pookie not so much) just couldn’t resist. The drunken Mark Doyle, hero of the irate and misanthropic, rolls down his window and starts yelling something to the effect of: “you fucking New York assholes, look at you, you fucking douchebags standing in line. You just got fucked in the ass by Philly…”

And OFF! we went…

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