On The Web



mtv.com – 20th July 1998

NEW YORK — Blondie lead vocalist Debbie Harry and ex-Ronettes singer Ronnie Spector are arguably two of the greatest frontwomen in the history of rock ‘n’ roll, though 20 years and countless stylistic shifts separate their heydays. But on Friday night, Joey Ramone’s Cyberbash ’98 — a show hosted by the former Ramones singer — brought performances by both of these legendary women to fans at Manhattan’s Tramps nightclub and over the Internet. It was, by far, the most star-packed event in the entire second-annual Intel New York Music Festival, which ended on Saturday with performances by punk icon Mike Watt and legendary former Big Star frontman Alex Chilton, among others. Debbie Harry appeared with a member of her band Blondie in one of the new-wave group’s first shows since a reunion was announced in April. Besides Harry, the only original member of Blondie present at Tramps was guitarist Chris Stein. Drummer Clem Burke, who had been announced as part of the reunion, and keyboardist Jimmy Destri were absent. Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson was on drums.

Blondie were officially billed as a “special surprise guest” at the Cyberbash, but by early Friday evening, the secret was definitely out. A DJ at New York rock radio station WNEW even mentioned Blondie’s appearance on the air. The result was an overflow crowd at Tramps, with many fans, and even people on the guest list, turned away at the door.

Blondie began with “Dreaming,” from the band’s fourth album, Eat to the Beat. As Harry burst into the song’s opening lines, “When I met you in a restaurant/ you could tell I was no debutante,” the crowd at Tramps went nuts. Still blonde and glamorous at 53, Harry wore a black blouse with buttons undone to reveal a shiny gold necklace and a lot of cleavage. Like the audience, she was ready to party like it was 1979. Harry’s sexy, mature presence prompted catcalls from male audience-members, one of whom was overheard comparing her to Mrs. Robinson, the provocative “older woman” played by Anne Bancroft in the movie “The Graduate.” When another fan screamed out, “I love you,” Harry purred back, “I love you, too. Well, maybe a little.”

The band’s concise set included “Hanging On the Telephone,” “One Way Or Another” and “Rapture.” On the latter song, Harry nailed the famous, but potentially embarrassing, rap section. Throughout, the band was airtight and energetic, moving easily between the band’s earlier, harder material and its later, more funk-oriented songs.

Richard Hirsh, a fortysomething fan from Brooklyn, said that he had frequently seen Blondie play at the storied punk and new-wave venue CBGB in the ’70s. “They were good,” Hirsh recalled, “but this [current lineup] was cleaner. Back then, they were much harder and looser.”

This year’s Intel festival featured more than 300 signed and unsigned bands in a network of 20 downtown Manhattan clubs. Friday night’s shows at other venues featured performances by former Dinosaur Jr leader J Mascis and acclaimed folk-rock singer/songwriter Mary Lou Lord, as well as a set by reunited indie-rockers Sunny Day Real Estate. Previous nights’ highlights included performances by country-rocker Joe Ely, alt-rocker Tracy Bonham and noise-pop innovators Jesus and Mary Chain.

This year, Friday night’s show at Tramps was a stand-out among the many scheduled performances. Ronnie Spector preceded Blondie onstage, backed by her own band, who had played a set of their own earlier in the evening. Though Spector was considerably less svelte than she was in her 1960s prime, she still came across as a classic bad-girl rocker, wearing an all-black ensemble that included fingerless leather gloves. In addition to her own hits, such as “Be My Baby,” Spector played a version of the Beach Boys’ “Don’t Worry, Baby” and some songs from the EP she recorded with Joey Ramone, including Johnny Thunders’ “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory” and Ramone’s own “She Talks to Rainbows.” Spector seemed more like a unique, still-vital artist than an oldies act. In a confirmation of Spector’s timeless quality, Ramone stepped from the wings to duet with Spector on “Baby I Love You,” a Ronettes hit once covered by the Ramones.

Earlier in the evening, Ramone had joined the Independents, an amusingly charismatic horror-metal band that he manages, for interpretations of the Ramones’ “Slug”, “I Don’t Want You” and “Blitzkrieg Bop.” And later on, Ramone, who played MC throughout the evening, joined the all-female Japanese punk band Lolita 18 for a noisy version of his old group’s “Rockaway Beach.”

Like most of the shows in the four-day Intel fest, the sights and sounds were cybercast, with streaming audio and video available for live viewing on the festival’s official website, www.intelfest.com. One festival passholder, 34-year-old Manhattanite Ed Hillel, said he hoped that improved technology will allow cybercasts to be smoother by the time of next year’s festival. “I was viewing some of [the festival rebroadcasts] earlier at work. It’s a great idea, but I don’t think communications lines have caught up with it yet,” Hillel said. “I mean, I was watching on a [high-speed] T1 line, and the pictures were still really shaky. I can’t imagine what it’s like on a modem.”

Michael Dorf, co-executive producer of the festival, said Monday (July 20) that next year’s event will feature higher-speed connections, “plus potential satellite delivery,” though he acknowledged that technology is moving so fast that additional opportunities may well be available in a year’s time. Dorf also predicted that the event may change its musical focus: “Instead of just having indie-rock bands, I’d like to see technology [used as] more of a musical … or an artistic instrument. So maybe it’ll be more electronic acts. That’s what differentiates us from [other festivals]. Our aesthetic is music meets technology.”


Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button