Another drizzly evening in Coney Island for the Seaside Summer Concert Series hosted by Brooklyn Borough President and bon vivant Marty Markowitz.
The rain stopped while I was on line and the evening was a bit warm and humid but it still was a lovely night by the sea.
Marty said his hellos from the stage, joked, and ignored those who kept yelling out his name or yelling for Joan Jett. Our opening act (per Jett’s request) was the Coney Island Sideshow. Human blockhead Ray Valenz acted as emcee. He drilled and then hammered a nail into his nostril.
Years ago I went to the sideshow on the boardwalk and in a small space everything is weird and creepy and sometimes a little scary. Outdoors on this big stage with the performers far away from us a lot of the danger seemed to dissipate. That was especially true for Serpentina. The snake was never close enough to feel like it could slither out into the audience.
Insectavora is a tattooed lady who walks barefoot on swords. Betty Bloomerz swallows swords.
Strongman Baron Von Geiger is the one I was dreading. The strongmen are always sticking fishhooks into various parts of their body and lifting heavy weights. Von Geiger was lifting an anchor – by his eyes. I gasped and looked at rtb, who already had her head down in her lap. She kept her head down until I told her it was okay to look again.
What? You thought I was going to post a photo of Von Geiger performing the trick?
Marty came out again and people were yelling for Joan (this is Brooklyn – when I say yelling I mean yelling). Marty told us that he wasn’t holding her back and she’d be out when she wanted to. Way to blame the artist there, Marty.
Many years ago my sister saw The Runaways at a club. She was shocked by the language and aggressiveness of the teenage girls onstage (my sister was then a teenage girl herself). That’s mostly what I remember about The Runaways – young girls meant to shock the audience with their language, aggressiveness, and sexuality. Like so many others I fell in love with Joan Jett when she embarked on her solo career. A strong musician and performer who happened to be female. There were too few out there like her. In April 1995 I was thrilled when I performed at the We Won’t Go Back Rally in DC. I sang with a women’s chorus in front of 50,000 to 200,000 on the Washington Mall. (How many were there depends on whether you listen to police estimates or rally organizer estimates.) We got to sit in the performers’ tent with acts like Toad the Wet Sprocket. In the other performers’ tent was Joan Jett, who was headlining. It was even more of a thrill to sit backstage and watch her perform.
And last night I got to see her face while she performed. Well, almost. The crowd stood as soon as she hit the stage and I could only see the screens. Occasionally I could catch a glimpse of Joan Jett or the band on stage. Jett doesn’t look much different than she did when she was with The Runaways. Her hands give her age away more than her face does. And unlike how she was played in the film, Jett smiles a lot. She looks very happy to be there and she loves interacting with the audience.
For a new song (“TMI”) people near the front were holding up signs. When the light shone on them we see through the paper and read TMI on the signs. Afterwards, Jett asked if she had been flash-bombed. I thought it was something planned by her people but it was obviously a surprise to Jett.
Jett mixed the set with favorites and new songs. (I’m sorry that she didn’t do her cover of The Replacements “Androgynous.”) Her music hasn’t changed much over the years – it’s still a hard-edged late 70s/early 80s pop. She’s still a great guitarist and an even better singer than I realized. She has a string of hits (her own and songs she’s written for others) that’s unbelievable when you see them all listed.
The Blackhearts (who are fantastic) is Dougie Needles (lead guitar), Thommy Price (drums), Kenny Laguna (keyboards/percussion), and Acey Slade (bass).
By Carene Lydia Lopez