Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hair metal in Jersey, a photo essay

I've lived in Hoboken for a year now, but last night was my Jersey baptism by fire. That phrase may not make a lot of sense, but driving to Clifton with Anna to see my childhood hair metal favorite White Lion made more sense than you can imagine. In anticipation of the show -- my first time seeing the band, whose line-up only contains only lead singer Mike Tramp of the original members -- I pitched coverage to every editor I could think of, but no one bit. (Do cock rock hits like "When The Children Cry," "Wait" and "Little Fighter" mean nothing to these people?)

So the jean-jacketed Anna and I each had to shell out 22 bucks at the club, which as you can see is called Dingbatz. The lovely she-devil at the top of this post graced one wall; below are some more scenes from the establishment. (The middle pic is 100 percent worth clicking on.)

Most everyone in attendance was some combination of metal/overweight/aging/awesome.

Some even dressed alike.

White Lion didn't come on until about 12:30. In the meantime we had to sit through three opening acts, two of which were cover bands. (Whitesnake and Def Leppard tracks were heard.) At least the hair was as awesome as promised. (Click it.)

So for three hours we had nothing to do except stare at the White Lion merch table and try to figure out why the band uses the Rebel flag in its logo. (Turns out "it means we're not following the rules, the Lion is breaking free from the cage," says Tramp, who is a Dane. [!])

In any case, the wait was well worth it. And by the wait I mean the 19 years since I began amassing White Lion tapes and winning their posters at the Minnesota State Fair. For starters, Mike looked pretty good. Pretty damn good. I'm serious -- not a lot of wrinkles, in good shape. These pics don't really do him justice, though check out his confederate belt buckle.

There was evident joy in his performance of the band's old songs, and he did the whole Axl Rose serpentine dance quite vigorously.
I knew every song they played -- including "Dreams," an awesome new cut off their new one, Return of the Pride -- and they blew the roof off with "Tell Me" and "Broken Heart." (If you know those songs you are my new best friend.)

He was quite chatty. White Lion got its start recording in Staten Island and Brooklyn, he told us, and he lived in Jersey for about five years. "There's no better feeling in the world than driving on the New Jersey turnpike," he said. Preposterously awesome. He also talked about being a dad, reminded everyone that "no matter what time you get home tonight, your kids are getting up at 7," and mentioned that he refuses to let his tykes watch Hannah Montana. "We're not 26 anymore," he added, whimsically. Um, I suppose not.

The sad part of the night was when he pointed to the door leading back stage and noted it was open, in case the band's original guitarist Vito Bratta wanted to drop in. "He's got an open invitation to all our shows," Tramp said, "but he never comes."

Here's how the rest of the band looked.

Nice drum kit. In any case, the show surpassed even my middle school expectations. I remain White Lion's biggest fan. The only difference between then and now is that they probably weren't driving around in an RV back then, which I saw parked outside the club afterward.


rob getzschman said...

Excellent coverage. I'm most confused by the lion skulls on their t-shirts: do they have bone-manes? Calcified lion manes made of bone? Does hair have thick bone within it? I have so many questions for White Lion...

Nate said...

yeah, that was a good one! you should grow your hair out now.

Anonymous said...

Dude, do you write for the SF Weekly? Because your article on classic rock is the product of a lot of sloppy thinking. Try and tighten up your game.