Friday, August 7, 2009

Willie, Hughes and the Crack of Hearts

I'm fairly certain that Willy DeVille and John Hughes never worked together, never hung out or even met.

They were of two distinct universes. Two distinct talents. Two distinct barbers.

They are forever joined now, having passed away on the same day, August 6th — DeVille at 55 and Hughes at 59.

And I have a soft spot in my heart for both.

My brothers turned me on to DeVille and his legendary band Mink DeVille. His great songs are too numerous to list — and, anyway, if you're even a little curious, you're already hunting and sampling and judging his stuff by now.

But Willy DeVille is in the McClatchyActsUpHall of Fame (if you haven't heard of this Hall, don't fret. I established it 45 seconds ago) for two movie moments:

1. The theme song (Storybook Love) to The Princess Bride.

2. The scene in The Pope of Greenwich Village where a pre-nutjob Mickey Rourke tries to re-woo a pre-nutjob Darryl Hannah and asks some (presumably pre-nutjob) neighborhood guy with a boombox to hit them with some romantic tunes so they can dance in the park. Just to Walk That Little Girl Home is the song — it is perfect and it works.

Bonus moment — I went to see him at a club in NYC — the name escapes me (Scotty Mac, help me out) — one of those shows where the headliner hits the stage around 12:30, 1am. He was eerie, translucent, unbelievably cool and the master of the gravelly, downtown wounded poet love song. Plus, I think he was on the nod. But since I was in my full-blown Jim Carroll fascination phase, I was down with Willy's heroin rap.

Fellahs — you want to get the woman in your life in the mood — a bottle of Pinot and a Willy DeVille mix.

You're welcome.

And thank you, Willy — whose cool was matched only by his talent.

Now, I know it was never really cool to dig John Hughes out loud — but I'm trying to come up with another screenwriter with a comparable volume of lines that get quoted. Help me out if I'm overlooking someone.

In the eight year span from 1983 to 1990, Hughes owned the harmless-mildly-subversive-comedy genre. Owned it. In that time period, he wrote (and you have been quoting ever since):

Mr. Mom
Sixteen Candles (also directed)
The Breakfast Club (also directed) featuring one of the great comic jackass performances of all time by the late great Paul Gleason.
European Vacation
Weird Science
(also directed)
Pretty in Pink
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
(also directed)
Some Kind of Wonderful
Planes, Trains & Automobiles
She's Having a Baby
(also directed)
The Great Outdoors
Uncle Buck
(also directed)

Be a movie snob if you must — but that list right there is unbelievable. Packed with great lines, memorable characters and indelible moments. All in eight years.

So leave a thankful moment for John Hughes — his movies have been very good to you.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Street Dogs: Let Them Save Your Soul

How often do you get your mind (as well as your eardrums) legitimately blown at a rock and roll show? Especially when you have never heard of the band? Especially, especially when you've been stumbling around the Dublin (OH) Irish Festival in a vaguely been there-done that haze of familiar faces and a half dozen Killian's?

That's where Lisa and I found ourselves yesterday on the closing day of the second-largest (I'm told) Irish festival in the United States. There were the usual local suspects (whom we love) reeling and jigging the day away with homegrown talent and professional vigor. Sure there were new faces — the Celtic Tenors, Pogey and Dervish, to name a few — and they, too, gave very entertaining, good, clean accounts of themselves.

But it fell to the festival's closing act, out in the hinterlands of the Killian's Celtic Rock Stage, to deliver bone-rattling, hair-raising, fountain-of-youth inspiration to geezers like us.

All we knew about these guys was that the lead singer had been the original lead singer of the Dropkick Murphys.

Then the Street Dogs took the stage promptly at 6:30 and, for the next hour and a half, made me love punk rock all over again. Far less overtly Celtic than their Dropkick brethren or Flogging Molly or The Tossers, the Street Dogs come on like a Billy Bragg/Clash/Ramones car crash with louder and faster everything and an idealistically manic frontman in Mike McColgan.

More astounding than their brilliant, searing and utterly genuine show was learning that the Street Dogs have been around since 2003 — evidently saving rock and roll one sweaty, ear-splitting, pogoing show at a time. They have four records out. I don't own any of them.

That will change in about nine minutes.

No band appears to believe more than the Street Dogs and no frontman believes more deeply than Mike McColgan.

Believes in what?

The power of rock and roll.

And the son of a bitch is right.

It's hard to beat the pure joy of a great rock and roll show.

McColgan and his mates just ripped it — from the opening strains of Amazing Grace (courtesy of the Cyril Scott Pipe Band) which led to the blistering sing-a-long Not Without a Purpose to a knockout call-to-arms cover of the Joe Hill song (made famous by Billy Bragg) There is Power in a Union to McColgan's heartbreaking PTSD lament War After the War (dude's a Desert Storm vet and a former firefighter — talk about walking the walk) and on and on through a breakneck, ecstatic set.

There were pleas for unity, instructions on how to correctly and effectively pogo, Bono-esque climbs up the scaffold, Townsend-like leaps off amps, dedications to the active duty soldiers, heartfelt exhortations to fuck MP3s and go buy The Clash and The Pogues on vinyl and the most supportive mosh pit in history.

It was a Woodstock moment for the Anti-Flag generation.

And it didn't matter how old you were. Or how long you've been married or ...

I'm fairly certain that a marriage (or any meaningful relationship, for that matter) is not truly consummated until you have pogoed together to Tobe's Got a Drinking Problem.

No one was immune to the joy ... the electricity ... the tinnitus.

This was the loudest show I've ever attended.

(Yes, even louder than when Scotty Mac opened for the Smithereens.)

The Street Dogs were so loud I thought Lisa might suffer a concussion. I thought I might crack a rib. I thought the bass player might stroke out.

And it was just loud enough.

Go see the Street Dogs. Buy their music. Be saved.