Contributing PoOPster Jim Finnigan writes:
Right from the start I could tell it was going to be good. The DJ was playing classic On-U (Breaking Down the Pressure, Autobiography of the Dread Operator, Can’t Take Su Su Pon Dread) and other reggae (Baby I Love You So, King Tubby Meets Rockers Uptown). I caught Joly by the merch table and presented him with a copy of Neil Taylor’s Document and Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade, wherein Joly is interviewed extensively in chapter 6 (and isn’t it always like this – the people who provide the content aren’t given a copy by the publisher and somebody else has to do it). Joly had 3 Ari Punkcast DVDs for sale (different from the 2 or 3 I already had) in addition to special Birthday Party t-shirts and 2 posters – profits going to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, as were the profits from the show, at the request of Ari’s family. And they must have made a nice chunk of change last night – the house was packed! (On the other had, a lot of the performers would wander in the audience when it wasn’t their turn to be on stage, so maybe there were a lot of comps).
I didn’t catch all of the names of the performers, so I’m going to have to guess at names for some of them – hope they don’t mind – or maybe Joly can supply names if he knows them. Also, I’m recreating this list from memory next morning so caveat emptor:
Professor Vivian Goldman started the party by reading messages from Viv Albertine and from Boy George. The Punk Professor stood just off stage right for most of the program, occasionally making comments or “teaching” us about somebody’s punk credentials.
Backing for most of the show was by the True Warriors – Ira Heaps large and in charge and barefoot as usual, with a neatly trimmed beard tonight (and his daughters (?) on the side of the stage next to Vivian for most of the evening). It was good to see Julia Nichols from Olivebridge back with the gang, but I didn’t get a chance to say hi as she would rush offstage when it wasn’t her turn to sing.
First up was an imposing Jamaican lady singing a decidedly punky-reggae version of World of Grown-Ups. This lady sang a couple numbers later on, including Instant Hit, and I Heard It Through the Bassline, and she played bass on some numbers.
I think Baby Mother was next, or was it Me Done, by I think Honeychild Coleman, an excellent singer who said that she was keeping up the tradition of making costume changes during the show, but not costume changes inna Ari style (Ari would just change right on stage).
Actually I don’t think I’m going to be able to re-create the setlist in order, so I’ll just go into random comments mode:
Another Jamaican lady who said she was Ari’s God-daughter and who lived with Ari in Jamaica sang Bashment and told a story about how even after they’d be arguing politricks all afternoon (Ari for Hillary vs. her God-daughter for Obama), Ari would soon show up in the God-daughter’s room in her party outfit and say it was time to go out for Bashment. Whereupon everybody on stage showed off their party shoes unless they weren’t wearing any.
Holly Cook proved to be quite a good singer and did good versions of Some Love, Fade Away, My Guiding Star, and other songs.
Angela Jaeger, vocalist from a late version of Pigbag, talked about some of her memories of the Slits early gigs, and sang Adventures Close to Home (which I recall as being a Palmolive song but what the hey – it’s a party).
Tiny Anna Ozawa from the “Japanese Slits” sang very good lead vocals on Love Forever and Observe Life, and she sang backing and played melodica for a good portion of the show. You can find her on Facebook and Myspace.
Irish Boston refugees Judy Nylon and Michael Patrick McDonald did some readings. Judy’s talk, about half read and half extemporized, was about her remembrances of Ari, Chrissie Hynde and herself hanging out together at early Sex Pistols and Clash gigs, and about Ari’s vibrant take no prisoners personality, and importance as a role model for women in music. Judy said that Ari, Chrissie and herself took Nico to be their role model, and wished that Nico had been younger so she could have been a punk and wouldn’t have been so alone in her endeavors. She also talked about how Ari, Little Annie and herself had all been “the women of On-U”, and reveled in the multi-cultural atmosphere there (but she didn’t include Vivian Goldman, who was standing right there…probably just an oversight). McDonald read from one of his books (which Vivian Goldman said she teaches to her students) about going to a Slits sound check one afternoon and talking to Ari, and about how he then hid in the drop ceiling of the bathroom until the doors opened that night for the gig. Actually, I learned that trick years ago too – that is, going to a venue in the afternoon for the soundcheck, to talk to a musician, not the part about hiding in the drop ceiling. McDonald also did a dramatic reading of the lyrics to Trapped Animal.
The Band Droidz, a three-piece punk/reggae band from Harlem, did an excellent three-song set and the bass player, also the soundman at Irving Plaza, talked about Ari’s “futuristic” performance at a Nina Hagen show there.
Subatomic Sound System played four unreleased Ari Up recordings: a cover of a Lee Perry song I’m gonna call Underground Roots (something from the Roast Fish & Cornbread or Return of the Super Ape era), a version of Dennis Brown‘s Revolution re-fashioned into Slits Revolution, a slightly more punky version of World of Grown-Ups with backing by Dubblestandart, and an excellent song called Life Partner that talked about her relationship with Jamaica as if it were her life partner, and about how she lived more than half her life there.
Joly showed a bunch of videos: the last (so far) Slits video Lazy Slam, and three that he said hadn’t been shown anywhere before: a Slits rehearsal of a pretty good song I’m gonna call Dancehall Queen, Ari & the True Warrior’s excellent version of Police & Thieves from a Joe Strummer memorial concert (this one had Ira Heaps kinda entranced), and Ari & Wilton (?) singing Don’t Say Nothing Bad About New York from the post-9/11 benefit at the Lone Star Cafe (I think I’ve seen that one before…or maybe I actually saw them doing this song at a Wetlands Preserve gig.) He also showed some interviews with Ari, including a very good one where she talked about her philosophy, and which also included references to her having only a limited time left on Earth to complete her Mission, which was for as many people to hear her as possible – not necessarily to like her, but to at least hear her.
The finale (or so I thought) was for the True Warriors to return to the stage (augmented by Gary Lucas on dub-effects guitar) to provide backing for Neneh Cherry‘s versions of Newtown and Man Next Door. Neneh also talked about how Ari affected every aspect of her life. Neneh & Bruce’s daughter, Pearl (I think), talked about her “auntie Ari” and how much she loved to dance. Pablo, Ari’s son (one of the twins on the cover of Foundation Steppers, now about 6 and a half feet tall) thanked everybody and said that he thought that his mother would have loved the party.
But the party kept on going. Everybody was so upbeat and in a great mood that I couldn’t blame them. Good vibes all around. Unfortunately for me, if I wanted to get home at a reasonable time and before the temperature dropped to below zero (Fahrenheit) I had to leave to catch the train home. Good memories. I’m sure that some good things will continue to be heard from the Slits gang in the years to come.