CoolMom and I went out to see Bow Wow Wow last night at Long Branch’s Brighton Bar. As far as I can piece together, sometime after tickets went on sale in January, lead singer Annabella Lwin cut ties with the band leaving bassist Leigh Gorman as the only remaining/surviving member of the original lineup. I didn’t know about this until last Wednesday, and many of the patrons at Saturday’s performance obviously didn’t know about this until the current incarnation of Bow Wow Wow took the stage around midnight. Neither Bow Wow Wow nor The Brighton Bar said anything official about the change until the group posted something the day of the show. It made for an interesting evening.
I don’t know how The Brighton Bar usually does things, but last night there were a TON of bands on the bill. I’m not sure if this was an effort to sell more tickets in response to Bow Wow Wow’s lineup change or if this was simply par for the course; but having the crowd sit through band after band setting up and then breaking down their entire kit all night long couldn’t have helped the mood that greeted the headliners.
Dentist came on at around 9:30, following a great set by Strange Things Done In The Midnight Sun who’d brought their own piñata. Telecasters, Fender amps, and Emily Whitt’s airy vocals all came together nicely in Dentist’s surf-inspired, Indie-Pop sound. Songs like “Bird in the Cage” and “No Matter” sounded great and had CoolMom and me bobbing our heads throughout the set.
Following Dentist, it would be another couple of bands and another couple of hours before Bow Wow Wow took the stage. At one point, CoolMom — Bow Wow Wow fan from way back — felt that she had to release the babysitter. I took her back to the house and returned just in time to catch the headliners on my own.
Here’s where things got weird. Having been warned that Lwin was no longer in the band, I had actually worked up an interest in hearing the new singer and her take on Bow Wow Wow’s songs. Not everyone was so open-minded. The band initially took the stage without singer Chloe Pappas, opening with instrumental “Oran-Outang.”
“We’ve got a new singer tonight! Are you gonna show her some support?” asked Leigh Gorman before bringing Pappas onstage.
“This is bullsh*t!!! There’s only one member of the band up there!!” someone shouted.
Gorman is a really good bass player and Pappas sounded and looked great. She was a little uncertain of the lyrics once or twice (“Do You Wanna Hold Me?” Ouch.), but she put on a great show under truly difficult circumstances. At one point she commented, “I know there’s a lot of history with this band…”
“Yeah! And you’re not part of any of it!” was the shouted response.
The band did everything you’d expect: “See Jungle,” “Wild in the Country,” “C30, C60, C90, Go,” and, yes, “I Want Candy.” Just before doing the final couple of songs of the night, Gorman suggested that the band take a quick break. Unfortunately, the gentleman whose cymbals they were borrowing (?) told them he couldn’t afford to wait around any longer. Forced to continue, Gorman, Pappas, and guitarist Matt Fuller were grateful beyond words when one fan brought them a round of drinks from the bar.
More difficult than the occasional ridiculous outburst by one or two people in the very close quarters, I think, was the fact that the crowd just didn’t seem into the show.
“Come on! We want to see you moving out there,” said Gorman several times. I don’t blame the band. After six hours and what felt like a dozen bands, the remaining audience had to have felt a little pummeled. I know I did, and I’d only been there for about 3 hours with a break in the middle.
The whole experience got me thinking as I drove home. Not that this is exactly the same, but when Morrissey launched into “How Soon Is Now” at the Count Basie Theatre with a guitarist that wasn’t Johnny Marr, everyone loved it. When Marr comes to New York and performs the same song, doing his own vocals, people will swoon. But when a band that released its last original song thirty years ago comes to a tiny bar in Long Branch, NJ with a talented lead singer who wrote just as many of those songs as her predecessor, people feel that it’s ok to shout insults and stare blankly with their arms folded.
Yeah. Somebody should’ve said something sooner, but you’re there already. Just roll with it. Be hospitable to the folks sweating up there for your entertainment and try to have a good time…or leave.