“Just last week my son heard “I Fought The Law” for the first time and he’s been singing ever since,” explained Rob Affa, bass plucker of the local Punk Rock tribute collective, The Killing Legends. “I guess he identifies with it…even if he did just turn four.”
This is the type of reach and longevity bands wish to attain when they plug in at the first practice in a dusty garage or basement. They develop a vision, formulate ideas, and hope that the musical byproduct resulting from those doctrines of belief connect with an audience, so that 36 years after they first introduce themselves to the world, a child of four years old will still toss his fist in the air when their song spins on the radio (or iPod). That connection ensures the group’s survival for another generation of listeners. It’s the closest any of us will ever come to immortality…and as far as the music listening world is concerned, The Clash is everlasting.
30 years ago this month The Clash ventured to the Asbury Park Convention Hall for a three night stint of sold out shows from May 29th through the 31st. This Friday evening (June 1st) those performances will be celebrated at The Press Room as the aforementioned Killing Legends will lead the charge at what has been billed as ClashFest.
Joined by an undisclosed series of local musicians, rumored to include the likes ofRick Barry, The Killing Legends will run through a setlist containing all the highlights from those shows of yesteryear, and Affa expects to keep these honorary renditions as close to the originals as possible.
“Yes and no,” explained Affa when asked about his group’s feeling of responsibility toward the handling of this legendary compositions. “The Clash did whatever they wanted to when they played. That’s what made them great. And these songs are out there for our interpretation. We’re gonna keep it as close to the originals as possible, but at the same time, we love these songs, we love this band, and we don’t get to play this music often, so we want to make it last. Im sure they’ll be some jams tossed in.”
The only group of locals confirmed to be appearing on Friday is the Boardwalk-based Blues-Rock collective Stringbean & The Stalkers, a outfit featuring a legend in his own right upon the throne, Sim Cain (Regressive Aid, Gone, Rollins Band, Ween, Billy Hector Band).
The former Trenton, NJ denizen, stick wielder, and fellow TCNJ alumnus, attended the The Clash’s opening night performance in 1982 and was gracious enough to talk offer some perspective on the night, the band, Mick Jones, and more.
“I came down to Asbury that night with a few friends,” explained Cain. “I was 19-years old and drove down from Trenton in a yellow ’77 Corolla Wagon with a couple of cases of Budweiser in the back seat, so you can tell differences in society’s mindset from then to now.”
“Asbury was like a ghost town back then,” he continued, “and I was a little disappointed Topper [Headon] their drummer wasn’t on the tour, but they were still great. Combat Rock just came out and The Clash had a real vibe to them, a Deadhead vibe. Their shows were personal experiences, and because they were willing to take chances and do things live other bands weren’t, they ran the risk of sucking [he said with a laugh]. But when they were great it was unbelievable, and on that night they were the best in the world.”
As mentioned prior, before joining up with the likes of Asbury’s own Stringbean and Billy Hector, Cain lived amongst the Punks in Trenton basements with Regressive Aid and beyond with Gone [fronted by Black Flag’s Greg Ginn] and Rollins Band…though he never considered himself a Punk.
“I never though of myself as a Punk-Rocker,” said Cain, “but I loved The Clash and was very much influenced by them. They were a fascinating band to watch because they wore their hearts and creativity on their sleeves. When they recorded Sandinista! it was clear they were recording in and feeding off New York City.”
“And they were a walking contradiction,” he continued. “They had super-Socialist base of ethics but were on a major labels like Epic Records…they were an open debate playing out in front of the public, and they didn’t care.”
Aside from The Clash’s impact on Cain’s ideals, the drummer remembers vividly when his professional conduct was altered forever after an interaction with the aforementioned Mick Jones.
“Prior to Gone I was in a band called Regressive Aid. We were opening for Billy Idol at City Gardens in Trenton. The Clash was playing at the University Of Pennsylvania the next night and some of them came over to check out our show. That night I met and chatted with Mick [Jones] and the way he carried himself in that brief amount time has absolutely been a model for me. I met him that night and he kept asking what my name was, I laughed it off at first, but he kept asking me. “I wont forget it,” he said.”
“And it happened that a friend of mine had tickets for the next night’s show,” continued Cain. “After their set my friend wanted to wait around because back then The Clash would always do a meet and greet with fans. So I waited my turn, their were about 50 people, and I got up to Mick, and he said “Hey Sim!”…I was floored, and I thought to myself, if im ever in that position, I’m never going to take it for granted. I want to connect with people the way Mick does. Every time I saw Mick with fans he would always be looking at people’s faces, almost studying them to get an impression of them and leave one of his own. I decided that night I would carry myself with the same decorum.”
Be sure to come out on Friday evening for the festivities, the special guest musicians, but most of all to celebrate this collection of music that’s affected the masses, and the group of artists who penned it.
Doors open at 9 p.m. with footage from the 1982 tour to be played before the show, which is slated to start at 10:30 p.m.