Sunday, March 17, 2013

Powerman 5000

Powerman 5000: 1994

Kenmore Square in Boston MA the year 1994, the buzz: free concert in the square by local rock bands. I do not recall the reason for the event but there was a couple of them held year after year for a couple of years. Free concerts in Boston are rear and free concerts that shut down an entire area near Fenway Park was unheard of. I showed up with bells on. Michelob was there in full support of the festivities shelling out beer: two hands, two beers. It was a bright sunny day with beautiful woman scantily clad, were plentiful. One local band that was playing was having some local success called “Fighting C#cks” were headlining the show. The name of the band is in reference to rooster fights. The other bands I had not heard of yet, but a free outdoor show was enough for me to show. To my surprise Michelob showed. During the show I was busy checking out women and what color shoes they were wearing, blue, reds and shaded leather. I was enjoying the sights. My itinerary for the day was just watching women with music in the back round. An unknown band, to me, came on second to last on the set of I believe 4 bands. Disrespectfully I ignored their entrance to the stage. The band launched into one of the most powerful sets I have ever and including even today have ever heard. That band was and is Powerman 5000, they had just finished up recording and releasing a Compact Disk titled “True Force” which the next day I went to Tower Records and purchased. Tower Records had a section of local music, bear in mind this was still pre-internet as we know it today and to buy music required going to a music store and not all carried local music. To sample what I am talking about go to youtube and check out some sounds from “True Force.” Like this tune called Organized, one of my favorites.

I asked around to some of the concert goers who the band was and no one seemed to know. A rock club named the Rat was next to the show and the bar tender told me their name, he had heard of them. The band has a mixture of rap and rock with steel drums or use of percussion. Nobody at the time was playing this style of music and its sound was brand new. The first time I heard steel drums was in Waltham Mass as a youth. A Puerto Rican section of the town is where I first heard it as the folks would play these steel drums in the alley ways of Charles St. Segregation of nationality was a part of life back then for all the wrong reasons and not true today for all the right reason. I would cut through Charles St while carrying my shoe polishing gear. Waltham, at the time, was in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most bars per square mile in the United States. At the time I would polish shoes for 10 cents and would usually receive 25 cent from the patrons. This was big money for a 9 year old and I would clean up. In the early seventies wearing dress shoes was popular and the style. Later bands such as Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit would pound these same sounds, rap rock. I still love the sounds of steel drums and plan to incorporate it in my music as soon as I can find people willing to lay down some tracks that are over forty and not retiring from music or have picked up an acoustic guitar and starting to fall asleep.

I became a top ten fan showing up at each show. At the time they mainly played at The Rat, in Kenmore Square. I didn’t miss a one. One night before their set I bought them a picture of Rats Brew, a cheap on tap beer that the The Rat sold. It was least I could do for a band that was entertaining me every other month. They would pack the joint full of different type of people. Take note, what I mean was the variety of people who would show. There were Spanish Speaking Gang members showing, college folk, regular local crowd and never any trouble except for one night. (In 1994 the east coast west coast gang tension was nearing its height of explosion and the dudes were flying colors loud and clear with no miss understanding. Later rappers realized that working together was more profitable and less fearing than fighting, in the early 2000's era you started to see "featuring" on CD covers as rappers started to collaborate rather than segregate) I was hanging in the back area of the club before the band took stage. What was occurring during the show which would later be called Mosh Pitt, at the time it was just strange sight to see. Mosh Pitt’s consisted of the area in front of the stage in which people would bounce off of each another. One night a 5’1” young lady with blonde hair weighting in at 95 lbs on a rainy day was bouncing off people. She wound up and knocked out a dude with one punch. I would fathom to say that he probably deserved it. She did not have a violent look about her. A 6’5” bouncer came and carried her up the stairs and out of the club. That’s the only trouble I had seen at their shows. With such a diverse crowed you would “think” it would be trouble but everyone showed to hear this band with a new sound called Powerman 5000. I took a date to one show, Kathy, she was not aware of the band and what went down at their shows. She liked music and was in a tribute band of Heart and played on a local Boston CD of Rolling Stones music produced by the man himself,Jimmy Miller called Boston Gets Stoned the song is Dandelion. She had no idea what she was in for. She was walking around the stage and I kept telling her to watch out for when the band was coming on stage that things tend to get crazy in front of the stage and to be aware of this. She ignored me figuring that she had seen plenty of madness at rock shows and she considered herself a vet at rock shows which was true but not to this music. Well the band came on and launched into their typical powerful set in which the crowd went into a frenzy like piranha. She got caught up in front and could not exit the front area. I had to grad Cathy with all my might and drag her to the back of the show. She was in complete shock of what was going on and all I could say to her was "look it, I told you to watch out.”

Creative Commons Copyright by Dess Dermondy

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