Jacko Rages Against the B’day-Candle Light

Fatal mystique: Jack Monahan (pictured at left with the original lineup of Fatal Rage) makes a long-awaited revisit to his early 80s hardcore roots, during a month that sees the bearded oracle celebrate his sixtieth in some semblance of style.

He’s been called “stubborn” and “dogmatic” by the most diplomatic among us. Canonized and condemned in equal measure by the thousands of musicians and bands who’ve dealt with him over the years. For more than a generation now, he’s been the first visible, most instantly recognizable face of The Brighton Bar — the bearded sentry Heimdall guarding the mystical bridge to Asgard; the cryptkeeper/caretaker maintaining order in the midst of mayhem; the dour ferryman who takes your coin and dispenses his ‘X,’ sometimes not without a brief sermonette on how you haven’t been “supporting the scene” through frequent enough visits.

While it’s not the stuff of a successful career as a WalMart greeter, the presence of Jack Monahan at the door of the Home of Original Music has been the one real constant through several different chapters of the Brighton Bar memoir; this despite never having had a financial stake in the former package-goods pitstop turned heir apparent to CBGB.

Fateful frontguy to some half a dozen seminal indie outfits; a postpunk poet who established the Upper Wet Side’s longest running spoken word series; a “band bookie” of nationwide repute (and a man whose Tolkienesque look was bitch-stole wholesale by fast-fading record guru Rick Rubin), Jacko has been there, done that, and returned to do it time and again regardless of fad or fashion — a larger than life figure who, as he told the Asbury Park Press in 2008, has parceled out that life “20 years booking, 35 years playing, 40 years underground.”

In an era that’s necessitated a slight shifting of the CoJack Productions focus beyond the Brighton, Monahan remains defiantly “underground” where many of his contemporaries struggle simply to stay topside of the topsoil. And, in a month that sees Jacko celebrate his landmark 60th birthday with a public party at The Saint in Asbury, the patron saint of all that’s passionately indie has saved the biggest surprise for this coming weekend — the long awaited, 30 years in the making reunion of Fatal Rage.

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ARCHIVE: Sick Again, and Loving It

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The way they were: Arnie Baars, JoJo Albano, Greg Macolino and Bobby the K — The Chronic Sick — take their major reunion world tour back to the Brighton Bar this Saturday.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit August 4, 2009)

The story, reproduced faithfully in press releases to this day, goes something like this: it’s 1982; Reagan’s in the White House, the Falklands War and the Tylenol Killer are in the news, and the first compact discs are starting to edge vinyl off the store racks.

Meanwhile, in a drab Jersey recording studio specializing in cheap ‘n nasty local-dude records, a Long Branch-based bunch of punks called The Chronic Sick are attempting to wax a full-length followup to their first 12-inch EP for the legendary Mutha Records imprint; an effort (Cutest Band In Hardcore) that was branded the “Best Record Release of 1981″ by the formidable Jello Biafra, that hit Number One on every important college radio station in the state, and would go on to become a “Holy Grail” that reportedly continues to fetch selling prices approaching $1500.

Midway through the sessions, guitarist Bobby the K — “frustrated with the lack of grit in the singing voice of frontman Greg “Gory” Macolino, punched the lead vocalist in the throat, thinking it would add just the right quality.” It didn’t. In fact, the incident, coupled with the admitted lack of discipline and maturity on the part of the teenaged bandmates, spelled the early demise of the zitfaced, pockmarked, swastika-scribbling cuties.

Part of a small but respected scene of proto-hardcore punk and psychedelic bands that burned briefly and brightly in the early 1980s, in places like Long Branch, Red Bank, Asbury and Belmar, The Chronic Sick  (Gory, Bobby, bassist Arnie Baars and drummer JoJo Albano) would join their contemporaries — Fatal RageSecret Syde,The WorstThe BeastLaughing SoupdishMODE/IQ and Public Disturbance — in a largely doomed stand against what were then the crushing forces of the coverband dinosaurs, then in their pumped-up prime at clubs up and down the highways of Central Jersey. By contrast, the Shorecore bands, like their Brunswick and Bloomfield-based brethren to the north, homesteaded their own scene at places like the dying Fast Lane, the infamous Hot Dog House in Asbury, a couple of random neighborhood bars and rec centers — and most significantly at a recovering package-goods pukestop called the Brighton Bar.

Flash forward a couple of largely forgettable decades and you’ll find a significantly less cruddy (but still creddy) Brighton Bar still standing as the hallowed Home of Original Music on the Jersey Shore — with Macolino, now a high school teacher and a veteran of another seminal Jersey Shore band (The X-Men), one of the owners of the West End landmark for the past ten years.

History, no stranger to the little stage that helped spawn the likes of Monster Magnet and Godspeed, happened again a few months back, when the classic configuration of the Chronic Sick reunited after more than 25 years to play a special vintage hardcore show — an event that led at least indirectly to the rebirth of the celebrated Syde, and directly to such Sick happenings as their first-ever formal tour; an excursion that returns them to the Brighton boards this Saturday night, August 8.

The bandmates, who played Maxwells in Hoboken this past weekend, and are scheduled to appear tonight at The Red and the Black in Washington, DC, will be continuing their world-domination tour with stops in NYC (August 9), Cambridge, MA (August 12) and New Haven, CT (August 13). And, with the help of Adam Hamilton from LA Guns, they’re “polishing off and putting the finishing touches” on the album that was to be their second release, entitled 1982 — a set of songs that, considering when the tunes were written, has literally been in the making since that fateful year.

Red Bank oRBit talked to three of the four Sickies as they prepped for their invasion of our nation’s capital, and no going for the jugular this time. Read on.

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ARCHIVE: Making It to the Other Syde

DownloadedFile-2Jon Davies, Rob Angelo, Steve DeVito and Dave De Santis are The Secret Syde, together again after 26 years, this Saturday at The Brighton Bar.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit April 21, 2009)

They were one of the greatest and most truly legendary of all bands to come crawling out of the tidal pools of the Jersey Shore in the 1980s.

Anchored in a European artrock sensibility, awash in waves of radio-telescope psychedelic effects, The Secret Syde made a grand and glorious noise for a brief blip in time — and left a legacy that went far beyond their neighborhood roots, inspiring obsessive cult followings in some far-flung outposts of our decaying civilization. Even now they’re whispered of as dark gods in places like the Netherlands. Even now, copies of their sole album release trade hands for state-secret sums.

The band that would become the local scene’s best kept Secret began life as The Jonnos, named for their intense young frontguy Jon Davies. While coverband dinosaurs lumbered across the 80s clubscape, Davies and his bandmates (guitarist Steve DeVito, bassist Dave De Santis and drummer Lou Mazza, soon to replaced by Rob Angelo) found themselves born into one of the last of the genuine underground scenes to be nurtured here in Jersey. It was a scene defined at one end by the hardcore rough and tumble of the evolving blue-collar dive known as the Brighton Bar, and at the other end by the radical art/music/word happenings organized by Kevin LaMastra and his Shadow Mouth collective over at Monmouth College. And Secret Syde, more than any other band, was uniquely positioned to navigate in both worlds.

Rechristening themselves with a nod toward burned-out Pink Floyd founder (and Davies obsession) Syd Barrett, the Syde hooked up with fabled punk impresario Mark “Da Mutha” Chesley and his Mutha Records imprint for Hidden Secrets, a hastily recorded but endlessly fascinating LP that stands as their only vinyl to see the light of day in their lifetime. Together just a matter of months at that point, the band would crystallize their sound in and around Long Branch and (occasionally) the city, with some wholly inappropriate appearances at such long-gone outposts as Mrs. Jay’s and Garp’s.

A buzz gathered about this band, fronted by the strangely charismatic Davies (correctly triangulated as an amalgam of Syd, John Lennon and Johnny Rotten) and driven by the guitar explorations of DeVito, whose afro ‘do and silk dinner jackets were as far from prevailing punk fashion as possible. Anglophile DeSantis maintained a stoic Entwistle presence even as he dealt out some brilliant bass lines, and Angelo brought a controlled fury to the wonderwall of noise that the old hippie-era drummers would never have conjured. And somewhere along the line, they picked up The Go Go Sluts, a pair of friends and fans whose spontaneous slinky dance moves eventually morphed into a faux-lesbian floorshow that often pushed the limits of municipal ordinance and audience endurance.

Alas, like a lot of the best and brightest, this lineup was destined to flare brilliantly and die in short order — a victim of what we in the biz like to call nervous exhaustion, seasoned to taste with a bit of artistic differences. A second, superior album called Erebus was finished but never released, while Davies (and Angelo) split for a short-lived combo called The Straight Satans and a brief tenure in another fondly recalled West End psych band, Wayne Larson’s Laughing Soupdish. DeVito, Mazza and DeSantis (who would wind up in the X-Men) attempted to keep the Secret Syde name going as a three-piece for a short time, but the volatile mix of personalities just wasn’t there to fuel the passion.

Stop in at the post office in the New Monmouth section of Middletown and you’ll find Steve DeVito at the counter; an affable and well-adjusted guy with a good job and a family, and an ongoing music career that’s carried him into a long-term collaboration with Josh Zuckerman. This Saturday, April 25, DeVito reunites with (now facially tattooed) Davies and the other guys in the classic lineup of The Secret Syde, appearing at the Brighton Bar for the first time in some 26 years. Red Bank oRBit dropped in to pick up some stamps, as well as the story of how this breathlessly awaited adventure got to happening. Read on.

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