Staying close to home is a good thing, I thought. I'll hang in NJ tonight, see David Johansen at the Tabernacle (pictured left) at Mt. Tabor with friends, and call it a night. Well that's exactly what happened, but there's so much more to that ordinary statement. I'd never been to Mt. Tabor, NJ, and after experiencing an evening in the picturesque hamlet, I felt I had to look up it's history. In the Victorian era of the late 1800's, Mt. Tabor (along with Ocean Grove) was founded as a Methodist Camp Meeting community. The town is crammed with beautiful Victorian era cottages, and they are all on plots measuring the original 25' X 16' lot dimensions given to campers back in the day. I personally had never seen small Victorian style structures before- most of what you see on those cable renovation shows are massive and mansion-like. These were almost gingerbread in their diminutive appearance (the fact that they were small is probably what gave them that quality) and were jammed together like books at The Strand. The Tabernacle was built in the 1880's originally as a meeting house, and has become appreciated as a venue with crisp, clear sound from every vantage point. It's built in a sort of half circle construction with two center columns and a vaulted ceiling, and has a more than adequate PA for the space installed. Past performers here include, Hot Tuna, Roger McGuinn, Graham Parker, NRBQ and Richard Barone to name a few. Now, add David Johansen, with NY Dolls keyboardist and Harry Smiths member Brian Koonin on accompanying guitar and rhythm combo to the list. The town was quiet and quaint, and the event had the feel of a garage sale more than the average rock gig I frequent. I noticed the box office doors bore signatures of past performers written in sharpie, and volunteers sold coffee, chips and water outside the venue. In plain english- it was a charming setting.
Introducing the show early on, and again after the intermission was WFMU's own Glen Jones, and part of the way into the program, Johansen himself name checked our Dave the Spazz, by first asking "who listens to Dave the Spazz?" to the audience, then telling about a moment in the most recent segment of Music To Spazz By where Dave made reference to a duet between Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. Johansen echoed the original sentiment of the comment and may have made an aside about Costello being annoying in his off handed brand of humor. His set list was a good cross section of his own compositions, as well as the many reference tunes throughout his career that he has paid homage to. Melody, Somebody Buy Me A Drink, Old Dog Blue, Frenchette, Funky But Chic, Looking For A Kiss, Pills, and Maimed Happiness out of his catalog were some of the songs he performed Saturday night. The idea of Johansen playing at a sit-down place in the middle of NJ may sound as if a retirement is imminent, but I don't believe that to be true at all. The NY Dolls just returned from a european tour, and have a show booked at the Warsaw in Brooklyn on Saturday, May 22nd. David's voice is as strong as it's ever been, he's got a swagger to him even while sitting down, and I felt this show was a "best of" in his own eyes. He's always displayed an appreciation of standards in what he chose to showcase in his body of work, and at one point in his career was backed by The Harry Smiths, named after the american musicologist. Even if it weren't for all the WFMU references that night, I took away a great experience without having to fight crowds, traffic, or staying awake on my drive home. It was almost far too civilized for this show queen, but left me relaxed, which can be a welcome change! Check out my Flickr link for a bunch more photos!