Right around the Fourth of July, 2020, I appeared on an episode of Live at Main Drag, the webseries filmed at Main Drag Music in Williamsburg, playing three songs by Shelter Dogs solo, on a guitar that is not mine. Musicians around North Brooklyn and adjacent areas of Queens know Main Drag as the music shop that’ll provide what you need without necessitating a trip into Manhattan — they’ve been around forever. The shop has employed several friends and acquaintances of mine over the years, including Jamie Frey, host of Live at Main Drag and frontman of NO ICE, my personal favorite NYC band that isn’t famous yet. This episode was a blast: Olivia Russin and Stuart Solomon of The Regrets were on, playing some of their songs. Olivia is one of my favorite lyricists and singers on the scene in this city, as well. Jamie and keyboardist Sean Spada (also of NO ICE, also a deeply enjoyable solo artist, also at one point or another of too many other bands to list) serve as the series’ house band.
I joined Jamie and Sean on a charged-up run-through of Elvis Costello’s classic “Big Boys” — which I’ve more or less been prepared to do since I was about 18 — and of course “Fourth of July,” the X tune penned by guitarist Dave Alvin. All five of us piled onto a rendition of Blondie’s “Dreaming.” Jamie and I played a bass that also isn’t either of ours, but which formerly belonged to original Modern Lovers bassist Ernie Banks. (It’s been sold since, sorry.) We didn’t exactly “rehearse” any of the covers, per se, until we all arrived at Main Drag and the crew was setting up the equipment.
It was an extremely sweaty night, in a room without air conditioning at the height of a strange NYC summer, and everything ran late. By the time we reached the interview segment, it was after 1 a.m., and I’m not sure how much sense I was making. The discussion hewed close to the behind-the-scenes stuff Olivia, Stuart and I experienced at local DIY spots: I managed the space Pet Rescue for about six years, while a few blocks down the same street, Olivia and Stuart were key members of the crew that managed Aviv, one of the most distinctive DIY spots I’ve been to. By my estimation, Olivia and Stuart stayed considerably more on-topic than I, but it’s not a competition. It’s a vibe; let’s leave it at that. Tasha Lutek was shooting video, and Seth Applebaum (himself the bandleader of the excellent Ghost Funk Orchestra) was behind the sound board.
Every Live at Main Drag episode promotes a cool charity, and this one promotes GLITS (Gays and Lesbians Living in a Transgender Society) Inc. and their efforts to address health and human rights issues for transgender sex workers. Get on it.
As for the stuff where I’m featured: We’ve got “Big Boys” at 14:50, interview at 17:52, “Someday Is Starting Now” (Shelter Dogs) at 22:15, interview at 26:09, “I Hope I Outlive You” (Shelter Dogs) at 28:12, interview at 32:29, “Lame, Lame, Lame” (Shelter Dogs)” at 35:42, and “Fourth of July” (X) at 45:04, but check out the video in full; it flows better that way, and it’s all worth seeing and hearing.