East Coast Rocker

Putting You in the Front Row

With Neil Young, The Who, The Stones, ‘Oldchella’ Desert Trip Was Event For the Ages, Not the ‘Aged’


“Welcome to the ‘Catch ’em before they Croak Festival!’” Mick Jagger greeted the sun baked throng of 75 thousand gathered at the Polo Grounds in Indio, California for the second weekend of Desert Trip the music festival featuring six of rock’s penultimate iconic artists – Bob Dylan, The Rolling Sones, Neil Young, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters and The Who.

Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones

Mick and the boys had followed a spirited set by Bob Dylan who despite failing to utter a single word to the audience, still delivered a quality set with several crowd pleasing selections spanning his 50 year career. Opening with “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35” (Everybody Must Get Stoned); other selections included “Don’t Think Twice. It’s All Right”; “Highway 61 Revisited”; “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”; “Tangled Up in Blue”. He also played his classic “Like a Rolling Stone” for the first time in nearly three years. (Videos courtesy of Prestoff2000)

The Rolling Stones, like Dylan and Neil Young too — who we’ll get to later and in my opinion stole the show — did not play identical sets from the previous weekend, choosing to vary things up a bit. There may not have been a head exploding “whoa!” moment like doing the Beatles’ “Come  Together,” but amazingly, of the first 11 selections of the Stones’ set 7 of them were not done the week before.

In what would prove to be a recurring theme over the weekend time was taken to acknowledge the noteworthy occurrence of Dylan being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize the day before with Mick noting “We have never shared the stage with a Nobel Peace Prize winner before. Bob is like our own Walt Whitman.”

Neil Young

Paul McCartney and Neil Young - Kevin Mazur for Desert Trip

Paul McCartney and Neil Young – Photo courtesy of Kevin Mazur for Desert Trip

Saturday night saw a vintage Neil Young firing on all cylinders. Opening with a few classic acoustic numbers “After The Gold Rush,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Old Man” then signaled the end of those oldies with “Comes a Time” and “Helpless.”

The most magical moments arguably of the festival occurred when he performed “Harvest Moon” with literally a super full moon rising in a cloudless sky for all to see which when projected on the giant 240-ft-wide screen and taller than the towering palm trees the moon’s image was gigantic.

A moving performance I suspect I and all in attendance will long remember. However, whereas none of the six festival’s acts had to come out of retirement and all tour continually with consummately professional productions, it was Mr.  Young who stood apart from the others by the sheer force of his vitality. He and his band The Promise of The New Real featuring Lukas Nelson son of Willie Nelson proceeded to burn the place down with incendiary playing, highlighted by a jaw-dropping “Cowgirl In The Sand” clocking in at 19:07.  Neil also made note of Dylan’s Nobel Peace Prize saying looking at his watch saying “We started five minutes early so we could fuck around like this!”

Paul McCartney

Sir Paul McCartney followed with his customary hit filled show featuring songs spanning Beatles’, Wings, and solo career with songs that everyone knows every word to and gleefully sings along with. Surprise guest and highlight was Rhianna coming out to sing their collaborative 2015 hit “FourFiveSeconds.” Rhianna dressed conservatively for her in a patterned frock albeit with a severely plunging neckline sounded fantastic and seemed thrilled to be there.

Paul had Neil come out to do a wonderful “A Day In The Life” into “Give Peace A Chance” and then a debut for Paul with “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road”, a wild and raucous rendition where Neil was let loose to shred and boy did he ever. Sir Macca’s show’s have been virtually the same for a decade but the underlying all you need is love communal feeling is tailor made for music festivals. I am certain Beatles’ songs will still be sung in a hundred years.

The Who

The Who - Kevin Mazur for Desert Trip

The Who – Photo by Kevin Mazur for Desert Trip

Sunday’s final night saw The Who in the opening slot surprising it seemed many people including myself. Again, another constantly touring excellent production technically. However, the first slight vibes of complaint came from The Who first before a note was even played with Roger Daltry asking if someone could turn off the fan, referring to the hot desert wind which was constant at that point.

Then after the second song, “The Seeker,” Pete Townshend asked the crowd “Are you tired?” apparently referring to the less than wildly enthusiastic reception.

Regardless, The Who executed their 22-song set with the consummate skill we’ve come to expect from them over the past few decades.

Roger Waters

As the final act, Roger Waters’ set was mesmerizing and the sound was astounding. He reportedly spent many days working on the sound and he took full advantage of the tremendous array and placement of speaker towers throughout audience. Sound, both musical and effectual, came from any direction at any time. Time and time again there would be the sound of a helicopter, or plane, or God knows what else that would cause everyone to look in whatever direction expecting to see that helicopter or plane. It was that realistic.

A Pink Floyd fan’s fantasy come true the song list was comprised entirely of Pink Floyd songs, eschewing Roger’s solo material, sometimes going way way back and way deep. Waters’ shows are always a spectacle comprised of spectacles. The flying pig has been a staple of the shows for decades however this time around the pig was imprinted with the image of Donald Trump in conjunction with images and messages on the giant screen on stage many of them way past R rated that left no doubt the level of detest Mr. Waters has for Mr. Trump. Interestingly, songs like Mother are amazing for how completely relevant they are to today’s times. Predictably, “Comfortably Numb” was the closing number and as usual was magnificent.

Lastly, it would be a crime not to mention the real star of the festival which was the venue itself. Veteran concert goers with hundreds of shows and a score of venues under their belts like myself walked around in awe marveling at the facilities, vendors, lighting, exhibits, food. Even the parking and traffic was handled exponentially better than at any other big shows I’ve attended. Seriously, a model for how to run a festival. A huge tip of the hat to the organizers who hit it far far out of the park.

EXCLUSIVE: Keith Levene Touts Screen on the Green Event, Talks The Clash, Punk Rock of Today

Founder of The Clash, PIL, Discusses Punk’s Evolution

Interview © 2016 IVOR LEVENE, Photos © MELANIE SMITH

Keith Levene - Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

Keith Levene – Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

I recently sat down for a long discussion of happenings past and present with the founder of The Clash and Public Image Ltd., Keith Levene.

Unless you’re more than a casual fan of the aforementioned bands, Keith is not going to be a familiar figure to you. He left The Clash prior to the band’s recording of their first album.  He founded PIL with John Lydon and then split with him after friction within the “company” but has kept his hands and his head in the punk culture since taking a break from the music scene.

If you’ve followed Keith on social media in the past few years, you’ve no doubt seen some slagging and Twitter-fighting between Keith and John Lydon over creative differences and PIL, and the haters who insist he was kicked out of The Clash for doing too many drugs.

Working from the present backwards, Keith is going to hold what can best be described as a kickstarter for punk this summer in London.  Entitled “Screen on the Green,” the event is going to be a retrospective of the last 40 years of punk,  but will also look forward and try to position itself as a catalyst for future generations of punks in music, art, and fashion.

Keith Levene wants to set the record straight, let you know that the spirit of punk is alive and well, and have you “pull your head out of your ass” when it comes to the history of his involvement in The Clash and PIL. (Part One of a Two-Part Interview, Read Part 2 at CaliforniaRocker.com)

I have questions about London 1976, the clash, PIL, punk, you, and everything.

KL: London 1976 is now Keith Levene 2016.  I never liked “London 1976.”  It was a good set of rails to run on, just to get the work out that came out of it, books and what have you.  It’s about now.  Screen on the Green is the 40th anniversary of the Clash, the Pistols, and the Buzzcocks playing at The Screen.  I stole the Steve Jobs thing:  “1984 won’t be like 1984,” and London 1976 won’t be like London 1976 because it’s Keith meets 2016.  When I did The Screen 40 years ago, it was a great show.  It was Bernard Rhodes, The Clash had just got together, the Buzzcocks, we all knew The Pistols.  It was a really great show.  It started at 12 and it was a quid to get in.  I can’t emulate that, but I can reflect what’s going on now.  I’m not going to turn up there now and do “The Clash show.”  My thing is “40 years of punk rock and we’re only at the beginning.”  I’m talking more about the spirit of punk rock than I am about punk rock.

Keith Levene - Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

Keith Levene – Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

How is it that punk still survives and just about every other form of rock is essentially dead?

I think the spirit is definitely alive.  I still hear the music, so the music is definitely alive.  Essentially rock is dead.  Corporations absorbed it and turned it into a commodity where it’s all about looks and zero talent.  40 years ago good music practically wrote itself.  There were more bands around than you could follow.  Today?  Nothing.

Everything has changed so much since then, but I think the basic premise is still the same. There are still some enemies out there, and they are very defined and focused.  At the time, we deconstructed a lot of stuff.  We weren’t responsible for so much stuff, but we were responsible for knowing when to act.  We were just kids, and now, the people who are left, they have much more responsibility, and they’re in a position to do something really good within the framework of the spirit of punk.

It’s a much scarier world today than it was in say 1976.

My thing is, here we are in this refined and upgraded world, and the ones who survived know what it’s like, and now’s the time for punk, more than ever…

What about the younger generation, do you think they feel the same way?

I haven’t solidified what I’m gonna do at The Screen (or wherever this event’s going to be, because there’s some clouds over some parts); I want to use young people, have them do their thing.  There’s certainly going to be a presence of me, and me playing, and playing some new stuff with young people.  I want the band to be called The London Power Station.  And who knows what will come out of it.  The whole idea of what was originally “London 1976” wasn’t just music.  It was music, art, design, and fashion.  I want to “bring something to the table.”

You know, just get it on.  And with a complete lean towards independence, just really do it yourself.  Based on the premise that the only fucking option you’ve got is to be a corporate robot.  There’s no fun any more, there’s no TOTP, There’s no fucking focus.  There’s a lot of people out there that are really interesting, and I just want to pool them.  We’re not a band, we’re not a company, we’re a collective, I just want to create a lot of potential.  The only poster they had up at the screen on the green when I went to talk to them was of this event that was four years ago.

Do you think this is going to spur something new?  The corporations have pretty much taken over and ruined what was once a great art form.

Yeah, no doubt.  I wrote a Clash tune and officially recorded it last year and it’s called “The Voice of Punk Rock.”  And yeah, the corporations have taken everything and sanitized it and ruined it.  The thing is though, just fuck that, I mean we’re never gonna take that down.  I just say fuck them, watch this, they haven’t ruined anything.  I just want a good event, to create some fucking avenues,

Do you think it will go further than just a good event?

Keith Levene - Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

Keith Levene – Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

It’s not like I think I’m gonna take over and be the Richard Branson of Punk, or the anti Simon Cowell, it could be this, it could be that, it’s just a question of pooling resources, I mean the outlook’s different these days, isn’t it?

Everything is very cynical these days.  You can’t make a record or really hit it big without looking perfect.

We know this, and it’s all fucking bollocks, but obviously you and I can both see past that, right?  I think the point of making a record today is “where the fuck can we focus them”?  These writers today really can’t write a fucking thing unless they’re told what to write.  Well, what the fuck’s going on?  It’s just stupid.  It’s the parity with 1976 that I’m trying to create; it’s the same job.

Have you been treated unfairly by the press?

Yeah, it’s fucking awful.  The stories that are out there are so warped.  They only mattered then and it’s really about now.

You’ve started an institute haven’t you, The 1976 Institute?

I really need to rename this shit, I was calling it “The Institute” but I don’t know what we’re going to call it at the moment.  The name really doesn’t matter.  It’s just kind of a legal problem for reasons I just cannot be bothered to go into.  It’s not going to be called “The Institute” although I really did like the name and it’ll be a drag if I can’t use it, but I don’t know what I’m gonna call it yet.

The thing we were going to put together was something educational with all these modules and master classes and it really just wasn’t my bag, I really wasn’t liking it.  So what I really wanna do is put an event together and really observe what’s going on.  I’m making this movie to go with it.  I’m going through this whole process and I’m filming a lot of it for a movie and I’m not going to decide on it until it gets closer to the event.

So the institute really should be a reflection of what we achieve at this event. If it comes together and it just ends up being a good gig and an OK movie then it turns into a really cool networking event.  I’m having all kinds of really good ideas, I’m even thinking of putting Wobble into this, for performance, just because he’s really good, and we’re really good together.  Like I said, I really haven’t decided what it’s going to be.  The idea is to pack as much potential into it as possible so something really good can come out of it.

What about helping new artists?  Helping them get gigs, record deals, things like that?

What I want instead is to have all the artists work together and figure it out. I don’t want to say, “Hey, this is how you should do it.” Unfortunately, a lot examples of how to do it aren’t available these days.  The only person I’ve seen that’s really made out in the corporate sector and got what he wanted is Nile Rogers.  He’s the only guy I’ve seen that’s excelled and really made the corporate thing work.

Interesting that you use Nile Rogers as an example.  He’s been up for nomination into the Rock Hall 10 times now I think, and has still yet to be inducted.  He’s one of the most underrated musicians of all time.  

He’s very cool about it.  He doesn’t really need the adulation; he just gets on with it.

He’s also partially responsible for the popularity of the entire Disco genre, and had his hands in a lot of funk.  

Yeah, he’s absolutely brilliant as both a producer and a musician.

That’s the kind of pull and power you absolutely need to make the corporate thing work.  You don’t need to do anything and people will just welcome you.

Keith Levene - Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

Keith Levene – Photo © 2015 Melanie Smith

Let’s say you do put something really good together, some really good band.  How could you possibly keep them from being bought out by corporations?

That’s where the institute comes in, right.  I mean ultimately, it’s their own fucking choice.

Forty years ago, you didn’t have to worry about this sort of thing.  You didn’t have to worry about the corporations snapping up every new artist.  Or did you?  Back then you had greedy record companies doing the same thing, right?

At least back then, they let a lot more art in and they gave artists a lot more freedom.  Now they’ve got it all tied up because of money.  They’re such a bunch of fucking pricks you know.  And we all hate them, right?  But at least it gives you something to rub up against.  It doesn’t have to be anger, but there’s an energy.  So there’s no need to break the walls down, just create an alternative. It can be done, and it has to be done.  It’s 2016, it’s not 1976.

Has it reached critical mass yet?

I haven’t gotten all the youths I need yet, but I’m getting some really good results.  So I can’t say that much about it.

Read Part 2 of the Keith Levene interview at CaliforniaRocker.com 


‘Great Jersey Musicians’ a Work of Love for Rich Hoynes

Rich Hoynes, photo courtesy of Rich Hoynes

Author Rich Hoynes love Great Jersey Musicians and wrote a coffee table book about the people who make the music happen. A portion of every sale goes to charity.

BELMAR, N.J. — Richard Hoynes has accomplished a great deal as a corporate executive, a charitable benefactor and as photographer and writer.  Of course, we know him as Regional Photo Editor at East Coast Rocker.

Richard’s latest work, “Great Jersey Musicians,” documents some of the musicians he has come to know in The Garden State.

East Coast Rocker:  What sparked your love for music?

RH: I’ve been into music since I was born.  My mother sang and cut a 78 record back in the day, and encouraged my music passion.  She bought me my first electric guitar, a ’63 Fender Jazzmaster, when I was 14 years old.  I sang in choir all through grammar school and sang in a Christian choir in high school.  I taught myself guitar and I write songs, mostly songs about loss and love, like many musicians.

East Coast Rocker:  Why did you decide to incorporate both famous and not-so-famous Jersey musicians in your book?

RH: There are so many great musicians, many of whom are yet undiscovered.  I photographed those I heard who I liked.  To make it big in music is tough, and I think those who are both talented and have good business sense, make it. I also believe you become what you believe you will be.  Many musicians have a “starving artist” belief about themselves.  To be good, you must be hungry.  I think many musicians could benefit from some good business management help.   Though their art is amazing, some of the best artists suffer from self-sabotage in one form or another.

East Coast Rocker:  What’s the most memorable experience you’ve had in your career so far?   

RH: Probably having the honor of meeting Joan Jett and Daryl Strawberry. I started AMA Charitable Foundation in 2010 to help non-profits raise money.   We then hosted a fundraiser for autism for 5 schools for children with autism.  Joan came and brought a signed guitar, some signed records, and a Joan Jett Barbie doll.  I didn’t know there was a Barbie doll of Joan Jett!   (See the Joan Jett video here)   I gave her a guitar, that we had the children at Somerset Hills Learning Institute in Bedminster, NJ.,  sign for her.  In a spontaneous moment, someone from the crowd shouted, “Happy Birthday Joan!”   She had just turned 50.  Of course I spontaneously led the crowd in singing the Happy Birthday Song to her.  Of course, after the first verse I realized I was the only one singing.  She was gracious. I think there is a Youtube video of my embarrassing moment, but we had great fun and raised money to help some wonderful children.  (See the video here)

East Coast Rocker:  Who are your musical inspirations?

RH: There are too many to name.  I like all classic rock. The Beatles, The Stones, The Eagles, and, of course, Bruce Springsteen.  I’m actually inspired by some of the great lesser known artists that play the Jersey scene today.  Pat Guadagno, who I affectionately in my book named “The troubadour of the Jersey Shore,”  is an amazing vocal talent.  You know you really like an artist when you have their music CD in your car. I’m inspired by Emily Grove, a 22-year-old singer who I watched from the age of 18.  She has a June Carter kind of sound and is a great songwriter. I’m inspired by Marc Ribler, an amazing singer/songwriter and guitarist.  He wrote a great song for Autism for my BEDSTOCK event and performed it live.  He wrote a song for Sandy victims called, “Our Spirit is Strong” and gave all the proceeds to Sandy victims.  He’s written TV commercial jingles. I’m inspired by JT Bowen who was the lead singer for Clarence Clemons band for battling alcoholism, finding God, and turning his life around.  I’m also inspired by Clarence Clemons son Nick, who took care of his mother after his dad left and is working hard to leverage his father’s legacy and name to run charity events.  He has a great soulful voice.

I worked with Nick to do a fundraiser for Clarence’s birthday at Lance Larson’s Wonderbar in Asbury Park.  We raised money for two schools at the Jersey shore whose musical instruments were destroyed during super storm Sandy. Tom Doyle, master luthier and guitar player, played with Les Paul and took care of his instruments.  Tom worked with Les for more than 40 years.  I took his luthier class in North West Jersey for about a year and refinished my ’63 Fender Jazzmaster. I could go on.  I’m inspired by the music.  I’m inspired by the kindness.  I’m inspired by the charity of so many of these artists who play fundraisers for free when they can barely pay their own rent.

East Coast Rocker:  What did you enjoy the most about producing this book?

RH: Probably the smiles on the artists’ faces when they see themselves in it and the admiration of those fans who once they pick it up, can’t put it down. I also enjoyed making something that people can enjoy in their living rooms and that benefits the musicians, their fans, and charity.  $5 of every book sale goes to charity.  I’ve donated almost 100 books to charities for their fundraising events.  The musicians get the book wholesale so they can make additional revenue from doing book signings and selling them to their fans. East Coast Rocker:  What characteristics draw you to a band or solo artist?

RH: I’m drawn to great musicians who are also gracious and generous with themselves and their time.  I like songs with meaning.  In addition to those I mentioned, I appreciate the music of folk singer George Wirth, and the blues music of Kelley Dewkett.  They tell stories that make me think.

East Coast Rocker: What’s in the future for you after this book?

RH: I have a passion for leaving the planet better.  I spend the largest share of my life working as a business executive for large corporations, IBM, Warner-Lambert, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and others.  I’d like to spend the next chapter thinking of ways to help address the social and health issues of our times. There are many small non-profits all across America started by people who are passionate about a particular cause who have limited business experience, limited financial means and weak fundraising ability.  There are also a large number of well-funded foundations who work hard to focus their resources on meaningful efforts across the world. Rather than spending large amounts of time trying to raise a few thousand here and a few thousand there for charities, I would like to help the larger well-funded non-profit foundations focus their resources on addressing the social and health issues affecting us today. The top 10 charitable foundations have more than $100 billion in assets.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has over $34 billion in assets and donates more than $3 billion a year to help causes.  I met Bill Gates and Steve Balmer when I worked as CIO for Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.  They do great work.  The Ford Foundation has almost $11 billion in assets.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has about $9 billion.  I’m thinking I would like to help them invest some of that. I think we should create a TV show that is a cross between the Jerry Lewis telethon and “Shark Tank” for non-profits.  We could bring together some of the top foundations with non-profits needing money to help fund and support specific efforts, and non-profit innovations in technology and new capabilities.  Do it live.  Allow people to donate live online and show the results in real time.  Film the results and share successes live, building a greater sense of community, volunteerism, and support for philanthropy.  If anyone knows how to make that happen, I’m in!

East Coast Rocker:  How do you manage to capture such great shots of the artists?

RH: Thank you for the compliment.  Nikon makes a great camera.  Can I say that?  I also use some great software products from Abobe Systems, Photoshop and Lightroom.

East Coast Rocker:  When meeting a band or singer have you ever been nervous?

RH: Yes. I would say I’ve been a bit nervous around many great musicians, until I got to know them.  I’m sure he doesn’t remember, but I met Bruce Springsteen when I was 19 in a bar called Key Largo in Belmar, New Jersey.  I said hello and introduced myself.  He was great.  I was also nervous when I met Joan Jett, though her warm and relaxed interpersonal style put me right at ease. Richard’s book, Great Jersey Musicians is available on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Great-Jersey-Musicians-Photographic-Artworks/dp/0988814803/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1369163179&sr=8-1&keywords=great+jersey+musicians