Well, the Second Annual Sheila Witkin Memorial Reunion Concerts have come and gone. What an amazing weekend in Ft. Lauderdale and Pompano Beach! It was a real privilege to be there, and to share great music and great fun with some old and new friends.
The weekend’s festivities kicked off Friday evening with a screening of Rock And A Hard Place: Another Night At The Agora… or at least our attempt to see the screening. Despite two sets of directions and some well-meaning people on the streets, we drove around in circles for awhile before finally finding the venue 35 min. into the film. Nevertheless, we got to see the last half, and it was great. The film now includes some brand new interview footage of all four Kids together, shown for the very first time on Friday. This adds to all of the existing interviews and archived footage of many of the 70’s and 80’s South Florida musicians, and concert footage from the First Annual Sheila Witkin concert. I hope to get a chance to see the rest of the film sometime soon!
Then, it was on to the show, where after waiting on a fairly disorganized line at Club Cinema (they had the ticketholders and will-call recipients all in the same line), we got into the club in time to see the first band, Blank Tape, in progress. This is a group of young musicians, including the son of Slyder member Billy Livesay, and they delivered a rockin’ set. They were followed by kickass sets from Charlie Pickett, Slyder, and Tight Squeeze, all of whom were returnees from last year’s show. They played mostly originals with just a couple of covers sprinkled in for good measure, with styles ranging from alt-country to power-pop to hard rock. Next up were The Romantics, who were probably the most famous of all the bands to play. At last year’s show, Coz Canler and perhaps other member(s) of The Romantics joined The Kids for some encores, but this time we got to see the entire band, and it was a real treat. The final act was The Kids…. well… I’ll get back to them!
For Saturday’s show, the venue finally learned to separate the will-call and ticketholder lines, and getting in the club seemed to run much more smoothly. The first band of the evening was The Combination, which was a true mishmash of musicians from Tar & The Nicoteens, Screaming Sneakers, and Roll-N-Pinz, and they played a great punky set. Next up was Mad As Birds, featuring members of The Cichlids and The Eat in an intense set. They were followed by one of my new South Florida favorites, Critical Mass, sadly sans their traditional lead singer, Mick Fazz, but still delivering a great, fun power-pop set. The Reactions next played a set of punk-flavored tunes, joined on one song by Screaming Sneakers alum Lisa Nash. Z-Cars showed great harmony and great humor, ending their set with some Pete Townshend-style instrument-bashing. And LA-based My Dolls, featuring Bruce Witkin’s daughter Vee on lead guitar, showed the next generation of talent with some hard-driving rock. And the final act was…
The Kids. The Kids: Joey Malone, Bruce Witkin, Johnny Depp and Beano Hanti, headlined both nights, and their sets were well worth waiting for. It’s easy to focus all the attention on Johnny, but to do so would miss out on the considerable talents of Bruce, Joey and Beano, all of whom still play professionally. While Johnny was certainly my reason for looking into the Kids’ history in the first place, I can honestly say I’ve become a true fan of the whole band, and I’m so glad to have gotten the opportunity to get to know their music. Among the band’s two sets were many of my old favorites (and by “old favorites”, I’m mostly talking about songs that were new to me a year and a half ago at the first Sheila Witkin concert!) such as Babe, Lonely, Time To Explain, Nothing’s For Nothing, The Man That Knows Too Much, and You Only Want To Be With Me. Can’t Believe has quickly become one of my favorites. The Kids also have a great repertoire of covers, such as The Pretenders’ Precious, Elvis Costello’s From A Whisper To A Scream and Mystery Dance, The Clash’s Brand New Cadillac (joined both last year and at Friday’s show by Vee Witkin on lead guitar), and Joe Jackson’s Got The Time. But by all accounts, the absolute highlight of both evenings was their gorgeous yet edgy version of the Phil Spector/Ronettes’ hit single, Be My Baby. The song featured Joey on awesome lead vocals, and beautiful harmonies by Bruce and Johnny. (NOTE TO JOHNNY– after Sweeney Todd, we know you can sing! You should do more of it! 🙂 ) For an encore both nights, the other musicians joined The Kids on stage for the Van Morrison classic Gloria, which had been modified to be about Sheila… S-H-E-I-L-A, Sheila. On Saturday, this was followed by more jamming on Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Long Tall Sally. Despite a pair of very sore feet and practically no sleep all weekend, I had a thoroughly amazing time.
On Friday, there was a silent auction in which many cool items were available for bidding, including signed guitars, football jerseys and footballs. I bid on a Little Steven Underground Garage package, but unfortunately I was outbid. The proceeds went to the Dan Marino foundation.
After Friday’s show, Johnny was kind enough to agree to meet some of his crazy fans, among whom I was lucky enough to be one. The first thing I said to him was that I was sorry we had to put him through all this meet and greet stuff! It must be a strange thing to deal with. But gracious guy that he is, he insisted that he wanted to be there, and incredibly, thanked ME for coming to the show. Well, it was a very tough chore, but somehow I managed to make the sacrifice! A heartfelt thank you to Johnny, Joey, Beano, and especially Bruce, and to all the other musicians, organizers and crew, for helping to make this such a memorable weekend.
The Sheila Witkin Memorial Reunion Concerts were held in memory of a great woman and driving force of the 70’s and 80’s South Florida music scene, and for the benefit of the Sheila Witkin Foundation and the Dan Marino Foundation. Please visit www.sheilawitkin.org for more information or to make a donation to their cause.