Jesse Malin talks return to stage & playing first shows since COVID (pics)
Concerts are officially back in NYC; venues in New York were allowed to reopen (at limited capacities) beginning April 2. While many venues remain closed for now (and will until full capacity shows can return), Bowery Electric was among those that opened its doors on Friday night. Club owner Jesse Malin played two shows per night on Friday and Saturday to herald its return, and he wrote about the experience of returning to the stage for us. Read his thoughts, and see some pictures from the shows, below.
My last gig was March 13, 2020 in England in the middle of a tour supporting my new album. I had no idea that it would be over a year later that I would set foot on a stage, in front of a live audience in a dark and loud venue.
After being trapped in the house the whole year and reflecting on a lot of things, feeling like a caged animal, it was really exciting -- the build-up that week to these shows. Normally we would play a bigger venue after not playing for so long, but I wanted to represent at a club that me and my friends started up 12 years ago, in a place where we had been doing some livestreams, playing to cameras, which is very different.
The night of the show, we checked the room to make sure the sight lines would be ok, since it has to be a limited audience, and that the sound would be okay. I walked through the crowd at soundcheck with the microphone extension cable checking out all the areas, making sure people would be happy. My concern was that people, having to be distanced of course for safety reasons, wouldn’t feel the same experience. Everything seemed pretty good, the people that laid it out did a good job.
Backstage everyone was getting excited, it was an early show with the eleven o’clock curfew. We decided to do four shows to make sure everyone that wanted to come could come. We decided to make each set different so during rehearsals that week, we learned four different sets. It was a bit taxing but very exciting at the same time, to see if we could pull off two 90 minute shows, and making sure everybody got their money’s worth.
Backstage, we had a tequila shot before we went on to kick off the nerves in excitement and to celebrate this return to music — something I’ve missed.
As the music came on, the intro was "New York Groove" by Ace Frehley of KISS. We walked down the stairs and out to the crowd, I didn’t expect to be so emotional, tears started to come out of my eyes. I had to turn my back, not wanting to appear too weak, and faced my drummer. The crowd was also crying, some of them, I noticed, and some of them had smiles ear to ear. It was a huge energy, the applause felt really good.
We busted into my new single, “The Way We Used to Roll.” We released a video for it last week. The song is about celebrating what we used to do, and remembering why we do it. Getting together in these rooms with these strangers, and getting away from our troubles for a couple hours, we’re celebrating life and the things that make us feel different, individual, and feel the freedom that only rock music can provide.
After playing to cameras in a livestream, this show was a passing of the torch. It was also streamed live on Rolling Live, a great platform that has done many things from the Sylvain Sylvain benefit memorial to the David Bowie birthday tribute, and all of my shows for the last year. They’re some real rock fans out there running that platform.
The show was streamed so people around the world could see it. One of the silver linings of being part of this whole Covid pandemic is reaching people in places we had never been, people that weren’t well enough to come to shows. It had its upside even though it was different with the cameras. This night we were playing to cameras, plus live people were hearing us and we were hearing applause. It was quite startling, but uplifting.
As we know, music is an interactive sport, especially rock and roll. You give something to the audience, they give something back, and you get to a higher place together. From punk rock I learned that as high as the stage is, you need to find a way to connect with those people down in the front. It felt really good—the second set, third set, and fourth set all seemed to go really well.
It’s not jumping back into big shows for us like festivals and Webster Hall, but it’s baby steps in the right direction. People were safe and tried to hold themselves back from wanting to jump and go crazy in front of us. It was nice to see that people respected each other and appreciated it. Me and the band were so grateful for the fans and all the people at Bowery Electric, the crew that worked so hard to make sure it was safe and clean.
I look forward to more shows since these sold out so fast. We’ll probably be adding some more, one at City Winery, maybe another one at Bowery, a new record in September on Wicked Cool Records, and hopefully by then, people will be healthier and we can get back to the way we used to roll. -Jesse Malin
Shows coming up at Bowery Electric include a David Peel 420 memorial celebration (in venue and streaming) with Mickey Leigh's Mutated Music, Soulcake, The Cynz, Sea Monster, Joe Kelly & Dive Bar Romeos, Puma Perl, Tiny Pinecones, Bill Popp, and Rewd Onez; a Walter Lure memorial celebration (in-venue and streaming) with Clem Burke, Glen Matlock, Jayne County, Legs McNeil, Sami Yaffa, Frank Infante, Jesse Malin, Howie Pyro, Bob Gruen, Ivan Julian, Smutty Smith, Levi Dexter, Mick Rossi, Billy (Stark) Stone, Philippe Marcade, Cynthia Ross, William Luhr, Donna Destri, Marco Pironi, Sam Hariss, Chuck Bones, Barry Ryan, Binky Philips, Charlie Pickett, J-F Vergel, Matt Langone, Joe Rizzo, Takanori (EZ), Cho-Ichiuji, Takto Nakai, Danny Ray, Shige Matsumoto, Jeff West, and Barry Apfel; and more. See their full calendar of events here.
Watch the video for "The Way We Used to Roll" below.