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Same as it ever was — Hepcat and Teen Spirit bond over David Byrne

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Smartmom had two press tickets to the David Byrne show and the “Celebrate Brooklyn” opening night gala, but she couldn’t go because had to teach her invaluable “How to Blog” class at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange.

“Why don’t you go with Teen Spirit?” she suggested to Hepcat. “It might be nice for some father/son bonding. And if they give you a problem, just say Teen Spirit is your photo assistant.”

Hepcat was game and he was also excited to take performance photographs of David Byrne. Back in the day (30 years ago to be exact), Hepcat was a music photographer for Rolling Stone.

The night of the show an excited father and son walked over to Prospect Park to attend the before-concert gala.

“Dad, you’ve seen Talking Heads before, right?”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I saw them for the first time at CBGB in 1976. They opened for The Ramones, and I’d never heard of them,” Hepcat told Teen Spirit warming up for a long nostalgic tale.

“I drove to the Bowery from Bard College with a bunch of friends in an old Volkswagen that had a dead battery. You had to push it to start just like in ‘Little Miss Sunshine,” Hepcat laughed to himself.

“That night, we got to sit right in front of the stage. Everyone knew to sit farther back because Dee Dee Ramone liked to swing his bass over the first row. We ended up having to duck a lot.”

According to Hepcat, Talking Heads were amazing that night. David Byrne clutched the microphone and only made eye contact with the ceiling.

“His vibrato on ‘Psycho Killer’ was more a bad case of nerves than vocal technique,” he told Teen Spirit.

As they crossed Eighth Avenue, Teen Spirit interrupted Hepcat’s rock and roll reminiscence,

“I hear at these big shows that photographers can only take pictures during the first two songs,” Teen Spirit told Hepcat.

“They never did that back when I was doing concert photography,” Hepcat said.

Once inside the park, Hepcat and Teen Spirit approached the Celebrate Brooklyn press table

“Remember: we’re press and you’re my assistant,” Hepcat told Teen Spirit. He handed him a camera.

Photographer and assistant got into the gala without a hitch and were given green plastic press bracelets.

“No flashes during the show and photographers can only take pictures during the first two songs,” the Celebrate Brooklyn official told them sternly. Teen Spirit didn’t say, “I told you so.”

Finally, after some proclamations by boisterous local politicians, Byrne came out on stage with white hair, a white suit, and a white Stratocaster. When he started playing, the stage filled with musicians and dancers. Byrne made a tangible connection with the crowd, which spilled out across West Drive to the softball fields.

Listening to the music, Hepcat remembered the second time that he saw Talking Heads, a few months after the CBGB show. He was listening to the radio in his college darkroom and heard that they were playing in about an hour at Joyous Lake, a folk/jazz club in Woodstock. He decided to drive over with four of his friends to catch the show.

As it turned out, Hepcat and his friends were the entire paying audience. When they left, Hepcat wondered if the band was disappointed when their entire audience got into one Volkswagen like circus clowns in reverse.

After David Byrne’s second song, most of the professional photographers, obeying the rules, stopped taking pictures.

“Two songs for the photograph­ers,” Teen Spirit said.

Hepcat wondered when Teen Spirit became the concert etiquette know-it-all? Sure, he has his own band and all. But still…

“David Byrne sure looks spry up there,” Teen Spirit said.

“Does that mean I’m spry?” Hepcat asked Teen Spirit. They are, after all, the same age.

“No, Dad, you aren’t spry, you are …” Hepcat didn’t much like where this was going.

During breaks between songs, Teen Spirit and Hepcat discussed the altogether excellent music, stagecraft and choreography.

“It all seems so right, and somehow it all makes so much sense, all this circling back, all the same only different,” he told Teen Spirit. “You know, ‘Same as it ever was,” he said quoting a famous Talking Heads song.

After the show, Hepcat and Teen Spirit tried to decide what to do.

“Are you going to hang out, or are you going to go straight home?” Teen Spirit asked his dad.

“I’ll probably stay a little while,” Hepcat said, energized by the great show.

“I’ll think I’ll skip the party,” Teen Spirit said.

“Too much rampant spryness?” Hepcat asked.

“I guess,” Teen Spirit replied.

“Hey, this was a nice pre-Father’s Day thing to do,” Hepcat told Teen Spirit. He touched his arm.

“Is it Father’s Day soon?” Teen Spirit asked. “When is it?”

“The third Sunday of June, same as it always is,” Hepcat told him.

“You know I’m playing a concert in East River Park that Saturday. That could be a Father’s Day gift!”

Indeed.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”
Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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