remnants: Patti Smith and her band, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith, honoring Fred Sonic Smith, Central Park Summerstage, 14 September 2017

El pueblo vencerá.

remnants: Patti Smith and her band, Jackson Smith and Jesse Paris Smith, honoring Fred Sonic Smith, Central Park Summerstage, 14 September 2017

I always walk out of a Patti Smith gig with something I wasn’t expecting. As familiar as the experience is to me, there is always that moment where she grabs the energy onstage and aims it in a very specific direction, and changes the show into something great into something else. Tonight in Central Park was no different.

I hate Summerstage. The last time I was there was to see Elvis Costello and the Attractions (the Crash Test Dummies opened!) in 1994. I never see anything on the goddamn schedule and think “Oh, I should go to that.” But, Patti.

She opened the show with the story about how she was making potatoes in her kitchen in Detroit and Fred came in and said, “Tricia, ‘People have the power.’ Write it!” This led to a poetic recitation of the lyrics, and to my shock and surprise, the crowd was dead silent. It was gorgeous.

Patti was ebullient, energetic, and very loose, taking us through a setlist of “songs written for, with and about” Fred. “Frederick” would open, and “Because the Night,” intro’d with a hilarious story about how in her day, you had to go hours or days or weeks before you could have a phone call with your boyfriend, which would take all the money you had, so “Give your boyfriend a break if you don’t hear from him for a little bit.”

With Jesse and Jackson there the show took on more of the feeling of a family picnic than a hard driving rock and roll show. Then again, Jackson managed to burn out an amp in the middle of the show, Patti explaining that Jackson plays really really loud, and they weren’t allowed to play that loudly at Summerstage, but that he played air guitar in the bathroom louder than they were allowed to be here and here he’s burned out an amp. The other time he burned out an amp was when they played the Tonight Show. (Also, Jackson’s face watching his mom was about what you think a kid’s expression would be watching his mom when his mom was Patti Smith, this bemused yet affectionate grin.)

As Michael Stipe (who made an appearance tonight!) reminded us on the Vote For Change tour, where he had a message from Patti every night, she is very good at dates. She can remind you that Mexican Independence Day is tomorrow, and that today would have been Amy Winehouse’s birthday–and dedicated “Dancing Barefoot” to her.

When I heard the band in soundcheck playing “Ghost Dance,” I remarked to a comrade-in-waiting that we were dancing the ghost dance for far too many these days. To that end, “Pissing In A River” went out to Sam Shepherd, and “Peaceable Kingdom” was dedicated to Grant Hart with great specificity, noting that he was one of the founders of Husker Du but also a talent in his own right. It wasn’t that I expect her to commemorate these losses but she always places importance on the act of public tribute and the gesture of collective mourning. It felt like hearing the traveling bards of the day delivering the news so we could all experience it together. I hadn’t had time to do anything more than say FUCK, and find my favorite Husker video (from the Joan Rivers show) online. It was good to shed a few tears in a place where other people were likely doing the same, where there were at least a handful of folks who gave a fuck.

The totally unexpected moment was when Patti started talking about the mothers in Nicaragua who have lost their children, and my brain said, “Um, what song of Patti’s is about this?” and I picked up my phone and hit record just as the band began U2′s “Mothers of the Disappeared,” which Patti has guested on twice this tour, once in Paris and once two weeks ago in Detroit. It is one of those moments where you can reflect on how amazingly talented the band is, that they can pick up anything and play the shit out of it. I always think that about Tony and Jay Dee and Lenny and now Andy, but they make it seem easy. It is not easy.

Just when I was getting annoyed at the ‘tourists at the beach’ feeling of Summerstage, people who brought their blankets to sit on and drank their wine but who actually do not really know any Patti Smith songs (they had to wait to the piano intro to BTN before there was any recognition), it was the moment she flipped it around with just one sentence:

The boy was in the hallway drinking a glass of tea

It is a magic incantation, this opening line to “Land.” “Land” has never ever ever been the same once, not ever in her entire history. It’s like she’s holding open the door to another dimension and inviting you in, and if you step open that door she will take you somewhere, she likely doesn’t know where until she gets into it. And I love how it ends with the crowd - or at least the rail - dancing the watusi and the twist and shouting in ecstacy. It is always ecstatic. It is always sacred. It is always powerful.

The encore featured Michael Stipe – who has shaved his beard! – coming out to sing Happy Birthday to Fred, an electric “People Have the Power” and an attempt at the Pearl Jam arrangement of “Rocking In The Free World” where Patti kept forgetting lines and I kept shouting them up to her, turning around to my friend Jessica who was yelling them out loud as well. It was a beautiful wonderful New York moment, feeling surrounded by this impossible city and the music that I love. Patti invoked freedom and resistance and liberation and when she says it, I always feel it. I walk out knowing I can do anything.


I was in Detroit over Labor Day and went to pay my respects. Rest in power.


shakin' street

Shakin' Street: Seeing U2 on the "War" tour, the Palladium, NYC, May 11 1983.

Caryn Rose • Mar 16, 2023

Welcome to a new feature here at jukeboxgraduate: Shakin’ Street. I have many boxes of ancient ticket stubs and I love pulling them out at random and showing them to friends and talking about what I remember from each show. Now I am going to do that here on a monthly basis.

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