LAMF at Webster Hall © Dan Kulpa
© Dan Kulpa

L.A.M.F. Benefit For Stephen Saban @ Webster Hall – November 15th 2016

A supergroup of sorts banded together in New York City to perform the legendary Johnny Thunders-led Heartbreakers album L.A.M.F. in its entirety at four shows over a 2 day period. Released by Track Records in 1977, the Heartbreakers’ L.A.M.F was not initially a critical or financial success partly due to mastering problems with the album. However, over time and with subsequent releases that improved the sound after removing the mastering problems, L.A.M.F has become a cult classic album that has been an inspiration to generations of musicians and fans. For the celebratory performances the core group consisted of Clem Burke from Blondie on drums and vocals, Wayne Kramer from MC5 on guitar and vocals, Tommy Stinson from the Replacements on bass and vocals, and original member of the Heartbreakers, Walter Lure on guitar and vocals.

After announcing two shows at Bowery Electric scheduled for Wednesday November 16th, that sold out almost immediately, a third show was added a night earlier. That show sold out almost as quickly as the first two! A fourth show was scheduled for after the Bowery electric set on Tuesday November 15th. Taking place in the Marlin Room at Webster Hall, the 2nd in the run of shows and 4th booked, was a benefit to raise money to help cover the mounting medical bills for punk purveyor, New York scenester, and journalist Stephen Saban. Saban, who has been battling pancreatic cancer, has long been involved in the music and club scene in New York and often documented it in his column for Details Magazine in the 1980s.

The benefit show kicked off with a set from Mudd Clubb regular Marilyn, followed by a high energy performance from longstanding NYC garage punks Sea Monster. Next up, and setting the stage for the L.A.M.F celebration was a stellar set from musician, writer, record producer, and longtime Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye. Lenny played through a condensed overview of garage rock songs from his genre-defining career that culminated in an extended run through the classic “Gloria” that brought down the house.

Hitting the stage after an earlier performance and well after midnight was the L.A.M.F band. The band members would each take turns handling the vocals throughout the evening with Tommy Stinson starting on “Born To Lose.” Walter Lure delivered the foot stomping “All By Myself,” before the first of a series of guests came out to add to the proceedings. Jesse Malin appeared for “I Wanna Be loved,” and was followed later in the set by the Dead Boys’ Cheetah Chrome, Lynn Von Pang, and the timeless Deborah Harry from Blondie. If Walter Lure was the Godfather of the evening, Clem Burke was his Consigliere behind the drum kit, calling out marching orders to the sound crew and revolving band members. Unfortunately the tight timeline of the evening had prevented the band from soundchecking, and Clem was a bit aggravated as he called out adjustments to the crew between songs. Sound issues also saw Tommy Stinson chuck his bass at the drum riser and walk off the stage in disgust at one point later in the set. After determining that the bass issues were cause by a loose plug, and with some good natured ribbing from his bandmates, Stinson returned and the band closed out the evening with a storming take on the MC5 classic “Kick out the Jams” led by Wayne Kramer and the Dictators’ Handsome Dick Manitoba, followed by Walter Lure tipping his hat to Johnny Thunders with “Too Much Junkie Business.” The evening was loud, raucous, and at times ragged to the point of almost derailing. Ultimately it was celebratory and true to the punk spirit it was honoring.