Concert Review: The Bell House Power Pop Festival

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One didn’t need Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine this past weekend if one yearned to return to the heyday of 70’s power pop. One merely had to purchase a weekend pass to The Bell House’s 1st Power Pop Festival (May 9 & 10). For one glorious weekend, we all were transported back to 1978 watching legendary 70’s power pop stars Dwight Twilley, Shoes, Pezband and Paul Collins. The iconic music mag Trouser Press promoted the shows and brought back to NYC these legendary bands, 3 of which haven’t played in the city for decades.

Friday night opened with the Pezband’s original lineup (Mimi Betinis, Mick Rain & John Pazdan). They mixed classic Pezband (“Stop! Wait A Minute”, ” Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, “Please Be Somewhere Tonight”) with well-chosen covers (“Not Fade Away” and “Hippy Hippy Shake”) all with meaty hooks and well-crafted, punchy songs they proved to be a truly potent musical force still.  Dwight Twilley was next and he still has one of the most recognizable voices of all the 70’s power poppers and aided by 20/20 mainstay Ron Flynt on bass (and harmonies), Twilley had the sell-out crowd galvanized from the start. Pulling tracks primarily off his first 5 albums, Dwight’s set displayed the full range of his influences, melding rockabilly, British harmonies and basic ol’ rock n’ roll.

On Saturday it was time for Paul Collins to haul out a treasure trove of iconic songs from his vast catalog. He played earlier chestnuts like “Rock and Roll Girl,”as well as later gems like “Ribbon Of Gold”. And to cap off an already stunning weekend were power pop pioneers Shoes. From the first notes of opener “Head Vs. Heart” you could hear the excitement and joy from the crowd  soaking it all in like a sponge. After the show the throng staggered out into the rain of a late Saturday night feeling nothing but elation; protected by nothing more than the lingering melodies and memories of a weekend in Brooklyn in May of 2014.

Concert Review by Barry Dreyfus | Photos by Joanna Ente