Former Nitecaps drummer Sammy Brown's snare and hi-hat didn't make it all the way to Bowery electric for Stumblebunnies early set as part of Max's Kansas City's reunion gig Saturday evening. But it is hard to imagine he needed it much as he held anchor for Chris Robison's legendary proto-punk band to kick it hard for a glorious half hour of raucous rock and roll New York style.
Yeah, proto. Stumblebunny were a hard hitting relation of the UK's pub rock, scuzz rock and nuggets without the acid (not much blues either). Fast, clear, devastating and lead by Chris' still discernable Iggyish good luck though the secret is probably David Whites scattershot and deadly guitar solos. They are fast and fluid moments of ferocity in a fast and furious show which, despite these cats being in their 50s, maybe 60s, showed no rust, no age, and oodles of charm.
Chris was a performance artist who formed Stumblebunny in 1977 and played around town with his band as well as touring Europe, in 1979 they released the well received While You Were Out before watching the bottom fall out of nyc's rock scene. In retrospect, as New Wave's artier inclinations took over the scene, old time rockers like Chris were left to figure out their next move.
The most depressing thing about Max's Kansas City's reunion is how many great musicians couldn't push themselves along to that next stage, and now 40 years later, we are left at the High School reunion watching doctor's who ended up becoming acupuncturists.That's the bad news, here's the good. The years haven't worn out the bands passion, and Chris, whether playing guitar or keyboards is a natural frontman more than able to dust off "Knock N around" or "Walk Away" as he struts around the stage without shoes or socks and bassistAngello Olivieri without shirt. It is a sturdy fun show, a reminder of why so many kids formed a band to begin with, the ease is a feint, it isn't that easy to write such terrific songs and the playing has a self-assurance only time can give you. For five years a handful of musicians played in each others bands on the Lower East Side and then disappeared, These guys were some of the best.
And Chris is a great songwriter. he co-wrote David Johannsen's classic "Frenchette" and for the last song of the set, For a final going away gift, the band play the song with rock critic (re)turned musician Deborah Frost singing lead. Frost gives it a fabulous ride and pours on the ending, sharing her mic with Robinson. It's a reminder of not all that has been lost, but all that still remains.