The event organized to celebrate the opening of Shepard Fairey/Dennis Morris’ new exhibition ‘SID: Superman Is Dead’ was, as I had expected, super crowded. Fairey’s Subliminal Projects, the multifunctional gallery on Sunset Boulevard, is a good-sized space but I couldn’t imagine a free concert reuniting Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, Generation X’s Billy Idol, Blondie’s Clem Burke and Bow Wow Wow’s Leigh Gorman not attracting a massive crowd! And it was obviously the case, it didn’t look good when I arrived and saw all these people wanting to attend this one-time-only punk rock all-star band concert. It was a bit confusing, it took me a while before realizing that the show was actually happening in the small courtyard behind the gallery, and that they were only letting some people get in, people who had the privilege to be on a list. I wasn’t on any list…and it was going to be tough to get in!
The fire marshal was worried about all these people waiting outside, and they reached capacity very fast. Would I ever be able to see the band?? What were they thinking, advertising an all-star band for free in such a small place? I was still waiting outside when I heard the guitars, telling me there was some action happening on stage and I decided that, if I wanted to see something, I couldn’t respect the rules anymore… After all, they were celebrating punk history and anarchy, so it was time to try something a bit unruly and,.. yes punk? I managed to get to the front of the line and was seeing a bit through the gate. But there was no way they would let me get in. I talked to the security guard saying I was writing for a music website, but he signed me the throat slash with his hand, repeating they were beyond capacity. At least, I could hear them and see a little bit, Steve Jones was on guitar, Billy Idol on vocals, Leigh Gorman on bass and Clem Burke on drums,.. What a line up, right?
They were covering Iggy Pop ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ and they sounded quite good, but I was still trying to get in… Suddenly, one of the security guards was gone, and a guy, who was working on getting a wristband for another person stuck at the gate like me, was distracting the other security guard. He was blocking the guard’s view, so I decided it was the perfect time to try, I moved on the side of the gate and once there, I ran and yes I was in!! I was a bit shaky, I was expecting a hand on my shoulder to escort me back, but no, nothing happened! It was still hard to get close, but I saw the rest of the concert on one side of the stage,… not too shabby! The show was a total great fun and it was probably the excitation to have managed to get in under such circumstances, which made this too-short concert so enjoyable! They covered the greatest punk anthems of the 70s-80s, Eddie Cochran’s ‘Something Else’ and ‘C’mon Everybody’ covered by the Sex Pistols, Generation X’s ‘Ready Steady’, Sex Pistols’‘Silly Thing’, Billy Idol’s ‘Dancing with Myself’, Iggy Pop’s ‘I Wanna be your dog’ and ‘No Fun’, then there was ‘My Way’ and they were gone,… nooooo so soon? They came back for an encore with Lou Reed’s ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, but honestly I could have watched them all night long. I had spent too much time fighting for this close up, but I can’t complain, so many people were left behind the gate. To be honest, Billy Idol looked a bit weird, up close and personal, I mean weird for somebody who is almost 60! He looked like the quintessence of the hard-tough-punk rocker with spiked platinum blonde hair, a face who wants to eat his audience alive and black leather and chains hanging everywhere. Steve Jones – whom I have seen a few times before as he is good friends with Shepard – was very lovable as always, strangely I have the impression I have always known him. I could not see much of Clem Burke or Leigh Gorman, but Burke has played with about everybody who matters in rock’ n’ roll and Gorman produces Morrissey, so!! Once the band was done, it was time to get inside the gallery to see the exhibit, and again the line of people was very long!
Shepard Fairey, who had introduced the band, was now DJ-ing some terrific punk rock songs, his usual line-up of the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, the Clash, Bowie and so many others, while people were rushing inside the gallery. Fairey has a long loveve story with punk rock, and he said in her interview how much the Sex Pistols mean to him: ‘The Sex Pistols changed my life when I discovered them in 1984. Their music alone made my arm hairs stand up, but their image and attitude were just as important and powerful. The member of the Sex Pistols who I was drawn to and most epitomized the punk image for me was Sid Vicious, with his spiked hair, leather jacket, lock necklace, and reckless behavior. At 14 I was mesmerized by Sid and made my first homemade t-shirt of him snarling his lip defiantly. I was rebelling, looking for any way to irritate my parents and, before I knew better, Sid was my Superman. Sid self-destructed young and with punk’s slogans like “No Future” and “Live Fast, Die Young,” Sid was everything the Superman, anti-hero, or cliché of a nihilistic movement called for. Sid didn’t really do much to shape punk music…he only actually played on two songs on Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols. However, Sid’s surly vocals kick ass on C’mon Everybody, Somethin’ Else, and My Way. Sid remains one of punk’s most enduring icons even if he is a classic example of style over substance. I was a sucker for Sid’s image as a teenager, and I still am, even though I see him as less “cool” and more tragic and cautionary these days.’
It was only natural he would do this exhibit, working with the intimate and iconic pictures of Sid by British photographers Dennis Morris who approached Fairey about a collaboration. Morris was the Sex Pistols’ tour photographer and even designed the logo for Johnny Lydon’s Public Image Ltd.
In the exhibition, you can see Morris’ amazing photographs in parallel with Fairey’s work, largely inspired by these same photographs. ‘The Sid photos were some of his strongest photos’ said Fairey in an interview, and walking through the exhibit, you can feel the mutual admiration of these two artists for the Sex Pistols’ frontman. The centerpiece is a detailed reconstitution of a hotel room destroyed by Sid Vicious, after an orgy of drinks, drugs and violence, and it’s very convincing. Morris described his work as summing up ‘the image Sid portrayed of himself to the public. He was hero, villain, fearless, innocent and like a supernova, he shone bright, lived fast, died young. Punk needed a hero, Sid became that hero / anti-hero.’ It isn’t the first time that Shepard Fairey has been inspired by Sid, but this ‘Superman Is Dead’ show seems to put some sort of closure to his inspiration as he declared in an interview: ‘I’m so glad I got to do Dennis’s Sid images “My Way”! I can now retire Sid as a subject. I’ve worked with the best, I can skip the rest.’
So do not miss it, ‘SID: Superman Is Dead’ is still visible till January 11 2014, Wednesday through Saturday from 12-6 pm at Subliminal Projects,… without the band Ritchie Love unfortunately.
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