Last Friday, Needle Dik opened for the James Cotton Band at Wollman in a concert sponsored by Columbia Concert Productions. Although it took a few minutes for the group to adjust to the sound system, they pulled it all together by the third tune, "Breakfast Special" and for the rest of the set the band was hot and the audience was jumping.
The set opened as Kevin Trainer, class of 1980, ceremoniously tossed his cigarette onto the stage. Within moments the auditorium was filled with his low beguiling voice, a cross between Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley. His stage presence is captivating, and he knows how to excite his audience.
Larry Blasius took his usual place, off to the side of the stage. A self-professed cross between Clint Eastwood and James Dean, Larry represents the epitome of cool as he plays the rhythm guitar, collar up and cigarette dangling. Larry, a Columbia graduate, works with an advertising agency downtown, keeping a very straight image on the job. His fellow employees are usually shocked when they are allowed a glimpse of his night life.
Bob Pomeroy, also a graduate of Columbia, is employed as a draftsman. His hours commuting are often spent writing lyrics for the band. Songs such as "Panic Rock" were actually inspired by subway graffiti. After seeing him play harp, it's hard to picture him bent over a drafting table. Eyes closed as he plays, he appears to be totally absorbed in his music and he reminds one of an old-time blues musician, someone along the lines of James Cotton himself.
Marshall St. Clair is a Columbia Business School student. His body rocking to the music, he plays a solid bass.
Milton Diaz Perez is an engineering student. He appears more funk than anything else. Laid back as always, Milton provides what the rest of the group refers to as "the tightest rhythm section in Jamaica."
Kevin, Bob, Marshall, Larry and Milton have been rocking together since January of 1978, making Needle Dik the oldest Columbia band still playing on campus. Despite the trend toward New Wave, Needle Dik has retained their rockin' blues sound.
"We play Blue Wave and Sophisto-Funk. We're just preppie punques acting so cool," Kevin said.
Actually, Blue Wave has been around all along, as Bob explained. "You see there are all of these bands around that play blues rock like the New Hocks, The Night Hawks, and the Robert Ross band. All of these groups have gone back to the primitive." \
About fifty per cent of the Needle Dik sound is taken from these groups and from traditional. Chicago style blues.
"The other fifty percent of our music is original, but a lot of that sounds bluesy anyway because that's the stuff we like." Larry commented. "We just play for ourselves and if other people can enjoy us, that's great. But if they don't, well, Fuck them if they can't take a joke."
"Like we always play disco because we like it." added Bob, referring to that great hit "Disco Fever."
I got that Disco fever
I got me a blow dryer
I got me a picture of John Travolta
Gonna take me higher, higher
Disco music is here to stay
Disco music is what we play
Don't you think that Disco really
"We sing that Disco sucks, but we really like it a lot, otherwise we wouldn't be playing it." Bob said, and added that "people wouldn't be dancing to it unless they didn't like it."
Other Needle Dik originals include "Michael Jackson" and "Toy Boys" which explains that "the only difference between the men and the boys is the price on their heads a-ud the size of their toys." For those too caught up in school work to take the time to catch the band, Needle Dik offers a Humanities lesson with "Oedipus Rex."
"He Finally found a woman who could do it like no other
Imagine his surprise when she turned out to be his mother
Oh, Oedipus, he's got those Freudian complex blues."
Needle Dik also plays their own version of songs such as"Secret Agent Man" and "The Flintstones." "We played 'Flintstones' at our first gig downtown." Bob recalled. "It was at the Squat Theatre, a real traditional blues place. They were really pissed off. I think they were embarrassed to have us play it in front of people."
Still, "Flintstones" is a favorite on campus, and before their downtown premiere, the group was exclusively a campus band. "We were the Cabaret's house band." said Larry. "Only we weren't Needle Dik then. We went through a series of names, Philip Magnesia and the Movements, Free Drugs and Beer and Wet Tee Shirt Night, among others. The names lasted one night each."
Larry remembers that, "We just fucked around for a long time, then we decided, 'hey we sound pretty good this way. Think of what we could do if we actually practiced.'"
He continued, "Then in October of 77, Kevin called me and said we had a gig at the Cabaret, so we decided to learn some songs so we could do that. We had about a half hour's worth of material, but we ended up playing about three hours worth of stuff that we made up on the spot."
It was during their run at the Cabaret that Marshall and Milton joined the group. Bob had seen them playing in a different campus band called Achilles. "We were a heavy metal clone band and they stole us away with a head hunters executive agency," Milton related.
So, the evolution of Needle Dik was complete. Kevin explained, "By January of '78, everything was wonderful. We had become post-pubert and had gotten through all of the traumatic experiences of our earlier years like bad chords, broken strings, wet dreams, broken guitars and Bob having his van reclaimed by his parents for not graduating on time.
About a year ago, Needle Dik made the transition from being an exclusively campus band, and began to play downtown. Bob recalled their first gig opening for one of their favorites. "It was that night at the Squat theatre. We opened for J.P. Hutto. I couldn't believe it. J.P. Hutto was the first blues album I had ever bought."
Since then, the group has played at Max's Kansas City, Tramps, Del Rino's disco on Route 30 in New Jersey, various clubs in Atlantic City and several college campuses.
About the future,Needle Dik plans to be around for a long time. "We're going to milk this sucker for all it's worth." Larry said. "Who knows, maybe someday, someone will notice us."
Until then, the group will continue to play, both on and off campus. Their next gig is this Friday at Sigma Nu. On December 6th, they can be heard live on WFMU between 8 p.m. and 12 p.m. On December 18th you can catch them at Max's Kansas City.