Deep in the dense woods of northern East Hampton is an area many summer weekend tourists fleeing Manhattan rarely see. Not far geographically from the shops, eateries and other diversions of the tony downtown area, but seemingly miles away in its beauty and quietness, it is definitely far from the milieu in the early 60s in Hamburg Germany that nurtured the fledgling British Invasion, ultimately shaping the look and sound of the Beatles just before Beatlemania first conquered Liverpool and then the world. Yet, during the ceremonial final weekend of the summer, on the Sunday before Labor Day, the look, sound and vibe of the sweaty clubs of the St. Pauli district of Hamburg, such as the Kaiserkellar, the Star Club and the Indra Club, came back to life for a few hours, amidst the green splendor of a charming East Hampton estate.
Performing at a private party not far from Cedar Point County Park was a relatively new group called Bambi Kino. The group was playing only its seventh show together, including recent shows at clubs in the famed city of Hamburg. Taking its name from the movie theater that was partly used as makeshift housing for the Beatles when they stayed in Hamburg, the veritable supergroup boasts members of Maplewood, Nada Surf and Cat Power’s band, as well as a member of the long-disbanded legendary indie band Guided By Voices. Much like the studio band that performed the songs for the live performances of the film Backbeat, the band delves deep into the late 50s and early 60s rock and r&b catalog that comprised the bulk of the music the Beatles performed in Hamburg and also Liverpool at that time. Just like the Beatles in Hamburg in the early 60s, Bambi Kino also performs a few choice early Lennon and McCartney compositions, including “One After 909,” which Lennon and McCartney wrote early on, but which wasn’t officially released until the Let It Be album. The Beatles first played at the Indra Club in Hamburg on August 17th, 1960, and over the next two years they went on to play nearly 300 shows in Hamburg.
Bambi Kino could not have picked a better day to play one of the few American shows of its young career. In the crisp late-summer air, at twilight, the four lads, almost all dressed in black, with minimal gear, set up on a deck, with a pool only a few feet away, and began their authentic, at times raucous and fun first of two sets. As dark descended over the pastoral scene, the mix of locals, many of whom were artists, musicians, and surfers, crowded onto the small slate patio right in front of the band. The crowd dressed more like prep-school summer vacationers than German club denizens from the early 60s, shed their inhibitions to send off the summer with some dancing and drinking. In a curious aside, for this particular band to be playing this sound on the east end is not such an odd occurrence. Paul McCartney has had a home on the East End for many years now. Also, Pauline Sutcliffe, sister of original Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe, also lives on the East End.
The group effortlessly plowed through tracks familiar to those who have the unofficial Beatles Live at the Star-Club double album that first came out in 1977. The Star-Club album was surreptitiously recorded by another British musical denizen of the scene, Kingsize Taylor. Highlights of Bambi Kino’s set included “Hippy Hippy Shake,” “Mr. Moonlight, “A Taste of Honey,” “Besame Mucho,” “Red Sails In The Sunset,” “Boys,” “Slow Down,” “Anna,” “Three Cool Cats,” “Honey Don’t,” “Over the Rainbow.” “Kansas City,” “I Saw Her Standing There,” “Shakin’ All Over,” and other songs. The band peppered its set with German words of thanks and good-natured ribbing, and, in the spirit of the Beatles film A Hard Day’s Night and maybe even the Rutles televison special, joked, faked their way through Liverpool-inflected asides and, keeping with the casual, fun mood, interjected riffs from Led Zeppelin, Wings and a healthy snatch of Steve Martin’s “King Tut.” The guests included the likes of JayDee Daugherty (the Church, Tom Verlaine, Patti Smith) and Pat Place of the Bush Tetras.
With the little children of the hosts fast sleep and nearly all the guests long gone, the band wrapped up its second set long before ten PM, nearly midday for these musicians. While drummer Ira Elliot packed up his drum kit and bassist Erik Paparazzi’s iPod mix quietly played in the background (and his vintage Hofner bass safely put away in its case), guitarist Doug Gillard and guitarist and lead vocalist Mark Rozzo were discussing the set. Gillard was lobbying for a few additions, which would add much to the show, but Rozzo wondered if the changes would compromise the authenticity of the sets. It is authenticity that the band is striving for. Rozzo indicated that he pored through many books to make sure the set lists accurately reflected what the Beatles were playing night after night in Hamburg 50 years ago. As for the future of the band, Rozzo indicated that the band would be performing at a John Lennon tribute on the West Coast later this year. He also indicated that it would most likely return to New York to perform around the holidays. The band played at the Bowery Electric in Manhattan a few days before the private party. As for recording, Rozzo wasn’t entirely sure if that would happen, but a live album of the Indra shows will be released in November. Also, nearly all of it’s Hamburg performances were filmed, and German television aired a documentary on the band’s historic shows in August, which would make for a nice DVD.