A lot of people probably have heard this song before, as it’s a mid 60s garage rock classic.

96 Tears, by Question Mark (or ?) and the Mysterians is one of those sorts of songs that once you’ve heard, you are unlikely to forget.  Released in 1966 by this band from the axis of Flint and Saginaw, Michigan, its keyboard driven riff and accusatory vocals make it very special. It’s so classic that it’s been covered from artists ranging from Eddie and the Hot Rods to Bruce Springsteen; even Aretha Franklin did a take on it, making her version especially soulful. So significant is this song that one very prominent writer once referred to it as the beginning of punk rock.

So, as someone who owns both the Nuggets and the Nuggets II boxed sets (which celebrate mid 60s garage bands),

I knew, when I was informed by my friend Rockey, via a Facebook post, that  ? and the Mysterians were playing a free outdoor summer show in Manhattan, along with Mitch Ryder and a bunch of other really cool Detroit bands in a festival called “Detroit Breakdown,”

that we’d definitely want to go!

So, off we went, taking the train down to Manhattan, where we booked a hotel in Soho (Four Points by Sheraton Manhattan SoHo Village). On the way down, we caught some nice glimpses of the Hudson River from our train.

So, after arriving at hotel, on the day before the show, and checking in, we sat for a bit and then began contemplating the next several hours. Or at least I did. Jolie’s plan for the evening entailed going to a retirement party for one of her former library colleagues, a very nice lady who was about to have more free time to enjoy. As for me, I sat comfortably for a bit, paging through a copy of Time Out New York that had info on “Your Perfect Weekend.” Just looking for some good suggestions as well as listings of what might be going on in the city at the moment.


My plan, after this: basically to wander and be spontaneous. I really like going into NYC and doing just that, as you almost always stumble upon something interesting.

As I walked away from the hotel, I took a photo of this piece of a construction site that had some frayed posters for Crunch gym; this being for us a rock and roll weekend, and these being clever homages to some classic LPs (by the Clash and by Nirvana).

I then wandered in sort of a northern and eastern direction, seeing the peak of the Empire State Building in the distance

as well as some fine examples of prewar Manhattan architecture, nicely preserved.

I then walked diagonally, down Carmine Street, toward 6th Avenue, grabbing a tasty felafel along the way.

Walking along Bleecker Street, with its multitude of little specialty shops,

I spotted these iconic CDs through a metal gate.

Some truly great artists there!

Here I stand, on the corner near Bleecker and 6th, thinking about heading over to Washington Square Park

Washington Square Park has, for a very long time, been one of my favorite places in New York City. I can recall my aunt taking me into it when I was very young. The park has long been a major gathering spot – loaded with history – for residents and visitors of NYC

In the summertime, it is always full of activities, including some very entertaining performers.

The Fountain - a central focal point and gathering spot in Washington Square Park

park jam session

There were a few jam sessions in progress, but I wound up hanging around the musicians in the photos above; they were playing some really lively versions of a number of rock and soul classics from various years. They were quite good and had drawn a bit of a crowd.

However, my eyes and ears shortly thereafter led me to the arch, where a fantastic group of singers were performing, and playing to a large crowd.

Here’s a video I made of them performing “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” You can hear how good they are.

Okay, so after spending a decent amount of time enjoying the park and its performers, I decided to head to another nearby neighborhood, the East Village

crossing past Broadway on the way there.

I also spotted a few cool pieces of street art (or “graffiti,” depending on your perspective). Street arts is one of my favorite things, and NYC is filled with great examples of it.

The last of these, which was down on Houston Street, was particularly noteworthy, showing the image from Shepard Fairey’s (one of my favorite contemporary artists) piece “Obey” (aka “Andre the Giant Has a Posse”). It was being used to advertise an art gallery displaying Fairey’s works. Nice to see.

Eventually, I wound up at the intersection of  Bleecker and Bowery.

This, of course, is the site of the now closed (since 2006), one time legendary rock club CBGBs

Over the years, I was lucky enough to see some shows at this cradle of punk rock on the Bowery (including being there for the making of this record by the Aussie band, the Celibate Rifles; ahh, the memories!)

Since I was in the neighborhood, I wound up popping into CBGBs  which has been transformed into an upscale clothing boutique. I quickly and quietly took a few photos while inside, where I sort of gasped at the idea of paying $90.00 for a dress shirt, particularly in the space where  people like David Byrne and Dee Dee Ramone once wore ripped t shirts or thrift store clothing, and that was a display of a different sort of fashion. Here is one of my photos.

Well, at least John Varvatos kept a lot of the interior of CBGBs intact; kudos to him for that.

Finally, after some more walking around, I wound up going into the Saint Mark’s Bookshop, which is one of my favorite places in the universe.

It’s such a great shop, and in a great location. Unlike the chain bookstores, it tends to carry books and other reading materials that are thought provoking and not entirely driven by primarily commercial decision making. I always look forward, when I am around Astor Place, to stopping in here.

Eventually, it was nighttime in Manhattan!

The next day, after a good night’s sleep and some breakfast, we prepared to make our way up to Lincoln Center for the show. Here we are at the Houston Street subway station.

I’m here wearing a custom made meditating robot t-shirt that I purchased the night before from a street vendor.

Once at the Lincoln Center outdoor location, the first of the Detroit bands we was the band Death.

They played with a great deal of power and were very much a commanding presence on stage.

After they left the stage, I scanned the crowd, looking to see if I could spot Rockey; no such luck!

Next up, a band I wound up really liking a lot. They were called the Gories, and had a sound that was a mix of mid 60s garage band, late 70s punk, and a bit of delta blues. They reminded me of other Detroit bands like the White Stripes or Sonic’s Rendezvous, along with maybe the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. I would definitely go see  them again, preferably in a sweaty little club where I’m sure they would be amazing. Too band that CBGBs is not still around.

Afterward, a bit more searching for Rockey; again, so sign of him. I did, though, spot Billy Miller and Miriam Linna of Norton Records fame. In fact, there seemed to be a good number of musicians – not to mention aging hipsters and punks – within the large crowd.

Finally, some Question Mark.

They wound up playing a pretty tight set and were very engaging, really working the crowd for much applause. And at one point, they wound up bringing Ronnie Spector out to sing with them, also to much applause.

After their set, they were selling some merchandise.  And Question Mark (Rudy Martinez) himself was signing it. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet the singer of “96 Tears” so off I went to the merchandise area, which was off to the side, where I purchased this forty-five

a cover of Iggy and the Stooges’ classic “Loose” (done in a very different style). The flip side is a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”

As I was getting my record signed, I said to ? something like “Question Mark, you were great,” etc., etc., and he politely thanked me. I then asked him “what did you think of punk rock,” expecting him to acknowledge how it was heavily influenced by him and his group; instead, his response was: “I don’t really like it….it’s too violent.” So, the cat is out of the bag; Question Mark is actually more hippie (with a bit of Vegas glitz) than punk rocker; no matter, though, he’s still a legend to me.

And in the moment many in the crowd was waiting for, here is my video of an excerpt from what else, 96 Tears.

Finally, Mitch Ryder, another legendary performer. Of course, given that we needed to get home that night, we wound up not staying for the full set; but what we saw, we liked. And I also like the lighting effects for the stage. They were spectacular.

So, a really fun weekend had a really fun ending. I’m looking forward to more summer music shows in the years ahead.