You have a milestone birthday coming up and I want to talk about how you’re going to be celebrating. First, I’d love for you to tell me a little about you.
As for me, I have had a hobby of taking pictures since I was about 10. In the mid 70’s, I used to go to concerts at the Spectrum and take band pictures of Kiss, Cheap Trick , The Cars, Tom Petty, Bee Gees, The Eagles, Hall & Oates, Fleetwood Mac and many others. That was between 1976 and 1980, up till I was 24 years old. I had to stop because it got to hard to sneak a SLR 35mm camera with a 200 zoom lens in the venue. I had a small indoor flea market spot in the Port Richmond area and used to deal with music items like CD’s, t-shirts, patches, stickers, magazines and other type of music memorabilia/collectibles. Very rarely did I ever make any money there. It became like Cheers (the bar on TV…everyone know your name). People would just hang and talk (about) music. I was Lenny “the Rock-it Man”. I called my spot in there “Rock-it Compact Disc”. That was between 1997 till about 2004 when they closed up the place. While I was there, I met lots of young kids that were just starting bands, so I started to try and promote them and their shows by selling or giving out CD’s and posting flyers of the gigs. Around 1999-2000, I started to take local band pix, mostly at Club HP on or about the 8500 block of Torresdale Ave. I went there, sometimes 2-3 nights week. It was a great place for the young and old. It was an all age place/no alcohol . The bad part was that, back then, I had a film camera and half the pictures wouldn’t be any good because of either a band member moving so much it was hard to focus or I was in a mosh pit in front of the stage, which didn’t help to take a good pictures. It was costing me too much money. It got much better, cost wise, when I got my first digital camera around 2004, just a cheap point and shoot. I never had the money for a good SLR 35mm digital one. I got to know Angelo and Hugo, the owners, so I had my little corner and chair waiting for me and didn’t have to pay a cover because of the promotion I was doing for the venue with pictures on the internet. I didn’t start to do video until about 2007. My eye sight had been getting worst over the years from diabetes and it was getting harder, just a pain in the ass, to edit pictures on my PC. I started with a JVC camcorder about 2007, it was great until I had to find a head cleaner for it and the heads needed to be cleaned too much. But the camera had a great zoom and picked up audio well. I got lucky and took a chance at opening a checking account at TD Bank because I saw an ad for a free pocket size camcorder called FLIP, so I switched my monthly checking to them as direct deposit each month and got the FLIP for free. The rest is history. I have been doing “cheap ass freaking FLIP pocket camcorder videos” since about 2010. I love the way my FLIP has good footage under lower lights, but the audio is another story. One reason is that I move around in front of each band member if I can, and that takes away good audio because I am very close and don’t use the zoom. I’d rather, if I have the choice, get better video footage then better audio. I have over 2600 on my YouTube channel under my ID of “LenKnee”, most are all local bands. No, they’re not the best, but they are also not the worst… they are FREE. In the past couple of years, I have only been trying to go out like once a week because of my health issues. Once in a while, I’ll do 2 nights in a row, but mostly, it’s just one night…either a Friday or Saturday. I even try to cut back on seeing more than 1 or 2 bands at a show because I can’t handle the 4 or 5 bands gigs… just too long of a night for me anymore.
Being that you charge nothing for recording the shows of the local bands, I’d imagine they’re very grateful. Have you developed close relationships with any of them?
Well, when you say close… it all depends. Most, if not all, become friends. It’s not like I see them everyday. There are a few that I have seen outside of a show/venue… a couple even came to my home. But, since 2000, I have seen many go from 15 year olds to 30 year olds…kids to men with kids. I am mainly happy to see those from years ago stick to music and stay out of trouble with drugs and or booze. I have always hated to see a person (mostly the younger ones) waste their talent. (I told them) Don’t get caught up following the crowd. I also told them to set their own course…you have been given a gift, be it in music or sports or whatever it may have been, so don’t hang on a corner looking for trouble. I must say, most are grateful and always thank me in some way when we run into one another. It’s cool when they are with a friend I never met and they say, “He’s the dude that got me into (a certain types of music)” or that I gave them confidence to keep music in their lives. But to answer this question a little better, I guess I would have a closer relationship with many if I was healthier because then I would be going out to more shows and we’d be seeing each other more often. I am happy with the friendship and that they remember me years later. You have to remember, in most cases, I am much older than everyone, but being around and/or hanging at shows with them, I feel their age or younger, not 20-30 years older than they are.
Speaking of age, your 60th birthday is around the corner and you’ve planned a big party. Can you tell me about that?
My 60th birthday is on April 9th, but on April 10th there is going to be an acoustic jam/birthday party for me at the Whiskey Tango in the far N.E. part of Philly from 2 to 8pm. It’s all being put together by Krista Doran from the Stems & Seeds band and Edmond Morena from the Boss Hydro band .
It was a joke at first. When I turned 59, I had just mentioned to some people that when the big 6-0 came, that it would be cool to have some bands play for me instead of me going there to take pictures and videos…so I could just sit back and watch them. I had like 5 bands that said “count us in”. Then Krista Doran had said she knew how to set up something like that and to count on her and her band when the time came. Truth is, I wanted to start the ball rolling right after the first of the year (2016) so I could give bands and people enough advance notice, but I couldn’t get the stones up to ask anyone thinking people would say things and 8 -10 months later, forget. So, I went to a show at Sweeney’s about 3-4 weeks ago, and as I was leaving, Mr. Edmond Morena from the Boss Hydro band asked how things were with me and my health. That’s when he said he would start the process of getting things rolling like messaging the bands I had on my list and contacting venues in the northeast. Edmond has long working hours and I knew he could use some help, more than I could do. So, I told him what Krista had told me 10 months ago (or longer). I asked Krista to contact Edmond and asked if he could use some help, and then BAM!…things were put together by both of them in one weekend. I told Edmond I was thinking everyone should play acoustic music because of set up times. I have lots of hard rock/heavy metal and some punk/hardcore bands that I wanted to ask but I wasn’t sure if some of the music they played could be done acoustically. Plus, I just couldn’t ask everyone I would have liked to because of the time limit. So Edmond and Krista contacted the ones on my list, but not all could confirm about playing without asking each band member or they just couldn’t get the whole band together to play. In order to get things done fast and get the word out, they took the first bands/performers that replied the fastest. I didn’t want anyone mad and say “why didn’t you ask us to play”, but like Krista said, I would need a week long party to make everyone happy, along with me, because I wanted them all there. It’s cool because Krista Doran and Edmond Morena are making sure EVERYONE is invited to join in. That’s why it called a “Jam/Bash/Birthday party”. Members of bands that come, can grab a guitar and play with those that are on stage that have a slot to perform already. This is going to be “whatever happens, happens”, as long as it stays on time with each of the performers/bands allotted time limit. There will be, I believe, lots of surprises. I am hoping for lots of pictures and videos of both the performers/bands and all the people that show up. When I say “people”, I mean FRIENDS, because if they are there to help me celebrate my 60th, they must be friends…even if we never met!!!
Is this event open to the public and if so, what do we need to know about it?
Yes, it’s open to EVERYONE. The bash/acoustic jam/my 60th b-day party will be held at The Whiskey Tango in the far N.E. part of Philly (Bustleton Ave.) on Sunday, April 10th from 2pm to 8pm. Tickets are $10, there will be an early buffet, food & drink specials all day, 50/50 chances, and it’s “all ages”. There are at least 14 bands or performers confirmed to play, plus all the musicians that come and hop up and join in the jam of those performing on the list already!
Sidenote: upon speaking to Krista Doran about this event, she let me know that the proceeds of this event will go toward medical expenses for Len. So come on out for a great time and to help a fellow, music loving, man.