“It’s about putting the smack down, so we gonna put the smackdown,” joked Boots Riley before Friday night’s New York City benefit for Road Recovery, an organization that steers kids away from substance abuse by using the stories of entertainers and musicians who have been there and done that. The bar at Nokia Theatre was closed for the night and the choice of “Love Is the Drug” as the house music probably wasn’t an accident, as artist after artist took the stage to spread messages of clean living and to play a few songs.
The young participants in the program kicked things off, and were able to go home saying they had jammed with the likes of Jerry Cantrell, Tom Morello, Gilby Clarke and Wayne Kramer, to whom the evening was dedicated. Morello debuted his project with Riley, Street Sweeper Social Club, and capped off the energized rap-rock set by playing a guitar solo with his teeth.
Billy Bragg emerged for a pair of tunes, including a cover of the Verve’s “The Drugs Don’t Work,” Cantrell and Clarke teamed up for a version of “Wish You Were Here,” and host Matt Pinfield spoke between sets about his own struggles and his imminent return to rehab.
The all-star jam segment opened with the four aforementioned guitarists being joined by Perry Farrell for loose but upbeat renditions of “Mountain Song” and “Ain’t No Right,” and Dictators frontman Handsome Dick Manitoba and Don Was joined in on MC5’s “Call Me Animal.” Juliette Lewis gave an appropriately raspy take on AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap,” Cantrell went into frontman mode for Thin Lizzy’s “Jailbreak,” and Perry Farrell returned for “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” with Clarke convincingly pulling off the song’s famous synthesizer line with guitar effects.
As he is wont to do, Iggy Pop stole the show merely by taking the stage, screaming for the band to go straight into “Five Foot One,” followed by Lust For Life‘s “Sixteen.” Of course, the night was capped off with everyone coming onstage for “Kick Out the Jams,” featuring Little Steven Van Zandt on guitar with Iggy and Manitoba trading verses as Kramer and Morello swapped dueling guitar solos. Even if there weren’t beers to hoist in triumph, everyone seemed pretty wasted on enthusiasm.