Jim Algie extols the virtues of breaking free from his maximum security comfort zone for a rocking trip to Mexico City, the biggest megalopolis in the Americas, to see the Buzzcocks and Modern English. . 
When Rhishja and I were doing our wedding party/honeymoon at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend almost 5 years ago, from an extensive invite list only 2 of my old cronies showed up: Steven Bradley and Jody Penhall.
Naturally, when Steve was doing sound for Modern English, opening for the Buzzcocks in Mexico City recently, I had to fly up from Oaxaca to catch the show and catch up with him.
Both bands played well and were equally surprised by the intensity of the sold-out crowd. Some fans waited around for hours outside the venue to get autographs from the likes of Modern English’s singer, a cool, chatty guy named Robbie Grey.

Robbie Grey, the frontman of Modern English, who have had the same lineup since 1977.

I had my doubts that the Buzzcocks could pull off a headlining set without the late Pete Shelley, who was kind of like the Buddy Holly of punk, but they included enough of his songs on the setlist (What Do I Get, I Don’t Mind, Autonomy, Ever Fallen in Love, etc), and Steve Diggle, who is soon to turn 69, put on such an energetic show that the band silenced all doubters.
For a story I did on the 40th anniversary of punk, included in my music collection, “On the Night joey Ramone Died,” I had the privilege of interviewing Steve over the phone from England and he told me how the Sex Pistols’ manager, Malcolm McLaren, introduced him to singer Howard Devoto and guitarist Pete Shelley, who quickly formed Buzzcocks to open for the Pistols when they returned to play again six weeks later. “The next day we had the first rehearsal,” says Diggle, “and we all plugged into the same amp at Howard’s house and did ‘Boredom’ and ‘Orgasm Addict’ and I had this song called ‘Fast Cars’ that we did too.”

Front and center, Steve Diggle is the only surviving member of the original Buzzcocks.

The music biz is abuzz with serendipitous encounters that set the stage for future meetups. At first, I didn’t recognize Modern English’s substitute guitarist until we were propping up the hotel bar later on, and it turned out to be Gabriel Sullivan. When I used to hang out with him in Tucson at Hotel Congress and the Owls Club he looked like he’d just staggered off the desert set of a burrito Western in which he’d played a bandito. It was good to catch up with him too, and find out that he’s putting the finishing production touches on the final recordings of the late Tucson legends, Al Foul, the roots rocker of note, and Van Christian of Green on Red and Naked Prey infamy.
To top it off I made a cool new amiga at the gig. A few nights later she took me out to explore some of the vast subculture scenes in the Americas’ most colossal city (Population 23 million) and we’ve kept in regular touch since then.
All in all, the evening was a sound testament to breaking free from the confines of a maximum-security comfort zone, to rewire some old connections and make a few new ones.
Thanks to Steve and Michelle, Modern English’s road manager, for choregraphing my entrance strategy.

Many of the author and musician’s best music stories, both fiction and nonfiction, are included in the collection “On the Night Joey Ramone Died: Tales of Rock and Punk from Bangkok, New York, Cambodia and Norway,” along with the story about punk history and interview with Steve Diggle. The ebook and paperback are available on Amazon. The acclaimed mystery author, Timothy Hallinan, said, “The book captures the pop music world as well as, and in some cases better than, most actual rock autobiographies.” 

Cover of Joey Ramone book