Pardon merci, je suis le grande zombie; I’m just not human tonight
OK, if you’re new to these parts, I would suggest you go read this.
The next question, of course, is did the latest Mekons show live up to, or exceed, the rambunctious character of that one? Oh my yes, it did indeed.
And right here, I am going to avoid drawing out the suspense: I did, indeed, have a few beers. The first, in fact, since The Event.
When I was in the hospital, and after they had managed to make sure I could breathe again, I found myself thinking of the future. The near term future, to be sure; after I had managed to get some sleep, I thought that attending Summerfest was probably off the radar. But there was a gig on the 14th…
she had been misplaced by the government
our old friends are under attack
they crossed over the border
(but) i have been to heaven and back
In fact, the Mekons show was kind of uppermost in my mind. When I was cleared for most activities, I saw a few days of Summerfest (and a few days of work) as the perfect trial run/shakedown period for my new cyborg heart and shiny new lifestyle. But even more, when things seemed to be kind of bleak, it was a goal, something to reach for and a reason to make the efforts necessary with all the changes to be made.
The Mekons are spread out over three continents and several countries-Chicago, New York, LA, England, London, Siberia…So a tour is something that doesn’t happen lightly. Or frequently; if you read that earlier post like I told you, the last time they hit these parts was 2011. Also the last time they released new music. But I wasn’t particularly surprised when the announcement included the juicy tidbit that they would culminate the tour with a live recording of new material, recorded in a club with 75 fans participating. “Why should a record take longer to record than to listen to?” asks Jon Langford. Even more curious, that one of the stops was Mineral Point, a small historic former mining town on the west edge of Wisconsin.
Since I was not going to be able to pull off the logistics of making the New York recording show (christened “MekonCeption”) we got the tickets for the MP show. 15 bucks each, hilarious…
I had booked a room prior to the Event, figuring I would be misbehaving and not in any shape for the 2.4 hour drive back. We met some friends, and I disappointed my cardiologist by having a cheeseburger. Damn, it was good, too…
i’ve been to heaven and back
right in front of my eyes
things have a habit of happening to me
it’s no suprise
At this point, I could talk about the show and the songs they played and the setlist and so on, but no one ever gives a shit about that stuff, so let’s take a different approach.
In the recent movie Revenge Of The Mekons, Joe Angio delves into the question of why the Mekons keep on doing it, in the face of industry indifference (even hostility) and a small and unchanging fan base (which very nearly decreased by one! and they can’t afford to lose any…) no matter how fervent. I don’t think he answered it.
But the recent show, and this tour, I think provides a glimpse into the whys. With the barriers to recording and touring, it would be easy for the band to just go on extended or permanent hiatus, and focus on their other activities (all of them have many creative outlets). The band has often said that part of their motivation is that they are friends, and really like getting together and playing music, seeing their fans.
But further, they want to make their time together special, to make whatever they do interesting to themselves – and that becomes interesting to their fans (who also tend toward the stubborn and iconoclastic). It’s why they have played punk, folk, alternative rock, electro, noise, alt-country; done books, graphic art, a multi media art installation, poetry readings, and the world’s best cross-dressing lesbian pirate musical.
It’s also why they played a small, restored burlesque theater in the middle of Fuck-All, Wisconsin. And it’s why they will later play in a small club in New York for 75 people to record a new album of new material and the audience will participate as a “feral choir”.
The show featured two sets of material, and it covered everything back to 1984. They played two sets, and the band was having a splendid time; including two filthy traditional songs sung/chanted by Lu Edmonds. Sally led the obliging crowd in the yoga-like choreography for Now We Have The Bomb and Deputy Mekon Janet Bean (of Freakwater and Eleventh Dream Day) left the merch table to join in on a couple of songs.
some of the people they stayed behind
now they’re all in prison or dead
i’m looking up at the mountain
i have been to heaven and back
They played everything I could have wanted. Short of playing everything, that is. Memphis, Egypt, oh yes. Orpheus, o MY yes. Even a song for the Bastard, which I can’t recall them ever playing before:
At the end of that video, you see how much fun they have on stage, and they were having as much fun or more last Tuesday.
ooo animal radar
like a thread around the world
loving and laughing my head’s going ’round
i am a curious boy…
In one post about music, I talked about having tears in my eyes and that if I ever stopped being able to feel that, go ahead and bury me because I will be dead. Well, that may not be so funny anymore, but in the end, I think a deeper connection revealed itself this week.
The Mekons keep making music because they are friends and colleagues and they can still find ways to connect and ways to create together. It’s still exciting and vital for them, so the lack of traditional success never really enters into their calculations. They love to howl and sing, and although they continue to change and find entertaining new ways of doing so.
They keep on, because they still find a reason to do so. Giving up is not an option…
Three weeks ago, it was enough to look forward to a Mekons show, and that was a good enough reason to tell my treasonous heart that giving up is not an option. In a discussion with a friend, he mentioned that his cardiac event scared him; but I don’t recall being scared, even when I was wondering if I would breathe again. I recall being resigned, then relieved. But I knew that if there was a way, I would be in Mineral Point, watching some great friends have a wonderful time, and having a wonderful time with them.
And now, a few days later; giving up is still not an option. Not as long as there is music and friends and family; not as long as the Mekons are still around.
some people write little verses
others go on looking for cracks
uh handcuffed to history
i have been to heaven and back
I am STILL not dead yet…