“I was tempted to believe. I was tempted to believe.”*

Posted: October 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

All my time I spent in heaven
Revelries of dance and wine
Waking to the sound of laughter
Up I’d rise and kiss the sky

The day did not start auspiciously.

My car was in the shop for the third consecutive day.  Putting SOMEONE through college, I am.  Then a client dropped a crisis of his own making in my lap, as is his way.

After putting out that fire, I was getting on the road about an hour later than I had hoped.  As I was getting into my car (which lightened my wallet 2 1/2 Gs) I got teh Call from Von.  She was sick and going to the hospital.

Oh gosh, that was bad news and Von needs to get better so we can drink together again.  But the gig was booked; I hit the road.

Ecstasy and fornication
Music, lust and poetry
Something stirs, I hear a warning
I look for Euridice

Lose, Lose, Lose your head

As I anticipated, there was weird Chicago traffic. But the newly renovated ZomCruiser took it all in stride, and I sang along with a Mekons playlist.  It was a beautiful day, and it was about music, lust and poetry….

After wriggling my way through typical Second City traffic, things got bound up as I went east.  And then I realized; I was driving right through the financial district, right past that building with those shitheads who seem to be insisting that we bring the guillotines, and OWS was making an impressive showing.  Oh gosh, it cheered me up.  “JUMP! You Fuckers” indeed.

So, after whatever delays, I got to my crappy little hotel room.  And I do have to congratulate Chicago for crappy little hotel rooms.

I debated for a while; now that Von was out of the picture, was it worth grabbing dinner at Lincoln Hall?  Supposed to be good, but I was running behind and could save a little cash by grabbing a sub.  IN the end, I decided I gave not one fuck, and grabbed a cab to Lincoln Hall so I could grab some food prior.  Interestingly, Chicago cabbies always need to have the destinations explained.  Keep that in mind if you intend to get too twisted to speak.

Searching through the pits of Hades
Like a miner in the gloom
I seek out to find my babies
Don’t look back the warning booms

In my thoughts that warning shakes me
How can fate deceive me now?
I will think on worlds in order
I will make a solemn vow

Lose, lose, Lose your head

Lincoln Hall is a lovely place, showing the advantages of hiring good architects and designers (fuck YOU Bouffant) and I grabbed an open booth, even though I was solo.  While I was ordering a first drink, I saw three folks, two of whom I knew were actually in the Mekons, come out to grab a table.  But the only thing left was a tall two-top; so I asked the waitress to ask them if they wanted to switch, since I didn’t need a whole booth.

And that is how I ended up eating dinner with some of the Mekons.  Sarah, bass player, and Ryan the sound guy, and Rico Bell came by later.  Tom Greenhalgh stopped by but didn’t stay.  But they are lovely people, and Sarah was adorably confused by ‘tater tots’. We talked about kids and past tours, and I listened as they talked about the musical life and my! didn’t we  have a wonderful time?

The opening band was kind of a weird punk-spaghetti western instrumental band. They were OK.  We all moved on.

One last glimpse to take back with me
Set my eyes, despite the fear
One last glimpse was all they needed
LOOSE THE MEKONS came the cheer

The Mekon live show is always weirdly balanced between kicking fucking ass, sucking large cylinders of suckitude, and onstage banter.  And so it was a bit unusual that as they came out and filled up the smallish stage,  Jon Langford instantly fucked up a joke about matchbooks and calling demons, and it was weird as hell to have such an incomprehensible joke was unusual.  But what the fuck, they moved on and opened with Calling All Demons from the new album, and those of us on the floor did our part, fuck it.

They immediately launched into the yodeled intro of Thee Olde Trip To Jerusalem, another favorite, and stomped the hell out of it before playing several new songs from Ancient & Modern .  In particular, the song “I Fall Asleep” was lovely, featuring a vocal coda of Tom Greenhalgh and Sally Timms singing “I fall asleep when I should pray”, over and over.

Did I mention that Tom Greenhalgh joined them?  One of the original members, and his warbly quavering tenor is a prominent voice in the band, lending an undisciplined vulnerability to much of the music and serving as effective counterpoint to Jon Langford’s  gruff Welsh shouting.  Tom doesn’t make it to America with the Mekons very often, so it was a rare pleasure to see and hear him.

Suzie Honeyman also doesn’t make the US tours very often; in fact, I am not sure I have ever seen her play, and I’ve seen the mekons 6 times prior to this.

Torn in two, and cut and scattered
Limb from limb and heart from mind
In the water hear me singing
As my head swirls in the brine

Lose, lose, lose  your head

It was a Mekon start to a show, unplanned and not quite coordinated;not drunk, not angry, but not professional either in a profession where bands are supposed to hit the stage with a triumphal roar.  The Mekons have always hated the strictures of Rock Bands.  They always insisted upon egalitarian socialistic ideology.  Every song was credited to the band: so were all the artworks.  They were a punk band that actually followed through on the DIY ethos, and refused to allow Virgin to package them.

And in the ensuing years, the Mekons followed a path that defies description or pigeonholing. In fact, one of the most difficult and rewarding aspects of the band has been the diversity of their work.  It can be a bit off-putting to listen to a band that has been unskilled, anarchist, alt-country, avant garde, folk, alt-rock, theatrical, back to punk again, touring art-show musicians, and whatever the hell “Pussy, King Of The Pirates” was.

At Lincoln Hall they definitely were playing the alt-rock cards in a big way, populating the small stage with 8 musicians and five lead vocalist mikes.  I was standing on stage right, directly in front of Rico Bell and his chest-piano, and Suzie Honeyman  looking like a possessed schoolteacher on violin.  On the opposite side of the stage was the sepulchral Lu Edmonds, playing his saz.

The no rules approach to instrumentation and self-taught character of the songwriting, makes for an enthralling sound, if it also tends to allow for instant chaos if someone gets off-track.  When combined with dense and literate lyrics, it results in an anarchic folk-punk socialist collective with a bookish bent and  an abandoned career in stand-up comedy.

I will teach them from my lesson
I will teach them from my song
I will speak of all lives wonder
Where I land will be renowned

Yes, they are all bout teaching with song.  At the same time they realize that being a punk band with no major label connections, the world is going to keep turning regardless; and that goddammit, we are gonna still keep tilting against those fucking windmills.  Because sometimes the good fight is the only fight you need.  Success is inconsequential, it is the tilting that makes the windmills run scared.

They know that making punk music will not change anything, and they still do it, because singing and howling into the darkness is the only thing you can do.  If you are brave enough.

And; what they figured out, over the years and agony and travails; is that singing and making art and doing it with life-long friends is two sided: it allows you to stare into the void at the same time you celebrate living and drinking and fucking and music.

Where I land will be the fortress
Of this fight against the tides
Tides of rotten patriarchy
Tides of greed and tricks and lies

Lose, Lose, Lose your head

Middle of the show, they pulled out the stops on “Orpheus” the song that provides the lyrics in this post; recognizing the opening strains of the accordion, I howled in approval and when Rico started singing, knew that the night was going to be just fine.  The song features traded vocals from all four vocalists:  Rico, Tom, Sally and Jon, and the opportunity for the audience to join in on the “lose, lose, lose your head” parts and o my, did we ever.  A group of four women in front of the stage center danced and sang along, and we kept the waitron busy resupplying us all with drinks.

The played for quite a while after that, coming back for two encores in spite of Sally’s complaints of weariness and early flights the next day.  Reaching all the way back to 1985 for songs, the only minor complaint was that they did not play “Memphis Egypt”, one of my favorite songs.  But as Tom sang “Curse of the Mekons” with his eyes closed and Sally helping him remember the lyrics, I knew that there was no need to quibble.

“Magic, fear, and superstition; this is the Curse of The Mekons.”

In a recent interview, Jon Langford and Sally Timms made the point that all the members of the band do a wide variety of other things, music and art and other things; but that what they do as the Mekons remains their favorite work.  During songs like I Have Been To Heaven And Back, Space In Your Face, and (Sometimes I Feel Like) Fletcher Christian, the band would play together like they were trying to drive away the darkness and doubt, pounding out primal melodies with whatever instruments fell into their hands.  And when the show was nearing the end, as Jon Langford hugged Lu Edmonds warmly, stepped on Sally as she sprawled in front of the drum riser, and kissed Tom on the mouth, I realized they had indeed driven back  the darkness and doubt even if only for a short time.

Also, I scored a loverly limited edition poster, signed by all the band:

And since vacuumslayer asked, this song makes me very happy when I hear it, even if I didn’t hear it at Lincoln Hall:

*(title lyric from Space in Your Face from the new album)

BONUS CRAPPY iPHOTOGRAPHY:

Crowded on stage. L-R: Suzie, Steve Goulding, Rico Bell, Tom, Sally, Jon, Lu.

Tom and Sally singing "Curse Of The Mekons"

Comments
  1. The day did not start auspiciously.

    Said the squirrel.
    ~

  2. (fuck YOU Bouffant)

    SO UNCIVIL.

    Fetch me my feinting trowel.
    ~

  3. vacuumslayer says:

    Oooooooooh, that was loverly! I am just thrilled to pieces for you…that you got to experience that. That’s amazing.

    And the song is very good!

  4. herr doktor bimler says:

    I’ll forgive you know for not live-blogging it.

  5. mikey says:

    Hmm. “Memphis, Egypt” is a pretty good song.

    But here’s where I have to break with your conceit. If they had polished it up and multi-tracked it in the studio, it might have been something awesome.

    Just sayin’….

    • Actually, that was off their A&M debut album, so for the Mekons, it IS polished and multi tracked, as much as they get anyway. I doubt the YouTuber does it justice.

      In any case, I really doubt that higher production values would well serve this band, mikey.

  6. Big Bad Bald Bastard says:

    Nicely done, old chum! The post was a bit of a roller coaster.

    Car broke- bad!
    Going to Chi-town- good!
    Von sick- BAD!!!
    Dinner with band- GOOD!
    Glad to know you were able to end on a high note.

  7. tsam says:

    I’m INCOMPREHENSIBLY JEALOUS

  8. Snag says:

    We’re about due for a show, I think. Unfortunately, there’s not much coming this way in the near future, dig as I might through the concert calendars. I am, however, tentatively planning a weekend in your fair city next fall….

    Thank you for affirming the suckitude of the iPhone camera.

  9. Oi Oi! Thanks for that lad. One day you’ll come to Swinnow and then you’ll experience the splendid taste of the South Side of the river. Adelante!

  10. So what happened to the car? If I had to spend a buncha money on my car about now….
    ~

  11. Talk about uncivil.

    It was overheating. Turns out that there was a leak in the water pump, and one in the radiator.

    So it needed a new radiator.

    And a new water pump.

    And since the water pump is timing belt driven, it needed new belts and timing adjusted. which, of course, also needs all new plugs. Of course.

    Oh, and while we’re at it, there was a broken motor mount. Of course.

    And since the engine was basically broken down to its constituent molecules at this point, coolant flush and fill and oil change.

    Of course.

    I also need to renew my professional liability insurance this month.

  12. mikey says:

    I’ve had some…er…interesting experiences with broken motor mounts. But the tend to lead to airborne motors and horrific destruction. Which is kind of cool.

    The point about your professional liability insurance interests me. What if your job was to wreck stuff? If you were in the business of building demolition, would you have to have insurance in case the building wasn’t destroyed?

    And what would I insure? I lose my temper and sometimes blow stuff up. Oh wait. That’s not considered a profession. That’s considered an illness. But you still should have insurance, right?

    • Actually, mikey, demo contractors don’t really need to insure against non-demolition; after all, if they have a contract to make a building NOT, then they can keep going at the building until it is NOT. It just cuts into their profit.

      No, what they insurance for is against unplanned demolition; wrecking something that shouldn’t have been wrecked.

      Have you ever seen a building brought down through selective explosives? You can’t just blow the bejabbers out of it, and let the rubble fly all over squashing cars and honey badgers in some unfortunate blast radius. They have to just sever the structural elements in very selective patterns, so it all falls straight down.

      My insurance is unlikely to be used for something so catastrophic. It’s called Errors and Omissions, and basically covers the contractor and owner from unreasonable expenses or losses if I fuck up something that requires unplanned costs for code or structural reasons, something that I should reasonable have been able to anticipate. For instance, if I had designed a floor for 50 pounds per square feet when the code requires 100, and nobody noticed until the floors were in place and suddenly we had to install supplemental beams.

      There. Now you should be able to sleep tonight.

  13. There. Now you should be able to sleep tonight.

    There was a LIHTC project I was the underwriter on (for the conversion of the forward to a permanent loan) which had a problem with one of the buildings.

    Basically, they built it the way the drawings said to, but it made a couple of apartments inhabitable (if I recall correctly, it was plumbing issues).

    Anyways, the financing for things like these is so tight that losing a couple of rental apartments out of 84 (or maybe 72, it was usually one or the other) was a big, fat deal…(or pain in the ass, if you were me and everyone else involved).

    Not sure what happened in the end, he jibed.

    ♪♫GUY ON A BUFFALOOOOooooooo♪♫♪♫

    ~

  14. UN-inhabitable.

    ♪♫GUY ON A BUFFALOOOOooooooo♪♫♪♫
    ~

  15. The thing about liking weird music is that you can share a drink with your objects of worship and they often seem to be grateful.

    Glad you had fun.

  16. I was tempted to believe there was a new post with comments on it, but it’s probably because the gooper debate caused me to hallucinate.
    ~

  17. fish says:

    It’s with Jennifer’s new post.

  18. mikey says:

    It’s almost as if someone applied cyber-antipersperant.

    And like magic, Sweat was gone…

  19. Von says:

    ….even more mad that I missed it. Stupid 2011. Stupid illnesses.

  20. First, I have been mia for ages…so let me congratulate the Brew Crew for knocking out my NL West boys, the Dbacks. I am now rooting for them to go all the way, although it ain’t looking good at this point in time.

    Second..I am so glad you got to see AND eat w/your beloved Mekons. It warms the cockles of my lil’ black heart that someone so into music and a specific group at that, got to spend personal time with them.

    Third..wtf? You haven’t posted in ages bro…what the fuck is up w/that?

    Hope things are going ok for you..ya got me worried now, m’dear Zombilicious.

  21. mikey says:

    Walking Dead:

    What the HELL was Sofia thinking running off? That was too stupid. She was scared, she would have done what the authority figure TOLD her to do. At least for a while.

    A hunting accident? Seriously? Fer crissakes, hire a writer and let the monkey smoke cigarettes!

    You’re REALLY going to take everybody’s guns? In what amounts to a combat environment. Hey, no way THAT turns out to be a bad decision. (Note – it would be a REALLY crappy job to try and confiscate the survivors guns – kind of like being Darth Vadar’s head admiral.)

    “I wanna leave”. “I wanna go with you”. “You MUSTN’T leave”. Jesus, people just get off your pimply ass and GO then. What a bunch of indecisive whiners.

    But in general, I enjoyed it. The hacking and stabbing was pretty awesome, and crossbow guy has all his shit in one sock….

    • Von says:

      Did we all NOT know Sophia was going to get lost the second the mom said to stay where she could see her?

      I thought it was pretty good. I almost got sick during the autopsy though. Blech.

    • I confess I was dividing my attention between working on an office plan, the Walking Dead, and watching the Brewers choke. I’ll have to watch it again with more attention, and possible more alcohol.

      But what I thought they were doing is showing how social order disintegrates under extreme pressure. People kill themselves, kids don’t listen to their parents, men jump their best friend’s wives…. and nobody knows what they’re doing, or what the next step SHOULD be. Everybody’s terrified and lost; and I confess that I can relate to that.

      (also: Hunting Accident is a pretty good description of the last couple of Brewer games. With “Hunting” as a noun OR a verb, either way works.)

      • mikey says:

        Yeah. The Brewers season was like a bunch of kids get some beer, steal a jalopy and go joy riding on a hot summer night. It is more fun than you ever imagined, the sweet summer air, the joy and beer singing in your veins, the endless possibilities of the future beginning to look real, the laughter and the camaraderie, and you want this night never to end, and then, finally, in the end, you’re bleeding out in the gutter looking at the smoking ruin of the jalopy lying upside down in a playground, slowly dripping a stream of beer and shattered dreams.

        Yeah. It was like that…

      • herr doktor bimler says:

        kids don’t listen to their parents
        NOOOOOOO!!

  22. mikey says:

    Oh. One more thing.

    Why is it that on teevee people in extreme situations who take a few minutes out, usually in a church, to talk to god ALWAYS start out with “Y’know, I’m not much of a believer”?

    What claptrap. Why – does this supposedly indicate the extreme nature of the crisis, which we pretty much were clear on in the first place? If the dood’s ‘not much of a believer’ he probably wouldn’t bother talking to statues. That takes a significantly less tightly wrapped sort…

  23. “Y’know, I’ve never been much of a believer.

    “But this is some major fuckery. It is either simple, standard issue human fuckery, or you are one right fucking bastard.

    “Now we are supposed to figure out how to survive, on our own, with no help from on-fucking-high. Just like usual. At least I can hope that most of the child-raping priests are dead.”

  24. I’m just saying, in that position I might vent a few Words of Wrath on a dumb statue, just to get them out.

    Definitely not what he said though.

  25. Sorry bout them Brewers dude. Made me sad it did. What made me even sadder was people getting arrested for closin their fucking bank accts in NYC.

  26. You’re taunting us breathers with these hints of a new post, aren’t you?
    ~

  27. mikey says:

    Apparently Zombies are attracted to the numbers four, oh and four…

Go ahead, tell me how I fucked up this time.

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