The Very Last Gang In Town

Posted: January 19, 2020 in Body Count, Music nobody listens to

In the documentary “The Future Is Unwritten”, an (extremely young) Joe Strummer tried to get himself renamed Woody in homage to Guthrie, which thankfully nobody really took him up on, which was good, because the name Joe Strummer is now part of the pantheon of legendary songwriters like Guthrie is.

But Gaslight Anthem once wrote a great response/ tribute song (this is going to make sense, trust me):

So tonight, I went to see a show from a wide range of musicians, but anchored by the Mekons stalwarts Jon Langford and Sally Timms. And the whole show was augmented by the great musician John Szymanski, who also plays with Langford on Four Lost Souls (who recorded their ABSOLUTELY AMAZING album Four Lost Souls at Muscle Shoals).  Also joining in for a few songs from that Four Lost Souls album was Bethany Thomas, who ripped the roof off the place.  Discovered that later this year, we would be seeing her appear on a different Milwaukee stage performing Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

Here’s one of the Four Lost Souls songs they played:

I talked about this with my concert buddy, but how it amazes me that all of these masses of music all come together.  Many of my friends express surprise at how much music I love and want to experience.  But music is not a style, it is not a preference.  Music is how we express ourselves.  Like paintings. or sculpture..

But here’s the thing.  In that Gaslight Anthem song, where he sings about “I heard it like a shot from my skull to my brain
I felt my fingertips tingle and it started to rain
When the walls of my bedroom were tremblin’ around me
This ramshackle voice over attack of a blues beat”

And in a similar way, the first time I saw the Mekons did the same thing to me.

And in the early 90’s I took the strong review in the Rolling Stone for a Mekons album, “Rock ‘n’ Roll” inspired me to go see them, probably paid what, 15 bucks? at a local 300 person music club.  And they fucking killed me.  They were SO FUCKING GOOD.  They were sloppy drunks who also were amazingly on point.  They got drunk on stage and took their clothes off.  And they destroyed my brain.  AND they were immortalized by Too Much Joy in one of their songs. And the next time they visited, I told my wife she had to see them.  So we went, but unknown to us they got tossed from their label, without releasing their followup album, and in the middle of their American tour.  So when we saw them, I think they were basically abandoned in the middle of America, and I figure they had pregamed beyond the best amount, and we saw a shambolic, incoherent loss of control by a band that became repellent and they argued more than they played.  We left, and if you know me, that is rare.  So….the next time they came through, on an independent label, I said to myself I says “self, they were so good that first time, I will give them another chance” but I didn’t bring my wife because of how bad they had been the time before.  AND THEY WERE AGAIN SIMPLY AMAZING. I went the next time, and they were even better.  They got better and better every time, and now they are the most consistently amazing band I know.  I went to see them in the middle of fuck-all Wisconsin and I survived a heart attack to get there.

I used to make tapes and  put London Calling on one side, with Rock ‘n’ Roll on the other.

This was a performance from musicians I love and revere.  And they played some of my favorite songs, including “Memphis,Egypt” and “Drunk by Noon”

Opening the night was Milwaukeean and raging protest folk-rocker Deano Schlabowski, who also joins Jon Langford in the country punk outfit The Waco Brothers.  Deano was funny as hell, and he also debuted a theme song inspired by the newly revealed camouflage uniforms of the SPACE FORCE! But he opened with this:

At the end of the show, we spent much time chatting with the musicians, and sharing some absolutely incredible home made brandy sour gummies.  And I am pretty sure I arranged for Deano to play at a party this summer.  And Langford came over to say HI! before I could walk up to him; remembering my name and the last time we talked.  Got pics with him and with Deano.  Spent a LOT of time talking/flirting with Bethany Thomas.

On the merch table, in addition to the typical vinyl and CDs (all of which I already had), Jon Langford had brought along some of his art-prints, on 7″ square plywood.  They were of various artists – Patti Smith, Woody Guthrie, some more bizarre scenes.   He works with nearly-photorealistic portraits, but overlaid onto fatigued and distressed backgrounds. As the T-shirt says, “my favorite color is patina”.  But the one that caught my eye in particular was a portrait of Joe Strummer.  It was gorgeous.

I got another beer and mulled an unanticipated art purchase, discussing with my buddy the likelihood of using my acquaintance with the artist to obtain a discount.  I have a fair number of Langford/Mekons art prints and concert posters already, but only 4 of the plywood treatment, which I bought at an art gallery in town when they had a show that coincided with a Mekons concert. But when I looked again, apparently someone else jumped before I got my nerve up. So it goes.  I was philosophical.  I had just enjoyed a sublime evening of music and humor and friendship and alcoholic gummy candy; what more could I want?

My friend, who was entirely unfamiliar with almost every song played, was still very much impressed – especially with the singing of Bethany Thomas.

So when my friend dropped me at home, and he thanked me for our first show of 2020, I discovered who had purchased the Strummer portrait.  It was a thank you/holiday gift for me.

Of course I’m going to show it to you, and isn’t that gorgeous:

IMG_3372

number 11 of 25.

 

 

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