Archive for the ‘Music nobody listens to’ Category

 

M. Ward has not played in Milwaukee since 2008.  Since then, we had much discussion on the bloggerhood, especially when Pinko of the California (at the time) Punkos turned me onto this song:

 

Man I love that song.  Which I find especially lovely because of it’s unusual structure, recursive lyrics, and extended coda.

So when we saw that he would be playing at the gorgeous and fine Pabst Theatre, I got tickets of course I did.

There were two very fine opening bands, a poppish group featuring Jenny Lewis called Nice as Fuck, who wandered down the aisle to their stage in front of the stage to the JEM! theme song, and they performed a great song called “Put Your Guns Away” and the crowd responded enthusiastically, in this post-Orlando week.

Because, boys did we need to have some music.  Last Sunday, after reading the news, we went to Locust Street Days to see The Mosleys and the Whiskeybelles, local awesome musics.  It was a good tonic, but reading the way the NRA, the Republicans, and Donald Trump responded took more.  I mean, after the retching.

I am not sure about the actual name of the second band.  The Pabst listing is:  “Erika Forster from Au Revoir Simone & The Like’s Tennessee Thomas” but I think the band has an actual name, although I did not catch it.  But Ms. Forster alternated between very quiet introspective folk songs, country ballads, and full-on guitar squall freakout worthy of Sonic Youth.  Sometimes in a single goddam song…talk about being  right the hell in my wheelhouse…

So.  Given those songs up above, and especially, M. Ward’s new album More Rain, I was not sure about what the show would sound like.  I thought it might be a very quiet, folky, jazzy night and tell me if you wouldn’t think the same thing.

But M.Ward hit the stage with an instrumental, that got very noisy halfway through. He had Scott McCaughey of the Young Fresh Fellows, the Minus Five, Robyn Hitchcock and REM on bass. I missed the name of the second guitarist, but Ward’s Gibson was front and center and really loud.

He played a lot of really great songs, a couple of covers, a Monsters of Folk tune, and that Chinese Translation song up above….and they were all a fuck of a lot louder than on those albums, which I now consider to be overproduced.  And the instrumental outdo on that song got WAY longer and WAY louder than  on the album , and it made this zombie happy…

M. Ward is a very under-rated guitarist, not the least for being able to tell when to lay back.  But in the live venue, he doesn’t do that, mostly.  Also, I love his songwriting, because it borrows from rock and R&B from everywhere, and puts it together in unconventional ways, with no choruses, or refrains that occur in weird places.  Again, right in my wheelhouse.

He came back a couple of times for encores, and every one of the bands acknowledged the beauty of the historic venue they were playing, and the crowd was super enthusiastic for all of them.  It was a great end to week following a tragedy, and I think the artists believed it and did what they could, which is often just what we need and it is what we kind of need from our artists.  And, in some ways, it was just what we needed.   And My!  Didn’t we have a wonderful time!

Pretty good warmup for Summerfest….

Also, thank you Pinko Punko for turning me on to him…..

That title was kind of a gimme, am I right?

But Sinead O’Connor’s cover of that song revealed what a stellar songwriter Prince Rogers Nelson was.

Look, I am a white suburban kid; my music inputs ranged from hard rock to basic rock to classic rock.  However, once my brain had been opened up by the punk and the new wave, and then my circle of friends was expanded by going to college, I was open to new sounds and ideas…

And the idea of this Prince guy was probably sent into my brain by some stupid rock music article.  But when I had a few extra Ameros, visiting the local Over-sized Supermarket in a poor cow-town college town, they had 2 (TWO!) copies of “1999” and I bought one.  I really wonder who bought the other (although I know the store may have sent it back).  It was a white boy, barf ‘n’ boogie environment, and new wave funk really did not fit in….but in one house, it did. It fit in between REM and the Thompson Twins and Elvis Costello and the B-52s and Boomtown Rats and Wall of Voodoo and U2 and so many others….my musical mind had been blown wide open….

I have been able to see two different shows at First Avenue.  One was an epochal show from Soul Asylum with one of my personal favorites the Figgs opening, and I got ROARING drunk; the other was a tribute to Big Star’s Third album, which featured many Milwaukee musicians and where I got paleo as drunk as I was the previous time,  Both times, I simply reveled in being in a legendary dive….

I moved to Milwaukee. The music scene was blowing up.  Femmes,  R&B Cadets, Jim Liban, EIEIO, Snopek ….and I was going to college.  But I had some connection to a dick that was booking for the college, and he needed to provide some big dudes to hump cases.  We did.  Art of Noise, Bruce Cockburn, Iggy Pop….

But none of that matters.  I spent much time in and around music, local and touring.  Even though I sold my Les Paul to stay in college, I stayed involved, and still go see bands often (the Big Gig is upcoming!) Music has  been a huge part of my life, stretching all the way back to when I bought my first record player.

Prince was great from the first time I ever heard him, playing that copy of “1999” for bemused room-mates.

Prince has created genius-level music.

Prince demolished the ideas of gender.  He performed while wearing feminine clothes, and had lesbians in his band.

Prince demolished the idea of genre.  I defy good friend Zelmo to tell me what pigeonhole Prince belongs in.

Prince did “Starfish and Coffee” on the muppet show.

Prince told a corporate music shitheads to fuck off, by changing his name.  Then he continued to flip them off by performing under a different name….

Prince once offered a song to the Violent Femmes, which they declined as too sexual…

Prince was kind to Paul Westerberg.  Prince intimidated Bob Mould to the point he never worked up the nerve to talk to him.

Prince did  whatever the fuck he wanted, when he wanted to.  He was the most talented person I have seen in my lifetime, and the had, as far as I can tell, the most integrity.

Prince continued to support the local music scene, at every level. in a notable reference, Field Report says he came out to see them play….

I have a FaceHell friend who posted wondering why we spend so much time and effort when famous people die.  But it’s not like a Kardashian, or Reagan;  Prince accomplished much, and hardly ever compromised, and opened up spaces for people to be weird in their own way, to define themselves in their own way.  It isn’t unrelated that at those times, I pierced my ears (3 times), and cut my hair short, and grew it long, and colored it blond and red and wore stupid clothes with red Converse high-tops.  The answer to your question, Peter, is not that we idolize these people (although we might!) but that the things they did moved us and were important to us and they seemed like friends, because like friends, their work supported us and kept us going when times were hard.  Losing them is hard, because now we have to face life without their help, and use our own meager talents to keep up their legacy and their work, and we fear we are not worthy.  And we will miss, painfully miss, all the work they could have done in the future.

I will miss that I never took advantage of the opportunity to see him play.  Friends, go see a band you like right now, because there is no guarantee that you will ever see them again; it’s why I survived a heart attack a year ago so I could see the Mekons play in Mineral Point; there are no damn guarantees.

I DO yammer on, don’t I?  So here is my finale.  I  like Prince and have loved him, and he is much respectable as a musician and artist in every way.  It is perfectly fitting that landmarks around the world were illuminated Purple.

We didn’t deserve him in the first place, and we are so much the poorer for losing him.

Also, and I have linked this elsewhere, but do you want more proof of his genius?

 

 

At the end, he turns and as much as says “that’s all I have to say about THAT” and not having a mic to drop, drops his guitar into the audience.  As I have said many times, looking sadly down at the sausages at the end of my hands….”why can’t  you guys do that?”  He taught himself…

Prince taught me a way to love funk, hip-hop and R&B,  made me love  musicians that are so talented they can cross every genre, and to love people who are genuinely and honestly weird….

You have been a man who changed my life….Imma miss you Prince.  But the rest of us, we’re not through yet….

That’s the best I can do.  Sorry, man….

EDIT.   With the other shit that 2016 is raining down, I just loved the:

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The River was about

the taking of that time

and how we each have a finite amount of it

to do our jobs

to raise our families

to do something good

How the fuck does a SIXTY-SIX YEAR OLD MAN play with that kind of energy for THREE AND A HALF HOURS?

The last time we saw Springsteen, was nearing the end of the Bush Regime, and a lot has happened since then.  This time around, he was celebrating the 35th anniversary of what he called his ‘coming of age’ album.  I bought that album when it came out (amusingly enough, through Columbia House ).  However, that was when I was getting  heavily into metal and punk, and I confess it mostly left me a bit meh….the vinyl ended up in a crate, rarely played for a long time.  Mainly, I recall thinking there were a few good songs, and some serious filler.

Well, I have drastically changed THAT opinion.

Shit.  3 1/2 hours.  THEY JUST KEPT PLAYING….

Of course, the first half of the show, while stellar and amazing and all kinds of zombie, held few surprises.  I did enjoy that they played the first song, Meet Me In The City, with the house lights up so all of us could see all of the other people, and the E Street Band could see us too.

I found myself remembering every damn one of The River songs.  Apparently they made more of an impact all those years ago than I thought.  Particular highlights:  Independence Day, Jackson Cage, Out IN The Street, The River, Point Blank, Cadillac Ranch, Fade Away, Stolen Car, The Price You Pay, Drive All Night, Wreck on the Highway.  Holy pasta, Wreck on the Highway!

One of the things I found most endearing about Springsteen live is how much he craves connection with his audience and fans.  He was constantly – CONSTANTLY!- walking the front of the stage, grasping hands and high giving, laughing with delight at the signs people held.  Adorably, he pulled a woman out of the audience to dance during “Dancing In The Dark” – and she was wearing a shirt that said “I Love Dancing In The Dark”!  He also had a runway that looped around about the halfway point of the floor, and he came out through it four damn times – the first time, he leaned back and had the crowd body-surf him back to the stage.  I am certain several members of the audience got a handful of BossJunk…

Last time, we saw Clarence Clemons play sax.  It was his last tour. He seemed fatigued, and spent much time sitting on a chair.  Tonight, his nephew Jake was playing sax, and spent as much time running around in front as Bruce did.  And during Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, they played a montage of Big Man photos and videos on the screens.  I was a bit surprised to tear up…

In particular, I enjoyed that they ‘took back’ “Because The Night” from that Patti Smith character.  Highlight during this was a BLISTERING spinning guitar solo from Nils Lofgren that melted faces.

I also have to mention that Max Weinberg’s work on a relatively small drum kit (Are you WATCHING, Neil Peart?) was fucking amazing.  it was propulsive and impeccable and he never flagged. The sound drove the band and was consistently deep and resonant.   An amazingly athletic performance.  Thunder Road indeed…

But the final and enduring thing I have taken away from two Springsteen concerts is this:  how much damn JOY the band has in playing these thundering, full-of-life, anthemic music, sharing the joy with as many people as will listen, and they are so thrilled that this is their life, and that 20,000 people will jam into a barn to join in.  Many times, Bruce allowed the crowd to sing the first refrain of a song, grinning  wildly.

During the show, the band members continually danced around each other, sharing microphones, and mugging for each other. They seem to sincerely delight in their work together, and love to work together.  Steve Van Zandt in particular spent some time manipulating Bruce’s face….

Over the course of , what, 33 damn songs?  Many of which got stretched and expanded to cover Springsteen’s time playing with the audience.  3.5 hours, people.

meanwhile, the Republicanuts had their final debate.  How long was it?  2 hours?  Which event do you think added more life and joy and sheer GOOD to the planet?

Over the course of 33 songs, the band drove the audience into the heights of joy; people, many of them old as I am, into dancing and screaming and just having as much fun as they possibly could.  Joy and Thunder and songs about sex and pain and life…with guitar.  Was zombie happy?  You tell me….

There was a time when I would have scoffed at a Springsteen show.  I was young and confused.  I think many people would say that a Springsteen show is a bucket list item; I saw him once before I died and now I’ve seen him after I died.  I can recommend it, especially if you can do it with two of your best friends, like I did.  It’s good for your health to experience loud joy.

Please excuse the lights shooting out of my head
I keep them in a cage but they come out when they see a friend
You must be a friend
You’re never really gonna have control of it all
So you best get cool with your chips are gonna fall
We are the sun
And mother’s milk
And cuss words
And poetry

Hey!  Cuss words is what I’m GOOD at!

And someone tell the devil we don’t need no hell
We’re all pretty good at beating up ourselves

Rory and I went to see the last Cloud Cult show in Milwaukee, at the same location.  They love Turner Hall, and will pass Milwaukee if they can’t play there.

Last night was the admitted more-or-less first night in the tour supporting a new album, The Seeker.  It has a movie that goes with it, with no dialogue.  Craig admitted that this was the first time they had been out on tour in some time without kids.  All part of the unaffected, open attitude of the band; not only do they wear their hearts on their sleeves, they will come out and caress your heart as well.

And they did.  Of course, they played a lot of the new album, which is quieter and more introspective, as I guess is unsurprising in musicians entering middle age.  But one of the things I noticed most of all, is that the band is a true collaborative.

The first time I saw Cloud cult was in a small dive music club, and I did not know any of their music.  At the time, Craig Minowa had recorded all of his music by himself for the most part (especially during the crazy days) and he spent his time surrounded by effects pedals, keyboards and a few percussive things.

And we grew up believing good wins over bad
So you gave away your heart, but the wolves attacked
But then a bigger heart grew back
Please excuse the words coming out of my mouth
I’m a happy man but there’s some things I need to get out
I need to get out

At the time I first saw them, what blew me away is the way they took a simple song, busted down into noise and chaos, and then built it back into a goddam song.  It was beautiful, like Sonic Youth blended with Big Star.

And the last time we saw them, they broke the show down into acoustic and electric sets, and it was pretty much one of the best live shows I have ever seen.  The band makes complex, exultant music that expresses inner life and the joys of living, and makes it loud when it needs to be.  And they get into amazing side-musical notes, that circle around.  Then, everybody on stage plays kettle drums.

Meanwhile, there are two artists on stage who use the music to compel them to create complete paintings during the course of the show (which they then auction off after the show); although sometimes the artists come out to sing or play kettle drums.

The entire spectacle is financed using solar power credits, so a CC tour is carbon neutral.  Craig and Connie (one of the artists, did I mention that she and Craig are adorably in love, even after the tragedy in their life?) moved to Minocqua, Wisconsin not too long ago, where they live as sustainably as possible on a small farm and I feel especially warm about that as Minocqua is where my mother was born.

Craig Minowa sings with a quavery tenor, and plays guitar fiercely.  These days, he has relegated all the other instruments to several other band members, and spends minimal time on the floor, picking guitar processes off a Macbook.  There are keyboards, and horns, and viola and violin, and everybody sings along.  Everybody sings along.

In some ways, it’s hippy-triply, but that’s never what I got from it.  I got the intense explorations of the guy writing the lyrics, looking for explanations for why his young son had to die with no reason. In any case, after that first long-ago show in a dive bar, they became one of my top bands to see live; Good Friend Rory, who has seen THOUSANDS of shows, more than me even, says the last one is in his top ten.

At the end of the night, they played some of my most favorite songs but not nearly ALL of them, and they made mad, improbable series of sounds that tickled my music bone, and I was there with two of my very best friends.  After nearly dying last year, this is another win….

Also, there’s a song that they sing, that has very few lyrics but since The Event, the resonate HARD AS FUCK in me:

I love my mother
I love my father
When it’s my time to go
I need you to know
I love you all

Yep.

Clock strikes 12 and moon dr0ps burst

Clock strikes twelve and moon drops burst
Out at you from their hiding place
Like acid and oil on a madman’s face
His reasons tend to fly away
Like lesser birds on the four winds, yeah
Like silver scrapes in May
Now the sands become a crust
And most of you have gone away (hm, yeah gone away)
Come Susy dear, let’s take a walk
Just out there upon the beach
I know you’ll soon be married
And you want to know where the winds come from
Well it’s never said at all
On the map that Carrie reads
Behind the clock back there you know
At the four winds bar (hm, yeah)
Hey, hey, hey, hey
Four winds at the four winds bar
Two doors locked and windows barred
One door let to take you in
The other one just mirrors it
Hey, hey, yeah! hey, hey
In hellish glare and inference
The other one’s a duplicate
The queenly flux, eternal light
Or the light that never warms
Yes the light, that never, never warms
Yes the light, that never, never warms
Never warms, never warms
The clock strikes twelve and moon drops burst
Out at you from their hiding place
Miss Carrie nurse and Suzy dear
Would find themselves at the four winds bar
It’s the nexus of the crisis
The origin of storms
Just the place to hopelessly
Encounter time and then came me
Hey, hey, hey, hey
Call me Desdenova, eternal light
These gravely digs of mine
Will surely prove a sight
And don’t forget my dog, fixed and consequent

 

 

 

 

 

 

The solos for this song were one of the first thing I ever learned, on a flatbody Les Paul that I eventually decided to sell for tuition.  I figure Buck Dharma hates me for that, and many times I do as well…

Silent Mike has recently chided me for talking about seeing them at Alpine Vally, but I figure it was a triple bill:  Aldo Nova, UFO, and BOC.

In later years, we saw them at Zivko’s Has-been Palace, and they sucked roundly;  but later, I went to see them at Shank Hall, and the were superb; Fully succumbing to what I call the Cheap Trick Measure.  Meaning that they admitted that playing for enthusiastic crowds of any size is way better than working for a living.

I still love this band, and my wife hates them. I still turn them up, and she grimaces.   A star, a star…

Time to post my annual start-of-year punk rock video.  (note to pedants:  as a Mekons fan, I have a pretty loose definition of punk rock, so sit down)

 

Love that song.  Video’s kind of funny, too…

So, this past week saw new music releases from two of my favorite bands.  Shut up and sit the fuck back down and LISTEN, dammit…

PART THE FIRST:  THANK GOD THERE WAS WHISKEY

First off, is a wonderful one-off by a fair number of the Mekons (billed as Mini-Mekons) teamed up with Robbie Fulks, a caustic and sarcastic punk-country musician from Chicago.  The bunch had toured Scotland a few months back, and recorded an album of re-imagined classics, twisted shanty, and a couple of originals including a version of the Mekons’ “Beaten And Broken”.  (Is it a cover if it is being covered by a significant number of the people who originally performed it?)  They recorded it on the island of Jura, so, without any artifice it is called “Jura”.

“The Mekons are so at one with liquor that with one or two notable-and unsayable- exceptions, no amount ever made them any different”

Needless to say, I find it amazing and wonderful and rollicking and just as out-of-left-field as I’ve come to expect from these folks.

I have been a long-time fan of Robbie Fulks since “Let’s Kill Saturday Night” a perfect distillation of blue-collar desperation and anticipation.

The team up of Robbie and the Mekons was inspired, and sending them to a stormswept corner of the globe inspired them.  The album is a superb side-travel for the band that I consider to be my muse, much as I need one.

I recommend that you watch the Making Of video up top, even for those of you who have little tolerance for my Mekons obsession.  It’s funny and has some good music in the background.  And I ALSO recommend you search out the album on all the typical download sources; I did.  I am also planning on purchasing the large black CD at local record store in the next day or two…

PART THE SECOND:  No Country For Old Hens

Rush also released a CD and DVD of their pretty-much-last tour (and after 40 goddam years, do you blame them?  I mean, the Rolling Wheelchairs are pretty much jokes at this point).  We did not have the opportunity to see them this time short of driving to Chicago, and having seen them for the last three or four tours, we passed.

By all accounts, it was pretty great.  But they always have been, from the time I saw them at the Madison Clamshell in ± 1979.  I always must mention that I took (proto) Wife Sublime to see them on the Moving Pictures tour, and it was pretty much her first ever REAL rock concert, lasers and EVERYTHING, and it damaged her enough that she married me.

R40 was a retrospective look back; on stage they started by playing the most recent stuff, and worked back to the oldest, while the stage was altered to reflect the pertinent eras.  Lovely concept, I have to say as a designer.  On the video, the bumpers were hilarious changes to the cartoon personas.

So tonight I was working, while playing the R40 DVD in the semi-background.  But I first noticed something when they played “Roll The Bones” perhaps one of the most-maligned Rush songs because of the semi-rap portions in the middle.  But this time, they had several guest stars lip-syncing the rap lyrics on the big screen up above, including the Trailer Park Boys and Peter Dinklage.  And suddenly, it seemed that being a Rush fan was no longer a bad thing….

I came to realize that this band, that has changed and evolved and tried new things and struggled and always still been friends and colleagues, has been one of the biggest parts of my life. (YES, bigger than the Mekons, sit down asshole).  I watched them play, and enjoying the 150 minutes they played for their fans.

I know there are many people who shit on Rush.  Never understood it myself, but whatever, you know?  These people give me shit, which doesn’t really bother me because when it comes to art, or Art; what you like is yours and yours alone and justification is not necessary.  Many people say “guilty pleasure” but I have no guilt about my pleasures.

And Rush is one of my greatest pleasures, believe me.  I am so glad I have seen them so many times, and so glad I introduced the young woman who became Wife Sublime to them and then introduced Young Zombie as well.

At the end of the day, they are musicians.  The learned their instruments on the fly, while in high school and playing bars that they were  not old enough to drink in.  They loved music, just as we did, and put that into what they did.  They got better.  They had some success.  They got better.  They challenged themselves to stretch; sometimes it was less than successful, but that’s what happens when you work outside your envelope.

Frankly, that is part of what keeps me working.

OK, I am also a bit of a metalhead, so they are heavy enough to bridge the gap to Genesis.  Sheesh.  Shut UP.

But here’s the thing.  While watching this video, I was tearing up.  Because I remembered the shows in the past.  They moved me and you can mock me all you want; it was my emotions and you weren’t there.  And I am, apparently pretty much always cognizant that I may not be here anymore as of ANY DAMN MOMENT.

PART THE THIRD; WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS

It’s not unusual for me to talk about myself through music.  I trust none of you have missed that.

it’s a weird thing to make Imaginary Digital Friends.  After my Event, I found myself curious as to how that would echo down into the Internarfle tubes….I have realized that there are STILL people who have not been informed of the time my heart tried to secede.  But you know what? they are IRL people.

I use my blog and FB to talk about myself.  I have an internet persona, but it’s not too damn hard to penetrate, as I am sure mikey will attest.   But I am not a fake on either side.  When I write, I try to be honest.

Here is where I think the rubber meets the road:

Honesty. 

When I reflect, my most loved artists are the ones who are honestly expressing themselves.  Painters, musicians, architects, crazed performance artists, rappers.  Be honest.  And when they are, I love it.  Hunter Thompson.  Lester Bangs.  The Lampoon.

Rush.  Mekons.  Both have spent all their their lives expressing themselves honestly.  Am I wrong?

 

Hey!  The Republican Stupidity Carnival is a block from my office!

I’d go over there, but there are no branes to be had.  Many helicopters overhead though.

Also, the parking prices are surprisingly low, considering it’s also a Bucks game night, and Wicked is also in town.  I would say you could probably soak those rich fucking right wing asshats a bit more, parking dudes!  Although soaking the Bucks fans seems kind of like kicking them when they’re down…

So, I think an Elvis song is appropriate…

Also, because Gawd and Jeebus will be claimed at every pause tonight, here’s a bit of XTC:

And, just because I went on a Mekons tear recently and still haven’t come down, here’s a favorite song, Orpheus:

here’s the pertinent lyric:

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

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

Whoah, the condensed stupid is leaking out and running down the gutters…

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

IMG_2070

 

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.

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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.

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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 

 

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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.

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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…

Barenaked Ladies dudes, you should know better than to ask for that kind of hassle.

Yes, so we had cold, and fog, and monsoons, and flooding.  And bicycle hazards.

AND you big amusing musical assholes took it all in stride, making it a comedy riff (Brian Ritchie:  Colin Hay: he’s from Scotland, he don’t give a shit about the cold.  Barenaked Ladies,  they’re from Canada, they don’t give a shit about the cold.  Y’all are MILWAUKEE, we KNOW you don’t give  shit about the cold!”

It was great, and it made me change my mind about the Femmes (I guess they need more damn money) and it is also pretty much the pre-season kickoff for the SummerfestBlog, so go there. Because this damn blog is going music anyway:

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