Well I did try to post a spiel about the Mike Watt show last week (honest!) but that didn’t quite work out.* So here’s one I hastily cobbled together this afternoon.
The show, in a word, was phenomenal. This is the third time I’ve seen Watt play live, but the first to see him do his own thing — and it was something I won’t forget for a while.
Watt introduced the gig as one long ‘trippy’ song, before he and his Secondmen — Raul Morales on drums and Paul Roessler (brother of Black Flag’s Kira, and a former SST-er himself) on Hammond organ — blasted into the maelstrom of his latest ‘opera’, The Secondman’s Middle Stand, playing the whole album straight through with nary a pause.
I wasn’t too familiar with the songs beforehand (the record was only recently released over here) but I think that was a bonus; the songs twisted and turned, trailing Watt’s turbulent times, and I never knew what was coming next.
The band, I must say, were flawless and clam-free. I was near stage right with an unobscured view of Watt and Raul, who were literally a blur of flailing arms and wrangled strings (you can see for yourself from the photos I took; I snapped about 50 altogether but these few are the best).
There was one slight hiccup, when the cable came out of Watt’s row of effects pedals, but a quick ‘hold on!’ and a fumble with the plugs later and they were back as if they’d never missed a beat. This band is tight.
If there was anything about the show I could fault, it was my own doing. I had been in college since 8am that morning, and was lumbering around a heavy bag, so I was pretty worn out by the time Watt and his crew hit the stage at 10:30pm. If anyone there caught me yawning, just for the record, I was tired, not bored.
Throughout the show, Watt was as humble as ever, genuinely appreciative of the packed house sweating in the back of Whelan’s (the show was barely advertised; it’s amazing what word of mouth can do).
This is a man who helped to change the face of alternative music, who was one-third of one of the greatest bands of all time (the Minutemen, if you need to be told), who’s toured the world over 40 times in the last quarter of a century — but who thrives on the love and appreciation of his audience, and never fails to reciprocate. With Watt, there really is no barrier between the music and the listener. It’s hard to fathom until you see him in person, but it’s true: he’s just a man playing his songs.
After the show the band began to pack up their things (no roadies for the Secondmen; they set up and take down their own gear) as John Coltrane’s free-form sax wailed from the PA. Watt happily greeted his fans from the edge of the stage — signing autographs, sharing jokes, even accepting a couple of gifts. I let the crowd dissipate before offering up my hand to thank him for a great performance. Watt leant over and gripped it firmly, three times, for a proper greeting. He noticed I was wearing plaid. “That’s a cool shirt!” he said, with a cheerful grin.
That’s Watt through-and-through, right there.
Now you’d think that would be the end of it. But wait! There’s more! Tonight I’m going to see this:
If you know me at all, you should know that I’m itching with excitement about seeing this movie (trailer). But what’s even more exciting is that I should be interviewing the producer, and hopefully the director, of this very film within the next couple of weeks. How sweet is that? I get to indulge my passions and be a proper journalist type person at the same time! Keep your eyes peeled for further developments next month.
* I forgot to bring earplugs on the night, so I was pretty much deaf for the subsequent two days — the last time that happened was, incidentally, the last time I saw Watt play live. Funny, that.