Thursday, June 21, 2007
So I head south to catch some of my favourite artists of all time, people who have shaped my existence and provided the soundtrack to it. And also to hang out with old, and newer, dear friends. Three shows over four days and several pints of Guinness later I’m back and trying to figure what just happened. Could it have been real? Well let’s try and recap… you guys be Melfi.
Let’s leave the shortcomings of the transport system be and cut straight to Part One, a free show by Alan Vega at The Roundhouse. A place I hadn’t been since I saw The Dictators open for a bunch of hippie bandwagoners in November of 77. Driving into Camden, we went past CSM. The man who has been providing that authoritative “Seven Ages of Bollocks” rock knowledge this past few weeks courtesy of the BBC. No punch up the hooter is forthcoming because, well, what if we couldn’t get in?
It was timely to just walk in as the lights were going down for the inaugural STATION broadcast to begin. With a successful ATP appearance in the bag back in May, anticipation was high. As Alan prowled the stage, Liz conjured up the dense techno demos from the contraption that is part Dr Who prop/part theremin as designed by IBM. The man who does the best “uh huh huh” this side of Sun Elvis was delivering his manifesto. At a couple of points, Alan and Liz’s son Dante also took the stage. It’s a family affair... Somebody handed him a “no smoking” sign during the performance. This was momentarily brandished and despatched even quicker. A special law will have to be passed so that Alan Vega has dispensation to smoke wherever the heck he likes. Don’t these people have any idea who he is?
Sunday is generally considered to be a day of rest and this can take many forms. This one meant meeting Bigor and Viva and hitting a bar called “The Gun”. They’d come from Ljubljana to pay respect to the man who would be playing his first UK show ever the very next day. He’d (always) been here before when the CBS album came out but only for press. Our Slovenian friends were familiar with this part of London. I’d ever been down there before but it’s like another world. A whole new outpost of culture, very little of which felt much like being in England. The music at Café 1001 might have sucked but the vibe was happening. We ended up in a Punjabi restaurant called Tayyabs which was just plain great. Way different to that type of food in this part of the world. If you’re down London way then it’s well worth getting off the beaten path for. I had a ball down there. When I was leaving the underground station to walk from Hammersmith to Chiswick it started to piss with rain but this was one waterproof parade, the ideal night for a wander around the edge of the Thames.
Monday kicked off with meeting Howard at the hotel. He’s been at the coal face of the Suicide phenom since he worked with Bronze Records thirty years ago. Consequently, coincidentally, whatever way you wanna call it, three of the acts he signed back yonder have shows in London over the weekend. Four if you want to include Dean and Britta and factor in Luna. First was Motorhead who kicked off Meltdown on Saturday. Some smart folks had the presence of mind to cut to the AV show straight after. That’s initiative in action right there. H is also responsible for the CBS Roky album that would provide the centrepiece material for the RFH show later that evening. Much as I love “You’re Gonna Miss Me”, it’s no “Bloody Hammer”. Anyway that’s a helluva cv. Maybe none of those acts sold a gazillion records but their influence on all manner of culture is impossible to measure. If there’s a pigeonhole marked “classic rock’n’roll” the I guess you could put the blame on H. Man, it was great to catch up. He showed me a copy of a flyer for the upcoming Suicide wreckrospective that was from 1971, and it mentioned “punk”. Alan and Martin were presented with a Mojo award that evening and there will be a major feature in the magazine, I think in the August issue.
We’re talking pioneers here. People who forged something out of seemingly nothing to touch history. While H and the Frankies were whooping it up at “The Brewery” with Alice Cooper and Ron Asheton (who incidentally LOVES “Cake”) I was living it large at the RFH, the scene of Roky Erickson’s first ever performance on UK soil. Expectations weren’t high. Mainly fuelled by what I consider to be an invasive, mean spirited documentary which was shown the day before the performance. While I take on board Brother Joss’s observations that there were two glimpses of the real Rok in there, the rest is a mess which I consider to be disrespectful. If you’re not familiar with the background then you’re just gonna think it’s more disfunction. But anyways, Clinic opened up (did you see what I did there?) and I lasted a couple of songs. The sound at that point sucked and the band was perfunctory.
Time to go back to the bar and see a few more familiar faces from across the years, man that was a blast! The show itself was pretty overwhelming and I’ve read a couple of very lukewarm reviews that must have been written out on the Terrace bar. They certainly didn’t reflect what I, and everyone else I spoke to, thought. It was very emotional and “Starry Eyes” turned me to mush. To see this bright, beaming character on stage was a revelation. The suspected train wreck never happened and the audience was great. They never sat and looked at their phones and gabbed through the set. When was the last time that happened? Where are these people all the rest of the time?? If this was humankind then I’d go out more. “Creature”, “Bloody Hammer”, “Night of the Vampire”, “Zombie”. I never ever thought I’d see these performed. Roky is my Brian Wilson and “Teo”, the album H brought to CBS is my “Pet Sounds”. The band was great too and they provide a great spiritual ballast to him. The fact that he can do this is an example of the closest thing to a miracle that I’ve ever seen. And it didn’t end there.
Meeting Bill Allerton, (the man behind the fine Stand Out Record Emporium situated on the RH side of 2 Blenheim Crescent in the capital) in the bar afterwards he said he had a spare aftershow pass. And would I like to have it. The gods were smiling on me longer that day than I was ever used to. To be honest, I was wary. A hundred “what if’s” flooded my mind but “what the fuck” pulled rank and I was soon scuttling off backstage. When I got around there it was deserted but a very helpful French lady directed me to the 5th floor where sure enough, there he was. I got to shake his hand and I told him that it would be great if he could come to Scotland. I asked him if he remembered Howard and he said he did. “Say Hi to him for me” he beamed. Now, if you want to believe that story you can but it all seems kinda like a very cool dream to me. When I made it back to the bar I was something of a gibbering wreck (nothing new there then I hear you wags gurn) but this was different. It was like meeting god without playing sabbaf at 78rpm. Young David was next to get the pass and he too met the great man who is so generous with his time. I’ll remember him this way always and hope it’s the first of many. It had been a magical Monday night. I doubt I’ll ever have another like it.
Tuesday and we head to see another old bud. Mike Mastrangelo at Sanctuary Records. During the walk there I spoke to H and he told me that it was Bill Allerton that was instrumental in him meeting Roky's management prior to the CBS period. Things had all gone full circle and I'll have another box of this kinda mysterious ways action. Anyway, I digress, Mike is the archivist there and his most recent release is “Da Blood Done Signed My Name” by The Gun Club. Mike used to run the GC fan club which was sorta based on the LOTC model. He was only wee then and the first time we actually met was when I was covering the Lyceum gig for Sounds some 20+ big ones ago.
So after that it’s a cheeky Guinness on the Chiswick High Road and off to Highbury for a rendez with Messrs Thompson and Thewlis. Our mission to catch Suicide play a tiny club show at The Buffalo Bar as a warm-up to the Grinderman gig the following evening. As a bonus we caught what must be the best soundcheck I ever saw. “Ghost Rider”, “Che” and “Girl” in front of maybe 10 people. Seems like we were blessed. These two guys always were and will always be several leagues ahead of everything. What they do always comes directly from the gut. It seems like the only way. Electronic music can have soul and they mapped and continue to develop the form outside of conventional wisdom. During the actual show which is more of an event than a gig, I managed to burrow almost to the front for “Frankie Teardrop”. The crisp, clear shards of the sound that was evident at the soundcheck was being absorbed by the weave of bodies that formed a solid mass in the tiny venue. It wasn’t comfortable and it wasn’t meant to be.
It was a Saturday to Tuesday that’ll keep them there dreams smouldering for a wee while longer. The music of true originals and the company of damn nice people, that’s something we could all do with a little more of.
Jay Reatard live in Paris, Point Éphémère 16/6/2007
Le Point Ephemre is a great place for shows that used to be the docks, next to the Seine. That was the scene of the Born Badfest with Jay Reatard, backed by the Boston Chinks, the Magnetix & Deche Dans face.
Deche Dans Face (recent album is on Sub Pop) is a duo from Bordeaux composed of Pludwinski (Flytrap) and Dechmman (Soledad Brothers). They opened the evening’s entertainment with a garage punk lo-fi degenerate primitive blues (sort of) show. Some great tunes like “Zuzu (the motherfuckin’ dog)” and the Stones “Little By Little” but also a few boring, too long songs.
Then came another duo, the fantastic Magnetix: Looch Vibrato on guitar / vocals and Aggy Sanora on drums. Close your eyes and you’ll bet that should be at least 5 people on stage to make this much “noise” but it’s all down to an (athletic) guy and a (sexy) girl. All of their songs are catchy, fun, melodic and energetic. Magnetix are the best current French garage band, like a cross between Link Wray and the Gories. They have a bunch of singles and are just about to put out an album on Born Bad records.
Then came a short, brilliant set by the Boston Chinks who have a a great EP out on Goner. They opened for Jay on the other dates of this European tour.
3 out of the 4 BC’s (exit Mr bassman) came back a few seconds later to back Jay who is also the frontman of the Reatards, Lost Sounds and collaborator with countless other acts.
I’ve been a devotee since his Goner debut in 1997. “You Ain’t No Fun No Mo”, made when he was 17 is the wildest song I heard since Mad Mike & The Maniacs “The Hunch” and Ralph Nielsen & The Chancellors “Scream”. In that genre. His solo album “Blood Vision”, with its Dwarves-ish cover is great. The songs / voice / high energy melodies. 4 singles have been released on 4 different labels and these are even better. More Devo oriented which may be the reason why some critics say that it’s new wave. Is “Blockhead” by Devo new wave ? If it is then ok, so I love new wave (but I didn’t know !) It was a short intense set (20 minutes, 10 songs). Jay is a kind of Jonathan Richman, in that, like Jojo, he gives his all. Mere words can’t describe the passion of this guy on stage. There are gigs coming up in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Italy & the Netherlands before they fly home to the USA. Check the schedule…
11:00 -- Johnny Carlevale & His Band Of All-Stars
10:00 -- Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co.
9:00 -- The Wrong Reasons,
And, for your more refined tastes...
THURSDAY, JUNE 28th / OTTO'S SHRUNKEN HEAD / (Our last Otto's show until August 30th!) /538 East 14th Street (just west of Avenue B) in Manhattan / Two big & bawdy shows, from 8:00 sharp 'til 10:00 /No cover! /
Yours truly, Michael,
Susquehanna Industrial Tool & Die Co.
"Ballads, Boogies & Blues"
There's a heap of information coming but it's taking a little longer to get back on the beam than expected. I'll try to assimilate all that as I gather my thoughts about London... got some rather bad news today also about an old compadre that's been somewhat sobering. That's been mulling around since Sandy sent me the link also. In such circumstances, blogging seems like a pretty futile exercise. Anyway, you'll be hearing from me and also Brother Patrick very soon. And now I have to go sort out a birthday present...