I’ve received word from my publicist that you’re wondering what my rock and roll experience was like way back in the 1990s. I’d rather not talk about it.
OK, but just this once. The decade was progressing more or less like most decades, in fits and starts without a strong sense of how to distinguish itself from other decades in the history books, when my acerbic high school principal friend Bob reemerged into the US from Colombia, where he’d been teaching. Bedraggled and looking for work, he nevertheless came armed with word of the band Soul Coughing. I was made to pay heed – probably via a cd he had illegally smuggled through customs undeclared, that sneaky bastard! Which he then ripped so we could listen to it endlessly on our smartphones (which we had purchased on Amazon).
Anyway, I listened to the first album, Ruby Vroom, on my smartphone on and on and on in the early-mid 1990s, while driving and texting, and right around when the second album was coming out, the band played a fundraiser gig at the Middle East Club in Cambridge (that be in MA). The lineup, by order of appearance, was Dan Zanes (of Del Fuegos), the incredible Groovasaurus, now lost to history (but with videos on youtube!), Morphine Jr. (Morphine sans their injured drummer, whom the show was benefitting, but with the legendary Mark Sandman at the helm), and headlined by Soul Coughing, doing a short and spot-on set (with Doughty getting pissed at one or two choice mosh-pit bullies).
I saw Soul Coughing probably 4 or 5 times after that first show, and then they too were gone forever, living on only as a band-that-was, as front man Mike Doughty wanted nothing to do with the music or the bandmates.
Until this winter, when Doughty launched a tour in which he reprised Ruby Vroom, playing it beginning to end with the band Wheatus backing him up. To my great pleasure, he played the music with faithfulness to the original hip groove, even if his band (with little pepper on the drums!) didn’t quite manage to recreate the energy of those early years.
But don’t take my word for it. Check it, from some early iteration of the band, doing Moon Sammy. (As always, I don’t own these videos and can’t count on them sticking around forever, so watch them now).
Have you ever been to a rock show where the front person spent the first ten minutes explaining, in an oddly strummy fashion, how to behave during the concert? Be courteous. Be kind. Be forgiving. And so forth.
And you’re thinking, wait, did I make a wrong turn and end up a spectator in a golf tournament?
You’re still digesting the bacon grenades you ate at Kaiser Tiger a few minutes earlier, thinking to yourself, when the heck is the music going to start? And at the same time, something tells you to let the monologue continue, as you’re not feeling so well post-grenades and a Polish kielbasa sandwich. No one wants to find his fellow rock show patron planting elbows in random eye sockets when he’s feeling ill from too much midwestern pork indulgence. And anyway, elbows in eye sockets are usually delivered courtesy large males, who have been confounding America with their girth and height for years, requiring patriots like you to wear big shoes so you can see the band.
More specifics: Patrick Stickles’ long and relatively boring diatribe to start the set of his band Titus Andronicus fell largely on deaf (large male) ears at The Bottom Lounge, a short walk from where my friends and I had overindulged on Belgian Fries, German Beer and the aforementioned pork products, such that once the band got revved up, the elbows where flying and craniums were getting flung back and forth in total disregard for my personal safety. I kept my distance from the senseless violence, lest I find myself with a case of CTE.
Despite the lecture and subsequent disregard for proper behavior, I would call this one of the best punk rock shows I’ve ever seen. Knowing almost none of the music except what I had crammed in during my long commute from the outer edges of southwestern Boston to Chicago’s West Town neighborhood, I can assure you that it mattered not, as the band’s penchant for loud and boisterous rock made knowledge of the music secondary, if not entirely irrelevant.
The show wasn't without casualties. A fellow to my left, thoroughly meaning to stay out of the mosh pit, caught a roundhouse skull to the nose and left bleeding. Poor guy.
If Mike Doughty had been on stage the music would have ended right then and there, as Doughty means it when he says no slam dancing. But this was no M. Doughty, so despite the nosebleed, Titus Andronicus played on.
You’ve never seen the band Antibalas, but that’s because you’re not managing your rock show life carefully enough. A less generous person might even say that you’re being lazy. Just because you’re in your 50s, it’s a weeknight, and you have two elementary school kids, what, you can’t see a band? Sorry to hear that you’re “tired.” The rest of us are tired as well, but we’re willing to go the extra mile to see a multicultural Afro-beat group with a great vibe and not a little bit of “pay back Africa” attitude.
The way you apparently can’t go to rock shows these days reminds me of how you “can’t ride a bike to work” because you don’t want to arrive at the office sweaty. Hey, I arrive at the office sweaty all the time, and by the looks I get I can tell you that my office colleagues love it! Similarly, I see bands all the time (i.e. 3 times a year), and do you know the kind of Twitter traffic I get?
Let me put it to you this way: I have no idea. Because I don’t tweet. But, as I stated in a previous post, in the future I’m going to tweet the living daylights out of you and everyone else in the world. Kim Jong Trump and I are going to battle for tweeting supremacy, and I’m going to kick their butts.
One thing I learned from the Antibalas show: there are many more of you tired/lazy middle aged guys out there than there are of me and my friend Mark, such that Antibalas didn’t sell out the Paradise Rock Club. If I had to guess (or, rather, since I have to guess), they could have fit another 400 people into the little venue. I’m not complaining; Mark was late and the sparse attendance meant that he could slip right up front to where I was without anyone stressing out, and midway through the show I could make a beer run. Not that I drink beer.
My friend Steve wrote a dissertation (and by that I don’t mean just a long and boring ax-grinding diatribe, but an actual Ph.D. dissertation) in which he observed that racial integration in the workplace existed in the form of jazz and other bands, where there was a long history of blacks and whites working together. Antibalas is an excellent example of that kind of interracial cooperation.
Come to think of it, the racial makeup of Antibalas reminds me a little of the band Defunkt, which I saw a few times back in the day. On the very unlikely chance that you never had a chance to see Defunkt, here they playing a concert in Germany in 1984.
I’m trying to remember how many times I’ve seen the band Spoon, and if my mind isn’t playing tricks on me, it’s about 100 times. OK, more like 7. Although Tim, with whom I’ve seen almost every show, claims to remember about 4, which means he is wrong. What about the Esplanade? What about Northampton?
Not to mention the Roxy, where they sold the place out and yet somehow it remained sparsely crowded. Even Britt Daniel scratched his head about that one, noting aloud, “this is sold out?!” I heard afterward that the owners of the Roxy and the city were in some kind of battle, and the city was punishing the club by seriously curtailing the number of tickets that could be sold. I’m almost certainly misinformed about that, but something was up that limited the gate (not demand.)
Here’s the thing about Spoon: they became popular with Gimme Fiction and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, but my two favorite albums are their first and second. (Agreed, that’s not something about Spoon as much as it is something about me.) And unfortunately, they never play songs from those records anymore. Their second album is called A Series of Sneaks, and I have half a mind (or three quarters or maybe even 19/20ths of a mind) to message Britt Daniel and say, “You should do a few shows where you play A Series of Sneaks from beginning to end.” (In my town).
And he’ll laugh with great gusto!
He wouldn’t even play “Quincy Punk Episode” when I saw them at the House of Blues, despite his having heard me yell out for him to do so. I want to see this performed live before I leave this planet:
Trumpian Tweetage Haiku Continuum
Dems are going nuts!
Isn't it nice when
Countries help rebuild neighbors?
Thanks to Saudi A!
NBC FAKE NEWS
The Harvey Weinstein Story
Look at their license?
Two wins now in doubt.
Dems love Sessions now
Same thing: lyin' James Comey
Saint-like. Really sick.
Russia: "nothing to
do with meddling." Why isn't
Hillary looked at?
The Special Counsel
I’ve done nothing wrong
The phony witch hunt
The soon to be released book
Looks like a big hit
Fake News Media
Together with the witch hunt:
My best poll numbers
Must go nuclear option.
NO MORE DACA DEAL!
We don’t have a wall
Not going to have a country
FUND THE BORDER WALL
Trade Wars are good and
Easy to win. They get cute?
Don't trade; we win big!
Promote the Fake Book
Mentally Deranged Author
Now that collusion
With Russia: a total hoax
Kim Jong Un, I too
Have a nuclear button.
And my button works.
Tax cut/Reform bill
Massive Alaska Drilling
Sanctions on North Korea
World wants Peace, not Death
Women I don't know. FAKE NEWS!
Army Navy Game
He's bad on Crime, Life, Border.
Vets. Guns. VOTE ROY MOORE!
Time Magazine Called
Prob'ly "Person of the Year"
I took a pass. Thanks!
The Christmas Story
Mother, Father, Baby Son
Jesus Christ. Bahrain.
Matt Lauer just fired
When will top executives
Be fired for Fake News?
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