He Still Jams Econo

Mike Watt: a gentleman and a school bus. Also a tugboat.

Embarrassing but true fact: The first time I saw Mike Watt perform, I had only the vaguest idea of who he was. The year was approximately 1992, and my friends had convinced me to go with them to see a band called fIREHOSE, for whom Watt played bass. I knew the broad outlines of his story – that he had been in the Minutemen, who had come to a tragic end with leader D. Boon’s death in a car crash, and had quit music for some years before being cajoled out of retirement by fIREHOSE singer Ed Crawford – but I did not know at the time that he was an Important Figure. Almost everything about that show has been lost in the mists of time, though I do remember that as an encore they did a cover of the Butthole Surfers’ “Revolution, Pt. 2” – the one that ends with a chant of “Garry Shandling, Garry Shandling” – and that this made me very happy.

Fast-forward to 2011. fIREHOSE broke up not long after I saw them, and in the intervening years Watt has released a number of solo albums, including one (Ball-Hog or Tugboat?) that got a big push from a major label and even some radio play. Every one since then has been increasingly esoteric and low-profile, though not necessarily in a bad way. Watt was never at home in the Long Plastic Hallway.

So last night a group of those same friends and I got our middle-aged butts in gear and made the trek to Bottom of the Hill to see Watt perform his latest opus, Hyphenated-Man, a 30-song, 47-minute autobiographical “punk opera.” There were many travails along the way. We lost one of our number, Mr. X, to unspecified complications before we even got started. When we finally took up our places along the rail at BOTH, it was after 10:00 and there were two opening acts still to go.

This Week in Doublespeak

Every commentator and comic in the world has already jumped on the delicious phrase that emerged last week from the camp of Arizona Senator Jon Kyl. It seems almost unfair to pile on. Kyl is clearly the lesser of Arizona’s senators – which at this point is saying something – and I think maybe comes from a line of less-than-bright people, judging by the fact that his name seems to be missing more than one important letter.

Still…to claim in a very public setting, based on nothing, that abortion is “well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,” when the real number is 3…and then, facing an outcry over the falsehood, to issue a statement saying that

his remark was not intended to be a factual statement

…well, that is just all-time great, up there with “It was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it” or Oliver North’s legendary “It wasn’t entirely false, just false.” Good work, J.K.; well over 90 percent of my hat is off to you.

Judgement Day Blues

A while back my attention was captured by billboards around town declaring that Judgement Day was coming on May 21. And they weren’t announcing a rerelease of Terminator 2; this was an organization called Family Radio declaring, for real and in public, that the end of the world was seriously nigh.

I was curious exactly what it was that was supposed to happen on May 21; maybe it would be something subtle that they could later claim we had failed to notice. But no, they are going big on this one. Family Radio’s web site says that

On May 21, 2011 two events will occur. These events could not be more opposite in nature, the one more wonderful than can be imagined; the other more horrific than can be imagined.

A great earthquake will occur the Bible describes it as “such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.” This earthquake will be so powerful it will throw open all graves. The remains of the all the believers who have ever lived will be instantly transformed into glorified spiritual bodies to be forever with God. On the other hand the bodies of all unsaved people will be thrown out upon the ground to be shamed.

The inhabitants who survive this terrible earthquake will exist in a world of horror and chaos beyond description. Each day people will die until October 21, 2011 when God will completely destroy this earth and its surviving inhabitants.

If that actually happens, I should have a good view of it, seeing as there’s a huge graveyard just down the street from me. But, call me a skeptic, I feel pretty confident that it won’t. What interests me much more is what they’re going to say when May 21 comes and goes and the dead are still in their graves and Jeebus has not appeared. Will they say they miscalculated the date, and maybe offer a new one based on new interpretations? Will they tell us that the power of prayer convinced JHVH to spare us? Or will they just pretend the whole thing never happened? The suspense is killing me.

Music 2010: Notes and Errata

So I am closing the book, finally, on 2010, and moving on to consider what 2011 may bring. But I do have a few final thoughts and corrections:

  • Danger Mouse did not produce the Black Keys’ 2010 release Brothers, as I erroneously stated; he produced their previous album, 2008’s Attack and Release. Incidentally, I recently acquired Brothers, and it is freaking excellent, loaded to the gills with juicy riffs and rhythms. It may end up being my favorite album of 2010 when all is said and done.
  • Bryan Ferry’s Olympia has grown on me with every listen. It’s all swirling eddies on the surface, but there actually is a there there if you take time to look for it.
  • I said that Aloe Blacc’s voice was “sweet with a little grit in the grand lineage of Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, and Bill Withers.” In fact, the more I listen to him, the more he just flat-out sounds like Bill Withers, period. It would be interesting to cross-reference Aloe’s birthday with where Bill was on tour nine months previously…Aloe’s old man might be bummed, though.