Thursday, April 10, 2003

Mike Watt at the Pic, April 5, 2003
I can never get comfortable at the Pic. The people who look comfortable at the Pic make me uncomfortable. The place is narrow, there’s seating room for about 12 people (and if you’ve got a seat, then you probably can’t see the stage), you’re always standing in someone’s way, and you can’t find anywhere to hide. At least they give you in/out privileges, which can save your bacon during a three-band bill like Smash and I saw last Saturday night.

First band was Esperanto, who alternated between brief instrumentals and acoustic-guitar-led rap numbers. I liked how their singer just sat off to the side during the instrumentals. The highlight of their set came at the end, when their guitarist led the crowd in a call-and-response rap tribute to the Career of Watt. “I say Minute, you say Men… I say Fire, you say Hose…” et cetera. It was cool, not to mention well-researched.

Next band up was The DT's, a three-piece (drums, guitar, keyboards) plus singer from Bellingham. Very impressive trad-kinda-MC5 rock with wailing female vocals. The keyboards drifted in and out of the mix, but the drummer was extremely killer and the guitarist had impressive chops in both the playing and the facial hair sense. Their effort to “stretch things out a bit” caused their last number to outstay its welcome, but a good showing all in all.

Mike Watt slept out in the van while all this was going on. Smash. Smash, who braved the rain to greet the groggy indie veteran, reports that Watt was pretty slow getting to his feet. Apparently his illness, an illness that’s both sapped his energy and fuelled his new material, has returned, and he was this close to calling off the tour. He certainly looked tired as he pushed through the crowd, got on stage, and unpacked his bass. When the gig started he gave it 100% instrumentally and vocally, but when he talked between songs, he sounded exhausted. He played with a drummer (another good drummer! Just once I’d like to see a drummer who totally sucks. It would make me feel better) and a guy on Hammond organ. Apparently they’re both from Pedro. I’m not sure how to describe the band’s sound…maybe ropey and muscular? The lyrics seemed to deal with assorted medical horrors: piss bags and catheters and so on. The off-kilter music occasionally induced as much discomfort as the subject matter. The songs got more streamlined as the set progressed, until by the end they were tearing through “The Red and the Black” (the BOC song that figures prominently in Watt/D Boon folklore) and “Sister Ray.” It was a good show, but I was left wondering whether Mike Watt can keep this up for much longer.

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