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September 29, 2004

Pixies at The Greek Theater in Los Angeles, Sept. 22

The most influential band of the last twenty years stepped on a Los Angeles stage at The Greek Theater for the first time in 13 years with little fanfare. Billy Holiday was playing over the PA when the four members of the Pixies strolled on stage with waves and smiles. No words were spoken and before anyone could catch their breath, drummer David Lovering began knocking out the famous intro to “Bone Machine.”

The Pixies don’t move much on stage. Don’t say much either. Here’s a highlight of the their audience interaction: Kim Deal, sporting a new, short do, steps up to the mic and says “It sure is a nice night.” And the crowd goes wild. Deal could read the dictionary with that voice of hers and people would love it. Anyway, not much else was said, except for thank yous and when Black Francis (he wants to be called Frank Black nowadays, but we just can’t) asked his band if they wanted to play “our internet song,’ a reference to the group’s first song since reuniting in March, “Bam Thwok,” which is only available online.

So they may not have the greatest stage presence — but they sound perfect, like they’ve secretly been practicing the 30-plus songs they plowed through for the last 13 years. They played the album gems one would expect, even gave us both the slow “U.K. Surf” version of “Wave of Mutilation,” and the faster one. Joey Santiago attacked his guitar with one of Lovering’s drumsticks during “Vamos,” and they treated us to the b-side lullaby “In Heaven,” and a wonderful cover of Neil Young’s “Winterlong.”

So what if they don't do much on stage.

— By Michael Coyle

Posted by micoyle at 2:52 PM

September 23, 2004

Paul Westerberg Likes to Smoke Cigars - Parts 2 and 1

By Kevin Hillskemper

Let me explain. Part Two is a review of “Folker”, the latest album from Paul Westerberg. As of this writing, I haven’t written it yet. Part One is a review of the two albums and one DVD that he released last year. I wrote it last year but it didn’t get posted. The title that I intended for Part One has nothing to do with Part Two but it really doesn’t matter. Let’s get on with it. Here's Part Two:


Paul Westerberg
Vagrant Records

This is either the fourth or fifth album from the newly embiggened Paul Westerberg. He seems to have come to terms with his status as a cult artist and is comfortable with it. As long as he keeps cranking the literate low-budget rock out of his basement studio, the same people will keep buying it.
I like this one better than the last one or two. The sound and the feel of the songs are more consistent and less ramshackle than before. “Folker” achieves a good balance between funny/sad, quiet/loud, ugly/pretty, and I will stop before get to black/white or good/evil. I will not use any two-bit, wanky words like “dichotomy”.
In short, the funny songs aren’t too goofy and the sad songs are not too depressing. If you are seriously bi-polar, you will have to wait until the next Grandpaboy album.
When I throw around words like “consistent” and “balanced”, I am not using them as euphemisms for “boring” by any means. Maybe he’s just discovered subtlety. Or maybe he’s been using it all along and I haven’t noticed until now.
“Jingle” is goofy. I lied. Sue me. I like it.
“$100 Groom” has a memorable line in “I promise not to leave the room even if I have to vomit” which only proves that I am very simple and easily entertained.
“Folk Star” is the least folky song on the album and I’m sure that was intentional.
For fans of the sensitive side of Paul Westerberg we have “My Dad”, “Lookin’ Up In Heaven”, “23 Years Ago”, and pretty much everything else here.

For those who want to go backwards in time, I suggest
The Replacements
“Sucking Wax”
Lady Butcher Ltd. (bootleg)
This is a compilation of demos, rehearsals, and other rare unreleased goodies from 1980-1986. There are a couple b-sides like “If Only You Were Lonely” that have been released, but are pretty hard to find legitimately. The sound is cruddy in places, but you would expect nothing less.

Part One (from 2003)
Paul Westerberg Likes to Smoke Cigars

“Come Feel Me Tremble” DVD (Redline Entertainment) and CD (Vagrant Records) by Paul Westerberg
“Dead Man Shake” CD by Grampaboy a.k.a. Paul Westerberg (Fat Possum/Epitaph)

I liked the Replacements. So what? A lot of people liked the Replacements. But instead of setting the world on fire like they were supposed to, they just fizzled out in 1991. After that, Paul Westerberg did a few albums, a few tours, and then disappeared. In the past couple of years, however, he has been quietly flooding the market with some pretty good albums and now a feature-length DVD.
“Come Feel Me Tremble”, the DVD, is a non-narrative documentary following his solo mostly-in-store-appearance tour of 2002. It is inter-cut with interviews, performances, backstage rituals, and no-budget homemade videos shot by Westerberg himself. There are over thirty songs, including a bunch of Replacements songs, featured – mostly performed live and taken from audience videotapes. The production values are by no means slick but they really capture the intimate feeling of the performances (I was at the first show in Seattle and it was pretty darn good). Overall, the live footage is great but some of the other stuff, like scenes of him walking along the sidewalk, crossing the street, sulking, creeping through alleys, smoking cigars, mumbling, trying on shoes, flossing his teeth, smoking cigars, fixing a toaster, changing his oil, rescuing kittens, smoking cigars, solving crimes, and organizing his sock drawer drag on along like this sentence.
Did I mention that Paul Westerberg likes to smoke cigars? During the course of this DVD, he smokes approximately 426 cigars, some of them the size of a horse’s leg. He smokes more cigars than Ulysses S. Grant, George Burns, and the Buena Vista Social Club. I realize that it’s his only remaining vice but, cinematically, it’s a distraction.
One technical criticism: The DVD does not have chapter breaks and it’s a lot to take in one sitting.

Now for the Paul Westerberg/Grandpaboy split personality thing,
It’s getting harder to tell where Paul Westerberg ends and Grandpaboy begins. It used to be that Paul was the sensitive singer/songwriter and Grandpaboy did the sloppy, home-brew, funny rock songs. On the 2002 double album “Mono/Stereo”, it was simple Jekyll and Hyde act with Paul doing acoustic and Gramps doing electric (for the most part). It was all recorded mad scientist style in Dr. Westerberg’s basement studio/laboratory. “Mono” was actually released as a single album months before “Mono/Stereo” came out. Confused? It gets worse.
Now it’s seems that Paul Westerberg is the rock guy, Grandpaboy is a blues guy, and they’re even on different labels. But they still both record in the same basement, which is good.
“Come Feel Me Tremble”, the CD, continues along the same lines as “Mono/Stereo”. If you liked that, you’ll like this but maybe not as much. It covers both the sensitive singer/songwriter side (“Soldier of Misfortune”, “Crackle and Drag”) and the sloppy rock side (“Dirty Diesel”, “Hillbilly Junk”). I think he’s onto something here.

I like “Dead Man Shake”, the Grandpaboy CD, better. The songs are more basic and the sloppy lead guitar playing fits a lot better in a blues style suit. Westerberg’s guitar playing has always been more emotional than technical and it’s about time he did something like this.
About one third of the songs on “Dead Man Shake” are covers and they are good ones. “Take Out Some Insurance” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” are done fairly straightforward and are quite effective. The real revelation here is “What Kind of Fool Am I”, which was made famous by Sammy Davis Jr. Instead of trying to fit into Sammy’s tux, Paul/Grandpaboy-or-whoever-the-hell-he-is takes this big overblown lounge classic and re-interprets it as one of the saddest, most depressing, miserable things ever recorded. Of course I mean that in the best possible way.

One more thing: Is it me or does the fold out cover of “Dead Man Shake” look like an homage to “Frampton Comes Alive”?

In conclusion, four cigars for the “Tremble” DVD, three cigars for the “Tremble” CD, and fifteen men on a dead man’s chest for “Dead Man Shake”.

I don’t believe that Freud ever said anything about the phallic symbolism of cigars, but he might have said something about 4x4 monster trucks.

Posted by Big Kev at 8:59 PM

September 18, 2004

Catchin' Up with Watt : Mike Watt That Is

By Michael Coyle

I recently had the chance to sit down with legendary bass player Mike Watt. From his early days with the seminal outfit the Minutemen to the music on his current record, a punk rock opera recounting the details of his recent, almost fatal, stomach ailment, Watt has always been a unique and fascinating master of the low end.

We met at small, one-room Mexican restaurant in San Pedro. There were pictures of lighthouses on the wall and beef tongue on the menu. Watt pulled up in his white Ford Econoline van, aka The Boat. He still jams Econo. He still flies the flannel.

We talked until the tape ran out and the cook turned up the stereo so loud we couldn’t hear each other. Sadly, when I went back to transcribe the interview, I found that nearly three quarters of the first side of the tape were unlistenable. I have no idea what happened, but, as you can see, there was plenty left. Much of what is missing included Watt talking about playing with Iggy and the Stooges, and his preparations for his 53rd tour, in support of The Secondman’s Middle Stand. So we pick up where all good stories start – in the middle of things.

Are you doing anything political, allying with any groups?
Watt: I gave some lyrics away to the People for The American Way to auction off. I gave some lyrics away. Double Nickels On The Dime, all original, handwritten.

The election is coming up; the beauty contest. Of course I’m going to vote. I’m just telling people on tour that they don’t have to vote, because it’s important to have the right not to vote too. But, you know, at least think about it. Think about what’s up. And really, politics is more than every four years. It’s kinda weird how we reduce it down to that. If people paid more attention, maybe we wouldn’t be given these weird choices. Quote unquote choices. Sometimes it seems like it’s just two branches of the bank party.

This is what I tell people, too — it’s really weird, you get on stage, you’ve got the microphone; it’s kind of like you’re playing cop or something — hopefully the country is strong enough to survive whoever is elected. You know what I mean? They’re always throwing the threat on us of outsiders tearing us up, but if you look at history — D. Boone was big into history — the war where we lost the most dudes was the civil war. Any kind of group of human beings can get to that point, nobody’s immune. It’s a weird kind of fever that gets us.

It’s different now too, because it’s a different kind of war. People are always comparing the U.S. to the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire wasn’t conquered by another army, it was gradually overtaken by barbarians, the modern equivalent of which is terrorists.

Watt: Yeah. They kind of lost their center, too. A little bit. They had these games of murdering people and the ruling elite got really closed off and got all corrupt. The barbarians wanted what they had. I don’t know what they wanted, really. I don’t think they knew what they wanted.

They probably wanted something to eat.

Watt: Yeah. The cities that they sacked, they wouldn’t even sleep in. The whole idea of cities to them was kind of trippy. They were people from the east. I think the Romans kind of lost it inside. They were maybe too much hooked to the material things. The barbarians, they wanted material too, it seems, maybe it was food.

The Romans set themselves up, just by going for empire. You look at the Dutch, they’re doing OK, they don’t have to run things. It’s a big burden. There’s the big danger – we have to defend ourselves. But we just made it so there is no competition but now you’re talking about, yeah, unorganized people, like terrorists. How do defend against them. We’re not talking about countries anymore.

[Raymond] Pettibone talks about, ‘What about nuke hand grenades?’ How do you defend against that anyway? Maybe the genie is out of the bottle anyway.

It’s kinda spooky. Pete Townsnd [made] this album called Who Came First, this solo album. [On the cover] he’s got combat boots on and he’s standing on all these eggs. And that’s how it is. We’re so convinced that we’ve got it all together, but really were in the most fascist situation. What’s he gonna do? Jump up and down? He’s gonna break all them eggs. It’s the greatest image, for me, to sum up this world and the hubris, the fucking arrogance that we get going. Maybe not on purpose, sometimes; it’s just near sightedness. It’s shows us what we’re all about.

Which is the purpose of good art.

Watt: At least it can show that we’re alive.

Speaking of being alive, I want to talk about your health and how good it feels to be putting out another record.

Watt: The gap between this record and the last one was actually longer than my entire career as a Minuteman. The gap is so big. Here I come from this tradition with the Minutemen, we were making records every nine months. I had to prove I was alive and I’m going to try and start making albums every year again.

It wasn’t like I wasn’t doing anything between albums. I did 11 tours in that gap, and that sickness. But there’s something about a record. A gig just goes in the air, but a record, it’s creation. In a weird way it’s like a tombstone. It can be there when you are gone. You don’t have to play in there town for people to hear you. So I want to get back into that.

In the early days, me and D. Boone talked about the whole dealy-o. We decided to divide the world into two categories. There was gigs and flyers and everything that wasn’t the gig was a flyer. You made records, you did speils, you took pictures, later on videos. All these things were to get people to the gig. As I’ve gotten a little…less younger, it seems that records have another value, too. People can get to know you musically and maybe they’ll never get a chance to go to the gig. Like D. Boone, his music can live. These kids come up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, the Jackass song.’ They don’t even know it’s the Minutemen. Scotty, the drummer of The Stooges, we were chowing somewhere and it came on the TV. I go, ‘Who’s that Scotty?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know, I hear that song all the time.’ I said, ‘You know that’s The Minutemen?’ He says, “What?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that’s D. Boone.’ And he didn’t even know. So by making a recording, ya know? It’s not the whole dealy-o, but it is some kind of work. Like what we have left of the Romans.

And we look at them as a great society because of what they left behind.

Watt: Works. Yeah. We’ve got some traditions, like they say ‘Roman law,’ and stuff like that, but we got works, too.

What was it that you were diagnosed with?

Watt: Well, it’s called a peroneal cyst. Might have come from riding a bike, like a saddle sore, or an ingrown hair. It should have been lanced, but these clowns kept giving me pills and it just grew and grew, and it became septic. Fucker got huge and blew up. Actually, it blowing up saved my life. I went to the emergency room and it was like ‘Oh my God, there’s a huge hole in me.’ They sent me up to county and they operated on me. First they had to put a bunch of blood in me because I hadn’t been making red cells.

It’s weird, you know, it’s kind of obvious the record is about the sickness, but I wonder sometimes if you could still deal with the thing if you didn’t know that. Sometimes when I hear it, maybe because I’m so close to the sickness, when I hear it, it sounds like middle-aged punk rock.

I could have never made a record like this – for example, I had pneumonia when I was 22. The weekend Darby [Crash] died. I almost died. Had ice between my legs and arms. After I had gotten well of that, I didn’t want to write a song. Here it happens twenty years later – I mean a different thing, but it still almost killed me – and I want to write a whole opera.

This kind of goes along with what you were saying about feeling more important about a record. Do you think that the older you get the more motivated you become to leave something?

Watt: Yeah. You’re right on it. What happens is, when you’re a younger man, you’re resilient, you bounce back. Like that pneumonia, 22, bing-bing-bing, I’m up, back in the game. And it seems like, whoa, I’ve got a lot of time. As you get not as resilient, you feel more mortal. It’s also weird, too. When you’re young, I never thought of middle age. I thought of old, but I never thought of the middle. Now that’s a weird period, right? Then when you are there, in a lot of ways it’s a neat period, because, yeah, you feel blows more than you did as a young man, but you ain’t there with a cane and a wheelchair yet. You also have the advantage of having lived a life, so you have wisdom – well, in my 20’s I knew everything [laughs]. But you don’t have to theorize, you’ve actually got some miles under your belt.
Most people my age, carrying a family with the mortgage, they’re not riding around in The Boat [Watt’s name for his Ford Econoline Van that he tours in]. in a way I have like Peter Pan elements to my life. I mean I’m not a rock star or anything, but I still share this middle age thing. I mean, let’s put it this way. The average thing is for a guy in mid-life to get a divorce, get a 20 year old girlfriend, a convertible. Right? Live like a 20 year old. He’s competing with them so he tries to live like them. But me, because of my strange work, I think I leap-frogged all that and went back to nine because every morning I ride my bicycle, I’m paddling – I mean, I’m no jock, I’m no athlete. But there is something about paddling and riding a bike. It’s like little boy shit. When you just did it to do it.

It’s hard to tell people about that because we kind of, quote, grow out of it. But then why do we like gigs and stuff? There’s gonna always be a play element with humans.

You get older and make all these arrangements and responsibilities. Me, I’ve never had a manager. In a way I’m self-employed, which some people might think is the greatest thing, and I like it. But, you know what? I have to come up with all the ideas. I don’t have a boss to tell me – I know everybody thinks that’s the greatest, but also, you’re under the gun. Like ‘What am I gonna do next?’ I guess some people still have baby sitters and stuff – but not in this boat. So I guess I have a lot more responsibility.

Everything is up to you. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Watt: You see a lot of rock n roll bands, they all go for some kind of day care center. They have a baby sitter. For me, maybe ‘cause I come from old punk, I just want to do stuff that’s kind of crazy. It doesn’t matter if I have a thing to show on Cribs.

But you are on Columbia Records.

Watt: Yeah.

Do they give you a long leash? I mean, do you have to pitch your ideas to the suits?

Watt: The deal I made was, I didn’t take a bunch of money. The contract I made with them was like with SST, I deliver the finished masters. I give them a lot of credit for being open minded. I’m making a song about three guys in a boat. Now I’m making one about a sickness. They’re not the most commercial things. But then I don’t take any tour support. I don’t try to live like the other bands. I come from punk.

I have a lot of respect for them for giving me autonomy. But most of my money comes from touring; playing for people. That’s how I make a living.

It does matter to some people, though. They see a major label and think it’s evil.

Watt: If I want to call you long distance [I would use] AT&T – not too indie of a company. But as long as they don’t jump on the line and tell me what to say, I’m not gonna hang up. Life is about striking bargains. What are your priorities? Do you want to be a rock star and have some guy take you to dinner, stay in some fancy hotel? I konk on people’s floor. It’s what you’re willing to do for your music, your art, your endeavor.

Pettibone, you go to his pad, and his work’s allover the place. He’s not living like some mooch but his work gets into big gallerys. I guarantee you we don’t have magic wands, we’re not tricking any boby. We’re just working our hardest.

I’m lucky, I think, coming from punk, I never wanted to ride on a tour bus and all that. I never wanted to. No. The way I look at Columbia is, they’ve got a lot of different acts. What I can give them is maybe something they don’t have somewhere else, I don’t know. I never wanted to be a Xerox machine, a cookie cutter. There’s prettier guys. I wasn’t really a musician. I got into this stuff to be with my friend. I just loved D. Boone. His mother put me on bass. He’s been gone 19 years and it’s trippy playing without him. When people ask me what kind of bass player are you, I tell them, ‘I’m D. Boone’s bass player.’

I’m trying to learn about music.Thurston [Moore of Sonic Youth] has got a lot of knowledge. The Stooges, Perry, Raymond, all these people I’m trying to learn from. I haven’t got anything by the balls, but I try my hardest. But I can give back a little. I’m taking this young man on tour with us.

Would you ever go back to an indie? Greg Ginn still has SST going on 4th Street.

Watt: Yeah. Of course. I would do records with anybody who respected my artistic control. I spent 11 years at SST and 13 with Columbia and I don’t really know if I could make commercial records, you know? They’ve got plenty of other people doing that. I like the tradition that the Minutemen started. You know some people use punk rock as a way to start and then they wanna grow up and be a big rock n roll band. I kinda liked what we started doing, I never really felt the need to grow out of it. So I’m gonna try my hardest. Gonna jam econo.

Did you have health insurance when you got sick?

Watt: No. That’s very heavy. I just finished paying off my doctor bill. I never regretted paying one penny because they saved my life. And now I do have health insurance. I got it through the musicians union.

Yeah, I had the van, The Boat, insured all this time, but I never was. It costs me about $2200 a year. It’s a lotta bones, but if you go in the hospital for a few days, it’s incredible how much it costs. I mean the County [Hospital] people, they did great work and saved my life, so I never regret it, but man, it took me some years, and lots of work to pay that off.

Last time I spoke with you, you said you were listening to almost nothing but John Coltrane, what are you listening to nowadays?

Watt: I love John Coltrane. I usually wear a John Coltrane button. I ripped my shirt at practice and the button fell off. But, yeah, I love it, it inspires me a lot. I had never heard that as a kid, Pettibone turned me on to that stuff. I actually thought he was playing punk, too. He was just older. It was trippy. I didn’t know what he was playing. I grew up more with Cream, Credence, T Rex. My first gig was T Rex in 1971, in Long Beach. Wow.

I got a radio show that I do once a week when I can. When I’m not touring. It’s called The Watt From Pedro Show, twfps.com. I play a lot of stuff the kids give me after gigs. The only rule is I start every show with a Coltrane song.

Posted by Ms. Jen at 5:15 PM

September 1, 2004

The Kings - Kings of Leon

Have a flashback to the early 1970’s. Picture the band, Queen. Picture tons of rock and roll, long hair, tight pants, etc... Now picture these things more than 30 years later. You have the band, Kings of Leon.

This band likes to keep it young. The age range from 16-23 forms this rock band. The Followills, three brothers and one cousin, grew up always moving around because their father was a United Pentecostal Evangelist. Always on the road in between Oklahoma City and Memphis, the band's music developed into not just any typical 70’s rock and roll sound but into music with its own individual and traveled twist.

The band moved to Nashville a couple of years ago and got signed to New York label, RCA Records. They recently put out their first full-length album titled Youth and Young Manhood, a title snuggly fitting to the band. Young in age but mature in music, these boys put out a very grown up sound on this new record.

Every song is repeatedly worth listening to. Starting from Holy Roller Novocaine to finishing up with Red Morning Light, each song will keep your feet moving. The song, Happy Alone, sums up how I feel when I listen to the album. "I’ll be prancin' around in my high heels, and your cherry red lipstick."

Drawing crowds from all over Europe on their tour last year, the Kings are presently in the studio recording their next album. Before you start thinking about the King's next album, go listen to this one first!

Posted by ashleykiana at 11:52 PM

Country My Ass!

Dale Watson will someday be famous for the following words: That’s County My Ass! And, nobody sings it better than Dale! Along with his band the Lone Stars, Dale tore it up on a recent stop at the Doll Hut in Anaheim during his Southern California tour.

It was a crowded Thursday night at the Doll Hut despite most people having to work the next day. But, by the looks of the “beaming” faces no one seemed to care. The Hut was filled with avid Watson fans that came to see one of their favorite’s play, and the night just kept getting better.

This was my first time seeing Dale perform live since the early 1990’s, long before his return to Austin. At that time, his music had a different flavor, and had not yet evolved to the stature it holds today. I must say I was more impressed than ever, not only can he sing in that rich baritone voice of his, but he has a very charming stage presence as well. He puts on a great show, because it not only takes talent, but charisma to complete the whole package.

During “Exit 109” a huge semi with the words “Stage Coach” painted across it drove slowly down Manchester and past the Hut. I had visions of the driver slowing it up, parking his rig and coming through the doors to see who was playing that fine country music! Breaker, breaker…can you hear this???

Highlights of the night were “Country My Ass”, a tune penned specifically to jab the red hot poker at Nashville and it’s never ending Merry-Go-Round of “everything sounds the same” “pretty boys and girls” of today’s Country Music scene. Like most people, I have a favorite Dale Watson tune: “Money Can’t Buy Her Love” from the tribute album “Every Song I Write Is For You”, dedicated to the loving memory of his late fiancé, Terri Herbert.

Dale has given the public many fine albums over the years, each filled with lessons of life…..a life filled with his own share of personal tragedy, so when he sings of sorrow he knows what he’s talking about, and when he sings of adventure, he also knows what he’s talking about. I can identify with what Dale’s been through in a big way, but life goes on and we go forward.

Hailing from Austin, Texas, a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, he’s probably played every club in town. Both of my cousins moved to Austin recently and I’m due for a visit. You can be sure I’ll catch a show by Dale when I’m in town…wouldn’t miss it! I hope you’ll do the same.

For more information on Dale Watson and the Lone Stars, visit their website at www.dalewatson.com. Dale has a tour schedule listed on the site, so be sure and catch him next time he comes to your area. And, Dale, you be sure not to forget your old pals over here in Southern California next time you hop on the tour wagon. We’ll be waiting for you!

Posted by CindyLu at 9:56 PM