Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mike Watt and the Missingmen, Jumping Sharks and The Hand @ Neurolux (10/2/12)

In his book Our Band Could Be Your Life (the title of which, incidentally, comes from a song that Mike Watt wrote), Michael Azerrad writes, "The Minutemen of San Pedro, California, were paragons of the subversive idea that you didn't have to be a star to be a success... D. Boon, George Hurley and Watt proved that regular Joes could make great art, a concept that reverberated thoughout indie rock ever after."  This encapsulates nicely why I respect Mike Watt as much as I do.  When you add to that my very fond memories of his two most recent appearances in Boise, you can understand why this show excited me so much.

I counted about thirty people inside when I made it down to the Neurolux.  That number would almost double by the time that Mike Watt took the stage.  A solid enough crowd, sure, but still kinda meager for a guy of this stature (he got recruited to play bass for the Stooges, for God's sake).  Meh, whatever.  Given Watt's "econo" philosophy, I doubt that he dwelled on such matters much if at all.

First up this night was the Hand.  With their Detroit-meets-Seattle sound, this local trio had the right to open for Watt if anyone did.  Scott Schmaljohn sang the always catchy, sometimes downright anthemic tunes in his raw, Cobain-esque shout and cranked out one yowling, shrieking guitar solo after the next.  Dustin Jones's rumbling, booming bass and Andrew Viken's gracefully hard-hitting drums handled hardcore rave-up and jazzy slow-grind with equal assurance.  They sounded twice as good as they did at the Red Room back in May, and they sounded great then.  Definitely a group to watch out for.

After the Hand came Jumping Sharks.  This local quartet's music borrowed from so many different genres (reggae, jazz, funk, metal, country two-step) that it threatened to feel just a bit too miscellaneous at a couple points.  Thankfully, their strong groove helped blend all of the elements together.  Guitarist Zane Norsworthy and keyboardist Mike Swain's inventive soloing suggested that they could've become a pretty good jam band if they'd stretched out a little more often (a beach ball materialized at one point as if to accentuate this idea).  However, Reggie Townley's bass and Ben Wieland's drums kept the songs charging down the tracks and into the station.  This made them appropriate openers for Mike Watt too, I thought.

The sound of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme on the PA system heralded the arrival of Mike Watt and the Missingmen.  The crowd pressed in close as the band plowed through one jerky, goofy, playfully profound jazz-funk-rock song after another.  Watt looked as if he'd put on a few pounds since the first time that I saw him here, but that just gave him a certain old-fart charm and dignity (as did the moment where he tripped and stumbled back a little).  Of course, it helped that his bass-playing sounded as lean, tough and spry as ever.  Singing-wise, nobody could've mistaken him for John Doe, but his rough bellow suited the quirky material perfectly.  Meanwhile, Tom Watson's wiry, fierce guitar and Raul Morales's mercurial drumming backed up the leader every step of the way.  Three for three.  I can't wait to see this group again.

You can find info on these bands on Facebook and elsewhere online.  Special thanks to Eric Gilbert and Radio Boise.

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