I missed some things, but I’ve also been awfully lucky. If you hang in there long enough, good things can happen in this world. I mean, look at me.
I was excited just to get a chance to see Junior Kimbrough, and later was out of my mind when I booked a show for R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. I wouldn’t have believed you if you’d told me I would actually be backing up R.L. onstage a couple of years later.
Same thing happened with The Penetrators – I’m just a fool who is a fan of the Kings of Basement Rock LP, and next thing you know I’m learning to play Shopping Bag and then I’m onstage backing up Spike and Jack. An honorary Penetrator. I think the juxtaposition of R.L. Burnside and The Penetrators also explains a lot about where I come from, musically speaking.
This has happened every now and then. I’m hoping I get a chance just to see Spencer P. Jones perform, and then I end up doing a couple of shows and hanging out with him. He’s an entertaining guy. Same deal with Billy Childish. I was just a fan of Walter Daniels, now the dude is a friend of mine and he’s even played on my records, and asked me to play on his. He’s even stooped to commenting on my shitty blog – whatta pal!
I’m pretty lucky in that I got to see Danny Gatton for one the few shows when he left his native D.C.-area stomping grounds. That was one of those shows where I bought the expensive ticket and made the long drive when I had the chance, and I’m glad I did. They videotaped the whole thing, but I’ve never seen it turn up anywhere. There was a clip on Youtube for awhile, but then the video got taken down. I’d love to get a copy of that show.
Some of the “rediscovered” acts I’ve gotten a chance to see have really been great. Record nerds have occasionally tracked down the people who recorded those objects of their obsession, and found them still capable of kicking ass and taking names. Thanks to them, some performers got a new lease on life, and I got to see them do what they do.
Andre Williams was a revelation the first time I saw him, in some nowhere bar and backed up by a garage band, the Countdowns, who were just excited to be there. At the time, who knew he was still alive? The Alarm Clocks only had the one single, disappeared for 40 years, then returned sounding like nothing had even happened in the interim. Wanda Jackson still had her voice, and even if you had to politely sit through hearing about how she was saved before she would sing Funnel of Love, it was worth it. Sonny Burgess was good-natured and fun, and still revealed a glimmer of what must have been, back in the day. Ronnie Dawson could still rock, and was probably better at it than when he did those first recordings as a teenager.
I’ve seen a lot of blues acts, some old men who were barely hanging on, some who were still dynamic performers. There were a number of mediocre blues artists touring in the 90’s, and still a few good ones, and I saw as many as possible. I saw stuff like Lonnie Brooks and Jimmy Johnson, who were kind of dull. Perhaps enough time has elapsed for a critical reappraisal of this maligned genre, the white boy blues band. All anybody thinks of now is that scene from Ghost World. While largely accurate, they all weren’t that bad. Little Charlie and the Nightcats, for example, were very good. Nobody was playing Louis Jordan-style jump blues or west coast 1940’s small combo R&B then, and nobody is playing it now. Rick Estrin is a also phenomenal harp player. He took the Sonny Boy wah-wah technique to ridiculous extremes, just like his stage persona, which came across as kind of a Tex Avery cartoon wolf slash used car salesman.
I haven’t seen much heavy metal live, though I kind of wish that I had now that I think about it. I didn’t really appreciate it before. We all have our different priorities, after all. The rhythm section of Celtic Frost once served me bourbon in Zürich. That’s all I’ve got.
When you get into the more modern rock n’ roll era, even if the players aren’t as old as your classic rootsy performers, it can still be a crapshoot. Getting back to the Australians, while I loved both bands, I was always a bigger Saints fan than I was a fan of Radio Birdman. But Radio Birdman was incredible when I saw them on their reunion tour, while the Saints (mostly just Chris Bailey, but that’s how they were billed) were not even a shell of the band that recorded I’m Stranded.
When you see a reunion show, or a band that’s had a long run, and the number of original members is down to one or two, sometimes you have to wonder if it even counts as the same band anymore. Sometimes the later members have been in the band longer than the founding members, but they don’t get the same respect. Other times, there’s just one guy left who’d be better off touring as a solo act instead of trying to capitalize on the name recognition of his old band. Sometimes the newer members breathe life into a live show that might have been dull if it was still all the original dudes up there. Other times, the original group of people has a certain chemistry that can’t be replicated. You can never tell. As Eugene Chadbourne has pointed out, as with all things musical there is no consistency.
When I saw Rose Tattoo in Sydney (again, hey, sometimes I get lucky) there was no Ian Rilen, but it still seemed like Rose Tattoo. When I saw X (the Australian X, there is no other X as far as I’m concerned) there was also no Ian Rilen, but there also wasn’t any Cathy Green, and I start to wonder if it still counts. Well, I got to see Steve Lucas sing T.V. Glue, anyway. I’ve already discussed the foolishness of trying to be snobbish about AC/DC, so no griping about Brian taking over for Bon is allowed. However, while I wouldn’t have sneered at seeing AC/DC with Simon Wright or Chris Slade, I’m glad I got to see them with Phil Rudd. Indeed.
Jon Wayne was perhaps the drunkest show I ever saw. Not me, the performers. Another one of those I’ll-never-get-to-see-them bands, and then I get to see them. It was better than I ever would have imagined. At any given moment, one member of the band was wandering drunkenly across the stage, not playing their instrument. It didn’t matter. The bass player turned around to take a piss, on the back of the stage. Twice. During the same song. I was also amazed by the crowd. I didn’t think anybody knew about the band but me, and I’d only heard them because Eric Oblivian turned me onto them, saying Jon Wanye and The Fall were the twin pillars of the Country Teasers sound. I had picked up a copy of the LP in Madrid, I’d never even come across it in the states. Yet the place was packed with people I’d never seen before, and who knew all the songs. The show ended with Texas Genealogy from the Two Graduated Jiggers CD, a song which hadn’t seemed that great on the record but for a few minutes was absolutely the apex of human civilization.
I’ve been lucky enough to see a few bands not as revival acts or established elder statesmen, but in their heyday. Some of them were up there with anything you could ever see. Teengenerate springs to mind. Among the best, ever. I can’t believe the New Bomb Turks were willing to take the stage after them, but they did. Even held their own. I was never a huge Turks fan but they certainly earned my respect that night. I woulda slinked out the back.
Saw The Cramps multiple times, and I’m glad I did. The first time I saw them, it was on Valentine’s Day, and somebody set a present onstage for Lux. He opened it up, and it was a giant neon pink dildo with an elastic strap. Lux tied it to his forehead when they closed the show with She Said, and was climbing the walls like a dying Cadillac de-model-ee-dee. I was fresh out of the woods at that point, and I’d never even heard of Hazil Adkins before. Quite the introduction. Thanks, Lux.
Tav Falco came through town just a couple of months ago. Good things can still happen in this world.
I’m not one for repeating the same experiences, even if they are positive. My favorite musicians I’ve still only seen a handful of times. Probably the band I’ve seen more than any other in my life is the Oblivians, just because I did a long tour with them. I had already played a few shows with them before that. I don’t know the total, maybe 30-40 shows? Good thing I liked them. Not a bad one to have for your most-seen live band, considering the era into which I was born.
The Oblivians were a perfect band to be stuck watching every night because they were wildly inconsistent, yet still entertaining whether a sloppy mess or tight and together. I found them hilarious and entertaining when falling apart, but if you only saw on one of those nights, you could be forgiven for not getting the full picture. When firing on all cylinders, they were ungodly powerful. I haven’t gone to any of the reunion shows, I figure I might as well leave my spot to somebody who never got the chance.
Never got to see the Devil Dogs. I’m still hoping for a reunion.
The list gets shorter the further you get into the modern era. What band from the 00’s will people be kicking themselves for missing? I’d vote for the Deadly Snakes. They were great live, and their records still sound good. Somebody in Toronto is probably hearing Love Undone for the first time right now and cursing the fact that they were too young to have seen them back in the day.
The Lazy Cowgirls are another one. They had been around for a long time, from the 80’s through the aughts with various lineups, and they toured incessantly. You had plenty of chances to see them, and it was easy to take them for granted. Then suddenly they weren’t around anymore, and the unpretentious style of rock n’ roll they played suddenly isn’t so easy to come by, either. Saw ’em plenty, but I’d love to see the Cowgirls one more time. They’d wipe the floor with the skinny jeans wearing rock n’ roll pretenders we’re infested with today, even in their dotage.
Never saw the Mummies. Damn.
I’ve got to give credit where credit is due, to guys like Max Meehan, Timmy Hefner, and Johnny Sarkis, for booking so many great shows here in Austin. Without Timmy, I never would have seen The Kids. Thanks to Sarkis, I got to see The Upper Crust two more times. And thanks to Max, I got to see the Beasts of Bourbon at Beerland. Thanks.
Getting back to Australian rock and Beerland, which is how this rambling got started in the first place: the Beasts of Bourbon were yet another band I never thought I’d get the chance to see. Hell, I couldn’t even find any Beasts LPs when I was actually in Australia. Then, fortune shines down, and I see them at my favorite bar. Amazing. That was probably the single greatest rock n’ roll show I ever had the privilege to witness. Even if Kim Salmon wasn’t with them anymore.
They were in town for SXSW, and played a couple of different shows before the one at Beerland, all under less than ideal circumstances. One was at 10:30 in the morning (seriously!), and they were good, but clearly the Beasts are not a band who should be playing at 10:30 in the morning. Their “official showcase” was at a horrible bar on 6th street that was usually reserved for jello shots and SRV cover bands, with bad sound and a terrible lineup of bands. By the time that set was over, they were obviously disgusted with their experience at this alleged world-renowned music festival.
Luckily, booker extraordinaire Max Meehan had set up an extra show for them at Beerland, and I kept assuring them that the vibe at Beerland would be better. I really didn’t know the half of it, though. The the crowd, the Beasts performance, the venue – it sounds like hyperbole to say “best show ever” but,
Best. Show. Ever.
Anyway, long story short…
Barring any unforeseen reunion tours, Feedtime is just about the last band I really wanted to see that I never got the chance. Antipodean or otherwise.
Once I’ve seen them, I can retire. I’ll have my memories, and I’ll be rested when the roll is called.
Well… still haven’t seen The Scientists, though.