Mike Watt @ Bar Deluxe

Posted May 21, 2009 in

Mike Watt and the Missingmen
Bar Deluxe
with The Jingoes

If the concept of sincerity were to take human form, it would have a hard time being anything other than San Pedro’s Mike Watt.  A onetime member of the Minutemen, fIREHOSE and most recently The Stooges (whose reforming he really should take credit for), Watt has never been able to do anything half way.  He has always played bass with every ounce of his being, and tonight would be no exception.  The multitude of people at Bar Deluxe was a typical cross section of the aged punk’s following—older fans that have followed him since the early days and a younger crowd plugged in well enough to the music scene to know that when Watt comes to town you go and see him.  At this point going to see a Watt show is like paying tribute to a traveling foreign monarch.  I’ve always been intrigued by the number of people who seem to unwittingly do a Watt impersonation at his gigs.  This may seem like a strange observation, but tonight there was a disproportionate amount of guys in attendance with handlebar mustaches and flannel shirts.  This was odd since even Watt shaves these days, and it was far too warm a night to comfortably wear flannel. That being said, it’s tough to criticize a crowd that loves this man so much that they would sacrifice their own facial and textile comfort just to make him feel like a king, and he is a king.  We all know it.

The openers were a recent SLC creation called The Jingoes.  The band includes members of Junta Deville plus a few others like Salt Lake drum strongman (and sometime Air Supply drummer) CJ Burton.  They seemed to have a lot of friends in the audience, and managed to win over just about everyone in the crowd by the end of their set.  The music was refreshingly rock-and-roll, and seemed to speak to themes of politics and social justice.  They didn’t sound anything like what I thought a Watt opener should sound like, their songs were longer and much more defined, but I found myself interested and entertained nonetheless.  To underscore my earlier point though, their bassist/singer Spock had some serious Watt-style facial hair.  I don’t think he grew it out specifically for the show, but a comparison is immediately drawn when you see that big of a mustache on a bassist at a Watt show.

Missingmen Raul Morales and Tom Watson set up right after the opening band.  No sign of Watt.  They kept looking toward the front door.  Watson always looks a little worried, but his pacing on the stage, going back stage and then peering around the curtain and constantly looking at his watch combined to make the moment a little uneasy.  Then he smiles, and here comes Watt.  Walked in the front door with his bass on his back and a garbage bag filled with t-shirts.  He takes the stage, plugs in and gets right to business.  He is clean shaven and a little paunchier than last time (touring with the Stooges has been good to him) but he’s still wearing flannel, has an anchor charm hanging from his necklace and a John Coltrane pin just above his heart.  He has a photo of Ron Asheton on the front of his bass and a D. Boon sticker on the back.  Tributes and memories all around. 

As this tour was meant as a way for the band to rehearse songs for Watt’s third opera Hyphenated-Man (the first two being 1997's Contemplating the Engine Room and 2004's The Secondman's Middle Stand), the Missingmen played a lot of unfamiliar songs.  They’re good songs, though.  They’re also really short.  Watt mentioned recently that this record came into his mind after listening to Minutemen songs while helping out with the We Jam Econo documentary.  Many of the songs tonight reflected the Minutemen sound.  Raul Morales even played a lot like Minutemen drummer George Hurley.  Tom Watson also meshed well with Watt, sounding at times like D. Boon, and constantly giving us reasons to look away from Watt on bass.  There were a few older songs in the mix as well, with the trio doing stuff by The Secondmen, fIREHOSE and even The Minutemen.  They even played “D.'s Car Jam/Anxious Mo-Fo” the opening song from the classic album Double Nickels on the Dime, a song recognized by almost everyone in attendance.  As Watt belted out the lyrics “serious as a heart attack” we all knew that he meant it, and when Watson took careful mind to tread lightly over the delicate Boon guitar part at the end, it was clear that Watt had brought the right guys on tour with him.  After a short encore Watt hawked t-shirts from the stage, signed records (my copy of Double Nickels now sports the dedication “with bass and love”) and let everyone know how happy he was that we had come out to see him.  He was happy to be here, and we were happy. Rightly so.  We were in the presence of a king.

Check out SLUG's interview with Mike Watt from our May 2009 issue here!