Tom Watson (Left) and Mike Watt (Right) of The Missingmen
A great deal of people have probably already heard about this show in a certain ridiculous encore context. Half way through Mike Watt‘s encore set, Pat Smear of The Germs, Eddie Vedder, and Dave Grohl ran out on stage, recreating a 1995 tour between all four of them. Between playing “Big Train” from Ball-Hog or Tugboat? and a hardly recognizable cover of The Stooges’ “Fun House”, enough buzz was generated to keep the American popular music community entertained for ten whole seconds. However let’s not let that one incident become our entire memory of the show in question, which regardless of all-star reunions was rad to start with. Watt’s punk wizardry has diminished not at all and with the assistance of the spectacular Missingmen, turned the Triple Door into a musical mad house.
(Above) Tom Watson and Raul Morales
The musical formation that joins Watt now existed before his newest “punk opera”, hyphenated-man and it’s subsequent tours. They are the Los Angeles duo The Missingmen, composed of Tom Watson and Raul Morales. As a duo, they’ve been performing together since 2006 and have also toured as band support for Lou Barlow. Both are world class musicians with enough skill to play whatever they damn well please. Then again, you have to be good to hang with Mike Watt. Starting out in 1980 as the bass player for American punk legends The Minutemen, Watt and the band’s drummer George Hurley continued as fIREHOSE after the tragic van accident that took the life of the band’s guitarist, D.Boon. Watt released his seminal solo album Ball Hog or Tugboat? in 1995, which incorporated members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, The Beastie Boys, Soul Asylum, The Lemonheads, and The Screaming Trees. Three punk operas and tons of side projects later, not only is he officially a member of the current incarnation of The Stooges, but he’s still kicking ass in “econo-touring” style.
The main body of the show was a complete run through of the new album, a thirty song roller coaster ride with the longest tune lasting a little over two minutes. The whole performance was infused with the positive, creative energy all three musicians produced. Each member was super responsive to the others, grinned like jack asses, and had absolutely no need for set lists. The only memorable break in between tunes was Watt’s light-hearted description of the Triple Door as “bourgeois”, what with all the tiered seating and expensive food.
I cannot stress enough just how good these musicians are. Mike Watt is known for his inventive style leaps and haphazard bass virtuosity, which was definitely in abundance here. However, Watson and Morales are beasts and should by no means ever be overlooked. Both shift between phrase and mood changes with the exceptional ease that can only come from tons of practice and a masterful understanding of their respective instruments. It’s combinations like this that remind you that “punk” music has masters too that probably feel right at home playing jazz.
The variations of musical ideas in hyphenated-man are not easy to follow. Knowing that Watt wrote the “opera” without any feasible plot continuity doesn’t really help much either. Since the writer has referred to this album as an opera, the listener will continue to expect continuity even after it has been explicitly expressed that there is none. What is left is an intensely colorful, through composed set of punk tunes with inflections of the jazz, funk, and blues variety. There are poignant parts, sugar laden parts, and freak outs. Tying the whole box together is a ribbon of whimsicality. Making the performance even more whimsical was the fact that it took place at the Triple Door, quite possibly the last place anyone would think to look for this music. The contrast was delightful though, giving the impression of watching the weirdest bug ever discovered under a magnifying glass. Then that bug was joined by Dave Grohl, Pat Smear, and Eddie Vedder, kicking enough collective ass to shatter that glass and turn back everyone’s mental clocks by fifteen years.
If you haven’t seen my footage of the aforementioned goons on stage together yet, here it is. If you have, here it is again.