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Mike Watt & The Missingmen Concert Review

Mike Watt & The Missingmen
June 25th, 2015
Lawrence Arts Center - Lawrence, KS

Mike Watt & The Missingmen with Rat Scabies of The Damned
This shit was looking like it was just a hip-hop blog for a second wasn't it? Don't worry rock-n-rollers, here's your first of many articles.

Last night I had the pleasure of experiencing George Clinton & The Parliament Funkadelic (for my second time) on a bustling, buzzing New Hampshire St. in front of the Lawrence Arts Center. It was a block party like no other. The mothership had touched down, the funk had been given up. But this evening I was treated to a more intimate, rock-flavored evening than the last.

After quickly browsing Love Garden Sounds in my downtime, I ventured inside the Lawrence Arts Center for the first time. Feeling the rush of air conditioning as I entered was an immediate relief from the heat and humidity of a mid-June Kansas day. I stood in a short line and bought some very reasonably-priced popcorn and soda (shouts out to the Free State Festival concession department) and entered the theater. I arrived about half an hour before showtime and got settled in the front row.

At 6:30 the event's MC walked onto the stage and introduced the evening's film: Don't You Wish We Were Dead, a documentary about legendary British punk band The Damned. The movie was well-crafted, fun, and at no point dragged on (the downfall of most documentaries). It really showcased the members' personalities and gave everyone's sides during their quarrels. While I wasn't laughing out loud the whole time like many of the attendees (they were drunk and I'm kind of a bummer), I couldn't help but chuckle after Captain Sensible's story about cleaning a bathroom for work and having to slice a turd in half with a restaurant's cutlery and later returning said cutlery. It also featured many high profile interviews and none were from Dave Grohl or Henry Rollins, a true feat in the 21st century rock-doc biz.

After the movie was over staff members pulled three chairs onto the stage and the Q&A session soon began. The film's director Wes Orshoski was on hand, along with The Damned's original drummer Rat Scabies. The MC semi-awkwardly worked his way through a notepad of questions that were answered by the two. Scabies, while a bit smug, delivered some goofy stories from his time with the band. The audience seemed eager to accept the attitude due to the charm that came along with it. He shut down one question-asker, to more cheers, after they began to ramble on about their lost copy of one of Scabies' albums. The Q&A ended with a joking question about The Damned issuing a credit card (like the Sex Pistols recently have) that left the whole room grinning.

Mr. MC-dude once more graces the stage for a moment before handing the microphone to musician Kliph Scurlock. Kansas native Scurlock was once a member of The Flaming Lips among other bands and was referenced by his introducer as "the best ambassador Lawrence music has." Scurlock read from his phone a long, heartfelt introduction for the night's most special guest, his friend "Brother Watt." Brother Watt of course being Mike Watt, bassist of California punk icons, the Minutemen.

Q&A with Scabies and director Wes Orshoski
Mike Watt brought with him his Missingmen, Tom Watson on guitar and Raul Morales on drums. Mike thanked the crowd for their warm welcome and told them they had been practicing "some old British songs" to prepare for the evening. The band then launched into a full-on The Clash cover set, taking the room by storm. The band dished out "Clash City Rockers", "Career Opportunities", "Safe European Home", and others; a great set of early Clash tunes. You could definitely tell that the band had only learned the songs less than a couple months before-hand, particularly on a couple drum parts that didn't quite match up with the recordings. There was also the emptiness you might expect when you're covering The Clash and have only one guitarist. These setback weren't such a big deal though when you remember that you're witnessing America's greatest political punk lyricist covering England's greatest political punk lyricist (Joe Strummer, c'mon.)

Without much pause after the last Clash song, Watt and the boys jumped into their Minutemen set. I couldn't have thought of a better way to open it up than with the ripping bass intro to "Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs". The set consisted largely of material from "Double Nickels On The Dime" and "What Makes A Man Start Fires", which are arguably their two most popular albums. While not consisting of geniuses George Hurley and the late D. Boon, the band had these songs down-pat and were a thrill to watch. For the first part of the set Watt stood at his microphone singing parts of multiple songs while franticly plucking at his bass. After a bit, he handed over most of the vocal duties while he retreated to stand and play from behind the drum kit for whatever reason.

Watching members of your favorite 80's band play their songs in 2015 can be pretty disheartening. If you look close enough you can often see the dollar signs in their tired, beady eyes. Let me guarantee you though that this is not the case if you are going to see Mike Watt and any of his bands in 2015. And if it is the case, he does a damn good job of hiding it. The man is 57 years old and playing his heart out, shouting lyrics, violently jabbing his finger out to address the audience, and dripping in sweat. He would also make a goofy expression and yell "bass!" before some of his more intricate parts. After the last Minutemen tune he shouts to the audience, "Start your own band! Paint your own picture! Write your own poem, novel!" and exits the stage. A fiercely DIY exit from a fiercely DIY man. Earlier he had been talking about how he still sleeps on friends' couches on tour, truly "jamming econo".

After a couple minutes of break time, the band comes back to the stage with the crowd still on their feet. Rat Scabies then sat down at the drums with them and the crowd saw a truly rare rock moment. Members of The Damned and the Minutemen covered "Fun House" by The Stooges. Watt and Scabies both soloed, the crowd ate it up. As the song ended, Watt again shouted, "start your own band," exited the stage for the final time, and concluded a monumental night for music in Lawrence, Kansas.

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