Mike Watt and the Secondmen

House of Blues--The Parish

November 09, 2004

Mike Watt almost died after his perineum burst in 2000, and he spent 38 days in a fever. One of the books Watt read while recovering was Dante's "Divine Comedy," and Watt immediately drew connections between Dante's mid-life tale and Watt's illness and personal mid-life worries. So, Watt structured his next album after the "Comedy," mirroring Dante's journey from hell to heaven with his own struggle from sickness to recovery. Watt's third solo album, "The Secondman's Middle Stand," offers nine songs, three each for hell, purgatory, and heaven. You could call it a concept album or a punk opera. Whatever you do, listen to it. It's the best representation of triumph over adversity I've heard on a record.

Bassist/vocalist Watt has been playing the whole album from start to finish on his recent tour with organist Pete Mazich and drummer Raul Morales. Tuesday night at the House of Blues Parish Room was no different. Just as Watt "jams econo" in his van, the band's placement on stage also took up as little room as possible. Morales was in the middle near the front, with Watt a few feet to his right and Mazich to his left. Watt hit the stage dressed in his signature flannel. He had sound problems at first, but once his bass was ready to go, he and the band plundered through the album, stopping a few times for 15 seconds or so between songs. After the last song of the concert, Watt called the album his "weird song," a suggestion people should take the album as a whole.

Watt brought great character to the first three songs with screaming passion and his grizzled snarl. The music moved like a theatrical piece, with strange stops and jazz meters throughout. The boisterous and sky-reaching organ chords definetely added a dramatic and epic feeling to the songs. Morales rolled hard on his floor tom, Mazich weightily attacked his keys, and Watt threw his hand hard at his bass, a mix of plucking and picking. I was very impesssed with the quality of the album's composition. There were definetely repetitive choruses involved, but I gained a new appreciation for Watt's intelligence as a songwriter after I heard the many different ways he could turn a song around.

After the hoplessness and vitriol in "Boilin' Blazes," "Puked to High Heaven," and "Burstedman," the band moved into "Tied a Reed Around My Waist," a slower, sing-songy piece. They rocked again with the humorous but sobering "Pissbags and Tubing." Part of the heaven movement was "Pluckin', Pedalin', and Pedalin'," a happy-go-lucky, strolling song during which Watt was smiling at the audience and dancing a bit. The last song, "Pelicanman," built into a trance-like, calm haze. The band slowly retreated its attack at the end, with Watt lowering his voice to the sound of a quiet room hanging on his words.

The audience filled up half of the room pretty well. The crowd was pretty open-minded of Watt's "song," though I did see a number leave the room. On the other side of that coin were the Watt devotees. One said, "We love you, Watt," of which Watt replied, "I love you right back." That was a cool moment.

Watt thanked everyone possibly involved with the concert, which I can only guess was manners left over from his thin days with The Minutemen. Watt and the band returned for a five-song encore full of Minutemen songs and a true and enjoyable cover of Dylan's "It's Alright Ma(I'm Only Bleeding)" sung by Mazich.

This was a great concert full of moving, challenging music made by a man who seems to be only now hitting his artistic stride. Even if he is middle-aged.

Watt thanked everyone possibly involved with the concert, which I can only guess was manners left over from his thin days with The Minutemen. Watt and the band returned for a five-song encore full of Minutemen songs and a true and enjoyable cover of Dylan's "It's Alright Ma(I'm Only Bleeding)" sung by Mazich.

This was a great concert full of moving, challenging music made by a man who seems to be only now hitting his artistic stride. Even if he is middle-aged.


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