Mike Watt and the Secondmen(Pt.2)

Hammerstein Ballroom--NYC

December 18, 2004

I thought they were good the first time. I was lucky to see them be great as they opened for the Pixies at The Hammerstein Ballroom Saturday night. Because their time on stage was constricted(45 mins), the band couldn't play Watt's nine part jazz/punk opera. This was good, though. The Secondmen gave the crowd a taste of his concept album with its first three songs, and then they went full throttle into three Minutemen songs and the best Dylan cover I've heard.

Watt's new album has its share of punk push, but it's not as straightforward as Minutemen songs. That's not a bad thing, either. His new album is great. Still, when The Secondmen saved the Minutemen songs for the encore at The Parish, it seemed too little too late. It was tiring to walk with Watt through his hell, purgatory, and heaven at The Parish. Afterwards, I didn't have the energy to get into The Minutemen songs. It was a little too much. At The Hammerstein Ballroom, Watt made the Minutemen songs wood on the fire of his new pieces.

I think the crowd knew the first three pieces were good, but they were just as cold as any crowd waiting for the next band. And this was the Pixies' last night on tour, so The Secondmen had an especially high hill to climb. Luckily, Pixies fans had open minds for the band's thrash jazz. Cries for Watt went out from a few people when he and the band hit the stage, and I have a feeling even more knew who he was. Watt said, "Respect to the Pixies" as he plugged in. This could be seen as a way to soften the audience, but he sounded sincere. I imagine Watt doesn't fuck around with respect. He's at a place in his life where he has no more reason to praise people than attack them.

I wasn't surprised by the fiery deliverence of the first three songs. Nobody slaps a bass like Watt. All those people that worship Flea need to check out Watt. He put his whole arm into it so that I was surprised when he didn't come up bloodied, a finger lodged between the strings.

The Secondmen won over the crowd little by little with their obvious passion, energy and will to succeed. Once they got to The Mintemen's "This Ain't No Picnic," I could feel the room perk up. While their level of interest was already rising throughout The Minutemen songs, this lyric's similarity with the Pixies "This Ain't No Holiday" line from "Holiday Song" probably made a few neurons spark.

For some reason, the band picked Dylan's "It's Alright Ma(I'm Only Bleeding)" to peak on. Man, it was one great moment after another as the music stopped so Mazich could deliver the lyrical punchlines. Mazich stood staunch like a man in a fight and threw his arm across the keyboard at the climaxes like the gestures were his life's final communication. He shouted those lyrics like there was no tomorrow. Sure, the band was into the cover at The Parish, but not like this. Both Watt and Mazich were red in the face as they screamed the lyrics back and forth at each other. The best part was that Watt didn't have a mic. He was just into it. I was waiting for The Minutemen's "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing," but maybe later.

The band was an inspiration. They fucking rocked. As Watt unplugged, full of adrenaline, he said, "Start your own band!" And then they left.

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