Words & Images by: L. Paul Mann
Mike Watt & The Missingmen :: 03.10.11 :: Velvet Jones :: Santa Barbara, CA
A strange, humid pall like fog lingered in the air over downtown Santa Barbara this night as iconic jam band Hot Tuna finished their sold out concert at the historic Lobero Theatre (see review here). Meanwhile, further down State Street, at live music hotspot The Velvet Jones, another rock icon was preparing to take the stage. Shortly before midnight, punk rock wizard, Mike Watt, began a late night set with his current group, The Missingmen. Named in tribute to the flagship punk band that Watt helped found, The Minutemen, the trio features Watt on bass, guitarist Tom Watson and bass player Raul Morales. The Minutemen were one of the first successful recording and touring bands to emerge out of the Los Angeles (San Pedro to be exact) punk scene in the early 80s. Their music was classic punk - high speed chords, short intense tracks - but also included elements of jazz and funk. Sadly, the band dissolved after the tragic death of guitarist, D. Boon, in a 1985 car accident. Since then, Watt has played with no less than 15 bands, including his nearly decade long stint as the official bass player for The Stooges. Watt has been the go-to bass player for countless collaborations and studio sessions, including Banyan and Yoko Ono.
|Mike Watt & The Missingmen by L. Paul Mann|
Watts' latest tour, which he began in Santa Barbara, was billed as “52 gigs in 51 days.” The concert featured his new album, Hyphenated-Man (released March 1), in its entirety. According to Watt, the new recording was inspired by listening to old Minutemen classics. Composed of 30 succinct songs, the recording unfolds as a flurry of carefully crafted pieces, having more musically in common with Primus than The Minutemen, not that this is a bad sound to be emulating, especially given Watt’s likely influence on Claypool and co. The songs on Hyphenated-Man have curious names such as “Arrow-Pierced-Egg-Man,” “Belly-Stabbed-Man,” “Boot-Wearing-Fish-Man,” etc, which are Watt’s names for the little creatures in the paintings by Hieronymus Bosch that he has admired since his youth. Combining this with inspiration from The Wizard of Oz and you have Watts' third punk rock opera.
Far from their three chord punk roots, the band played a complex blend of intricate and creative music. The Missingmen did return to the basics for the encore that featured The Minutemen classics' “Anxious Mo-Fo,” “Toadies” and “The Glory of Man.”
In a strange twist to the evening, the first live images of the disastrous Tsunami in Japan began to appear on the television monitors over the bar just as the band began to play. By the time the group was performing their extended encore, a crowd had gathered in front of the bar monitors and Tsunami warnings for the California and Hawaii coasts began to scroll across the screens. It was an eerie Santa Barbara night indeed with Mike Watt and The Missingmen on the first night of their tour.
Continue reading for more pics of Mike Watt in Santa Barbara...