concert reviews

Mike Watt at the Black Cat, Washington, DC, Friday 22 October 2004

Four years ago, former Minutemen bassist Mike Watt contracted an extremely uncomfortable illness of his perineum. His latest album, "The Secondman's Middle Stand," documents his pain and recovery, and on Friday night at the Black Cat, Watt performed the songs in the order in which they appear on the album, turning the experience into a rock opera.

Watt hollered his head off all night, his hand bouncing off the strings in his trademark bass assault as he relived the agony of his illness, from his defiant shouts of "No!" on "Boilin' Blazes" to relearning how to play bass post-malady ("Angels Gate"). But Watt didn't wallow in self-pity, masking his pain behind catchy organ hooks with a bouncy, almost braggart, singalong chorus ("I puked to high heaven!").

Although all three musicians (Watt, drummer Raul Morales and organist Pete Mazich) played at the edge of the stage, their energy seemed to dissipate in the big room, and the already sparse crowd thinned even more during the group's set. But the audience whooped with full force for the group's encore, a quartet of more crowd-pleasing covers, from Dylan's "It's Allright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" to a longtime Watt favorite, Blue Oyster Cult's "The Red and the Black."

When someone in the crowd asked Watt his thoughts on President Bush, Watt responded, "John Fogerty wasn't born on the bayou. Music is about pretending; don't let a pretender tell you how to think." Rather than ranting, Watt launched into the Minutemen's "This Ain't No Picnic."

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 25 October 2004
.: Selected discography: The Secondman's Middle Stand (Mike Watt, 2004).