After Minutemen guitarist D. Boon tragically died in a car accident, guitarist Ed “fROMOHIO” Crawford joined with Watt and Minutemen drummer George Hurley to form the somewhat underappreciated late-1980s and early-‘90s band fIREHOSE. And since 2003, Watt has been playing bass with punk rock godfathers The Stooges, fronted by Iggy Pop.
Watt recently completed his third “opera,” called Hyphenated-Man, in which he describes a single song with 30 parts, many of which clock in at about a minute. He drew inspiration from listening to Minutemen songs for the first time in about 20 years, this being too painful for so long because of the loss of D. Boon. There is a definite Minutemen vibe to the end result, which Watt wrote this using one of D. Boon’s Fender Telecasters.
The songs 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 liked since his youth. Combining this with inspiration from The Wizard of Oz, namely the interpretation that the movie is about men trying to be what men are supposed to be, and — voila — a punk rock opera.
A few years ago, Watt put together a band called The Missingmen to realize this opera, namely guitarist Tom Watson — recently seen in these parts in the opening band for Sebadoh — and drummer Raul Morales. Almost exactly a year ago, this band played at the Mercury Lounge, a great show which, as it turns out, included nothing from Hyphenated-Man.
Watt and The Missingmen kicked off their 51-shows-in-52-days tour in support of the recently released Hyphenated-Man at Velvet Jones on Thursday night. (Sebadoh also recently kicked off their tour in Santa Barbara — perhaps this is a welcome new trend?) They played the entire Hyphenated-Man album, a great sequence on CD and in concert. Still nursing a knee injury from a Stooges concert, Watt doesn’t move around as much as he normally does, but the energy of the music still comes through loud and clear.
This is no three-chords-and-the-truth punk rock, rather it is intricate, creative and full of contrasting dynamics. And these are great musicians — Watt is one of the great bassists in rock-‘n’-roll, and Watson and Morales really nailed their parts with precision and passion.
The band also dipped into the Minutemen catalog for the encore, playing “Anxious Mo-Fo,” “Toadies” and “The Glory of Man” from the Minutemen masterpiece Double Nickels on the Dime.
Dating back to his days in The Minutemen, Watt travels “econo,” meaning economical to the point of being bare bones. This means loading, unloading and setting up their own gear, and Watt driving their van. It also means that Watt appeals to the audience for a “conk pad,” Watt-speak for a place for the band to sleep after the show.
Expecting this, I warned my wife that I might be coming home with a punk-rock band. Sure enough, that’s what happened.
My lovely wife woke up when we got in about 1:30 a.m. and was somehow inspired to make everyone late-night crepes. When I asked Watt what he wanted in his crepe, he asked for something “off-menu” — jalapenos. Not an obvious choice, in my opinion, but it was good enough that he had another so adorned.
Despite consuming a decent amount of alcohol with their crepes, Watt and the band were up at the crack of dawn and hopped in their van to head to their next gig before most of our non-punk-rocking neighbors were even awake.
One show done, 50 more to go.
— Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.