Monday, April 16, 2007

In My Tribe

This weekend, I went to not just one, but two shows. The first was on Saturday night, Lucinda Williams, at the Vic.

When Kim and I met, in November of 2004, it was through our Reader "Match" ads. One of the canned questions they had was "What four people would you like to have dinner with." Among mine were former Soviet premier Nikita Kruschev, labor and political activist Lucy Parsons-- and Lucinda Williams.

I'd first become acquainted with Williams' music, like many people, through her breakthrough 1998 album Car Wheels On a Gravel Road, which got a lot of airplay. Her song Can't Let Go really grabbed me-- I refer to it as the "stalker" song. It's a song about someone who can't let go of a former romance. What I loved about it was the humor in it.

That album also had Right In Time, the prettiest ode to onanism that's ever been recorded.

I grew to really like other Lucinda Williams songs. I hadn't known she wrote "Change the Locks," which Tom Petty covered. A particular favorite is "Minneapolis." Minneapolis is my wife's hometown, and I think she knew she was going to marry me the night I played it on the guitar and sang it for her. It turned out, after we met, that she was a big Lucinda Williams fan too.

She and I finally got a chance to see Lucinda Williams on Saturday. Ms. Williams didn't disappoint. She covered a nice range of her material. Her band was great-- although I was a little amused how her guitarist changed songs every single song!

She played a nice mix of old and new. One of the things that struck me, that seems obvious in retrospect, is the spirituality running through her music.

Her opening act was Carrie Rodriguez. She alone was worth the price of the show. She's the daughter of Austin legend David Rodriguez (who now resides in Amsterdam). Her music runs through a few styles-- straight up country, bluegrass, roots, etc. If you get a chance to see her, do so.

In 1968, Iggy Pop (nee James Jewel Osterberg) teamed up with brothers Ron and Scott Asheton and Dave Alexander to form The Stooges. Their first album, simply called The Stooges, has become a stone classic. From the power chord opening of the first track, "1969" ("It's 1969/Another year with nothin' to do...") to the end, it never lets up. It ended up changing music forever.

The Stooges were never able to benefit from it. There were lots of drug and alcohol problems-- particularly Iggy's heroin addiction. They dissolved in 1974.

Over the years, Iggy and the others have cleaned up (except for Dave Alexander, who died in 1975). In 2003, the Stooges reformed. They were in rare form last night.

I've seen Iggy three times-- twice in 1988, and of course last night. He was great all three times, but seeing the reformed Stooges was a religious experience. Mike Watt, of the Minutemen and Firehose, very ably filled in for the late Dave Alexander. I wish they could bottle Scott Asheton's guitar playing. When he hit the "wah-wah" guitar solo in "1969" I lost it.

They played a mix of old and new. For some reason, I've heard, they aren't playing anything from the legendary "Raw Power" album. That was an album that passed through the hands of several producers (including Iggy's friend David Bowie). I've heard it described aptly as "an out-of-control classic." I definitely missed the material from that album last night.

The band was tight and Iggy was his bad ol' self. Early in the show, he invited audience members onstage. It was mostly 20-somethings up there-- showing how long-lasting the Stooges' influence is. The audience was the most age-diverse of any show I've ever seen. From people in their early twenties, to people in their fifties, and possibly sixties-- it was amazing.

Iggy himself turns sixty this Saturday.

I saw a couple of regulars from the restaurant, people I know are in their fifties. And right after we got there, we ran into Pat Miller, a sculptor friend of ours from when we went to Eastern Illinois University in the eighties. I hadn't seen him in about 20 years. I got his email address so that we can stay in touch. Earlier in the day, I'd run into another friend, a guy I'd worked with here in Chicago. I hadn't seen him in ten years. It turns out that we have both worked out at the same fieldhouse gym at Welles Park for years, and somehow never ran into each other.

One old friend was missing, of course, in body, at least. The last time Dan and I had seen Iggy, in the Cabaret Metro, which was right around the corner from our Wrigleyville apartment, our friend and roommate Mark was with us. We felt like he was there last night spiritually. The music of Iggy, the Clash, the Damned, Naked Raygun and many others are part of what bonded me, Dan, Mark and a bunch of others, who found one another because of our shared love of that music.

As I stood in the Congress Theater, rocking out to Iggy, it occurred to me how important punk rock has been in my life. From the political manifestoes of the Clash to the fun of the Stooges, and everything in between, it's helped define my life in a good way. As I stood there, looking around, at people of a forty year age range, men and women of every walk of life and ethnicity, it occurred to me last night, that I was with my tribe.


Tenacious S said...

Johnny, I so wish I could have been at The Stooges show. What a great weekend you had. They are my tribe too and the older I get, the more I realize how much a part of me that the punk rock ethos is. When I found the punk scene I felt I had found home. Still is, always will be.

Mob said...

Sounds like an awesome couple of shows!

Glad it was all worth the wait.

Johnny Yen said...

I hear ya!

They were!

GETkristiLOVE said...

I put Can't Let Go on a mix CD six years ago after I heard her play a studio session at the radio station in Boulder. Same reaction - just grabbed me.