In Concert: MC50 Presents Kick Out the Jams

MC50 at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, Michigan, September 22, 2018.

Brothers and sisters, I wanna see a sea of hands out there … I want everybody to kick up some noise, I wanna hear some revolution … Brothers and sisters, the time has come for each and every one of you to decide whether you are going to be the problem or you are going to be the solution!  You must choose, brothers, you must choose.  It takes five seconds, five seconds of decision, five seconds to realize your purpose here on the planet.  It takes five seconds to realize that its time to move, it’s time to get down with it.  Brothers, it’s time to testify.  And I want to know – are you ready to testify?  Are you ready!!  I give you a testimonial.  THE MC5!!

As Brother J.C. Crawford’s ghostly, prerecorded invocation echoed in our ears, Wayne Kramer welcomed his audience (including me, my older brother, and my friends from high school and college) with a giant grin, a wicked riff from his Stars and Stripes Stratocaster, and the unmistakable, hyped-up grind of “Ramblin Rose.”  Surfing a bone-shaking wave of sound, Kramer joyously belted out a raucous vocal, reeling off exhilarating solo licks on the Strat between verses.  Almost 50 years after Detroit’s original punks recorded their live debut album Kick Out the Jams, the evening already promised to live up to the MC5’s formidable legend.

“Kick Out the Jams” itself quickly followed, with Zen Guerrilla’s Marcus Durant taking over on vocals, channeling MC5 singer Rob Tyner’s throaty, soulful delivery, stoking us up to dance and shout along.  On this and “Come Together”, Kramer locked in with Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil for a meaty twin guitar punch a la Fred “Sonic” Smith; meanwhile, Faith No More bassist Billy Gould and Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty laid down deep irresistible grooves, vibrating human bodies and rattling the concrete floor.  This was hard rock honed to a keen point —  recklessly idealistic, the barbaric yawp of youth refined by decades of hard knocks, dearly bought wisdom, revived dedication to craft and killer instinct.  Plus the obvious determination to give the crowd a good time.

 

 

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soundstreamsunday #113: “Violence” by Parquet Courts

ParquetCourts_AndrewSavage_Kuti“Violence” erupts from Parquet Courts’ Wide Awaaaaake! (2018) in a riot of barbed slogans, proclaiming and exclaiming over everything from the “blazer of the Trail of Tears” to prison TV shows, against a dark drums’n’organ funk.  The band have drawn comparisons across their productive years to Pavement, Beastie Boys, the hyper-literate NY punk cognoscenti, but here it’s all about Fela Kuti, whose rage for justice could be so perfectly captured and balanced by song.  This has potential for ruin, but any clutter occasioned by the band’s first-world-problems environment — hipster Brooklyn, studied post-modern-punk hothouse — is swept aside by passion and presentation from the wordy, rappy, throaty first verse as it bleeds into chorus:

violencelyrics

It’s a powerful gut punch, coming off an album where the band varies tempos and styles enough to keep the hot sonic onslaught interesting instead of just relentless, a party rock record by a group going out on groovy African limbs, a get-down politics album (in the grand tradition).  Nothing here not to love — shake your butt, pump your fist.

*Image: Parquet Courts singer/guitarist Andrew Savage considers Kuti, from “Bands Buy Records – Parquet Courts”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqZTK_NneOA.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week (although…sometimes we miss one or two here and there), and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

MC50: Kick Out the Jams – The 50th Anniversary Tour

From Shorefire Media:

Wayne Kramer, leader of Detroit’s proto-punk/hard rock band MC5, announces 35 North American dates for “Kick Out the Jams: The 50th Anniversary Tour.” Touring with the MC50 — which includes guitarist Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), drummer Brendan Canty (Fugazi), bassist Dug Pinnick (King’s X), and frontman Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla) — Kramer will be celebrating the landmark anniversary of the MC5’s incendiary debut album Kick Out the Jams and the release of his memoir The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5, and My Life of Impossibilities, to be published August 14 by Da Capo Press.

The North American tour begins in early September, after several European summer festivals, and culminates with an October 27th concert back where it all began: in Detroit in 1968, where Kick Out the Jams — recently cited by Pitchfork as one of the 50 best albums of the 1960s—was recorded live in front of a raucous home town audience at the Grande Ballroom on Halloween night. On the MC50 tour, Kramer and the band will play the album Kick Out the Jams in its entirety followed by an encore of MC5 material that will change each night …

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1969: A Blast from the Past

“Well it’s 1969 OK all across the USA
It’s another year for me and you
                                      Another year with nothing to do”  — 1969, The Stooges

I was 7 going on 8 in 1969.  But my brother was ten years older — and Detroit was a prime location to explore rock as it turned psychedelic, then progressive, still with plenty of punk attitude.  Our cousin from Lansing was about the same age as my brother — so they did a fair amount of concertgoing together.

The other day, out of the blue I got a letter from our cousin, reproduced below with my random thoughts interspersed:

Dear Cousin Rick,

I’m sending along a copy of the program from the festival I attended in the south of England summer of 1969.  I thought you might it interesting.

plumpton festival program(Hmmm … The 9th National Jazz and Blues Festival.  Waitaminute: Pink Floyd?  King Crimson?  Peter Hammill performing solo before the first Van Der Graaf Generator album? Yes?  The Who?  Keith Emerson with The Nice?  Not to mention Soft Machine and Pentangle?  And he was there? Doggone straight I find it interesting.  Please continue, cousin!)

I’d seen both The Who and The Nice at the Grande Ballroom in the spring before.  The Who played the entire Tommy opera both times.  The Nice as I remember had some kind of revolving organ at the Grande.  At the Plumpton fest they closed the show on Sunday backed by a large orchestra.  At the final song the stage opened and a regiment of bagpipers marched off the stage and into the crowd.  Those were heady times.

isle of wight 1969There’s also a copy of the Isle of Wight festival flier which I missed as it was the weekend which we were heading home.  Such fond memories.

(Bob Dylan & The Band?  The Moody Blues?  More from King Crimson, The Who and Pentangle?  Stop torturing me, cousin!!!  Actually, no — please continue as I wrestle with envy and wish Doctor Who’s TARDIS was real.)

The day we arrived in London the Rolling Stones played in Hyde Park celebrating the life of Brian Jones who had just passed.  Couldn’t quite get there but almost.  (Another King Crimson show!!)

I’d like to hear more about your music blogging/reviews.    P.S.  We didn’t arrive at the fest until Saturday so we missed all the Friday acts.  Booo!

Fortunately, the sounds of the Plumpton Festival aren’t completely lost in the mists of time; I plan to direct my cousin to Soft Machine’s and Pink Floyd’s sets online, and send him a copy of King Crimson’s set.

detroit rr revival 1969And talking with my brother later, I heard the story of how he and my cousin somehow got permission to go to the 1969 Detroit Rock’n’Roll Revival (with the MC5, Chuck Berry, Dr. John, The “Psychedelic” Stooges and many more acts) the night before my sister’s wedding.  Maybe I should rethink missing Yes’ 50th Anniversary Tour when it hits Grand Rapids.  Not to mention Wayne Kramer’s MC50 Kick Out the Jams 50th Anniversary Tour and Soft Machine’s world tour coming to Progtoberfest IV

— Rick Krueger

soundstreamsunday: “Ghost Rider” by Suicide

suicideIt’s not until it works its witnesses into a state of ecstatic frenzy, as if reading a preacher-inflected text so self-aware it reaches ascendancy, that New York rock satisfies itself and its audiences.  It’s a city of distillations and self-regard, and so in its great contribution to rock and roll, New York puked up a revival so dazzling in its love for rock’s foundations it sometimes barely reads as the punk it became known as (or maybe a common idea of punk): there is no rejection, it is all embrace.

Suicide played rock and roll, and even as they coined the term “punk” — or at least early-adopted it from Lester Bangs to describe what they were doing — in their world that meant you visited the monuments and tore them down to find what was left in substance, not shadow.  It was an intentional act of art, constraint-driven, that Martin Rev and Alan Vega followed in the rock they made.  And they made it howl.

The pulsing drone riff of “Ghost Rider” leads Suicide (1977), the culmination of seven years of paring and refining and filtering the pure rock spirit.  That Suicide did this as a duo with synth and drum machine was revolutionary to the point of riot-inducing, and to this day sounds outside a point in time.  Suicide denied time, even to the degree that Vega claimed he was far younger than his 39 years.  It was no nostalgia trip, Suicide’s rock and roll, even though that trip hung heavy in the air: this same year the retro band Sha Na Na debuted on TV, though they too had been around for a while, hocking the schlock of 50s rock, that shadow that Suicide made it their business to avoid.  Both were needed but only one was important.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section.

soundstreamsunday: “Isolation” by Joy Division

ian-curtis- joy-division-wendy-winder-obskur-magazineMusic critics tend to dismiss Joy Division’s posthumous Still as a hit-and-miss collection of studio scraps paired with a lackluster recording of their last show.  And in a specific context — compared to the brilliant Unknown Pleasures and Closer, it seems a bit of a rush job with less-than-pure motivations — this holds some weight, although I’d argue as its own thing Still may be more representative of the band as a whole, and that the live half of the double album contains fiery performances wildly joining hard rock, punk, and synth-y goth music.  My first exposure to Joy Division, over thirty years ago now, was hearing “Shadowplay” from Still, and it gave me the metal thunder frights.  It sounded as if Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner, Ian Curtis, and Stephen Morris channeled the essence of Fleetwood Mac’s “Green Manalishi” through a punk filter, as they sped to the center of the city in the night.  Even as they rode their wave of goth punk popularity their songs betrayed the band’s primary strength: their music was as much about making connections as alienation, masked and revealed in turns by Curtis’s not-waving-but-drowning lyrics and delivery.

When Curtis made good on the promise of his lyrics a few days after the show, the band pivoted into New Order and went on to define electronic dance music in the 1980s.  It’s a remarkable story of artistic continuity in the wake of tragic change, but the strength of the group’s trajectory even before Curtis’s death can be found on Still and on “Isolation” in particular.  Stripped of producer Martin Hannett’s carnivalesque studio tweaks, the song’s live incarnation has a punch lacking on Closer, with Sumner’s keyboards threatening to submerge Curtis’s plaintive singing, and Hook’s and Morris’s stripped bass-and-beat backbone out-crafting Kraftwerk.  The big guitars so much a part of their origins were yielding to distilled, synth-led rhythmic and melodic lines.  While “Isolation” would sit comfortably next to its future cousin, the New Order calling card “Blue Monday,” it remains a place of passage rather than a destination, a liminal space aglow with potential.

soundstreamsunday presents one song or live set by an artist each week, and in theory wants to be an infinite linear mix tape where the songs relate and progress as a whole. For the complete playlist, go here: soundstreamsunday archive and playlist, or check related articles by clicking on”soundstreamsunday” in the tags section above.

Left Hand Path

“This is so hardcore”, responded one of my colleagues at work. At that time, ‘Left Hand Path’ CD was running in my Jeep stereo. So, along with the engine, ignition turned on some Swedish death metal also. My usual reflex is to adeptly switch the channel, but he insisted on listening. Perception is really an evolutionary product; going headlong into the margins of a genre might just inspire bewilderment, not fascination. So, without that musical context, he was also quite puzzled about the incoherent riffs and that defiant buzz saw guitar sound.

 

Early death metal is a blend of punk like structures with melodic guitar. But, 90s Swedish scene exhibits significantly more punk influences. Someone evolving from hardcore punk to metal would certainly find Entombed and Dismember more familiar than Obituary. One of the main hurdles to grasping Entombed is also that punk like dissonance. It’s that same dissonance which separates Slayer from Metallica, and also Motörhead from Judas Priest.

Pitch and tempo progressions will sound chaotic; it sort of contradicts our mental conception of melody. These compositions will simply not progress in those familiar comforting directions. 80s crossover thrash also seems to be a part of this whole cross-pollination. They illustrate similar blast beat and riff patterns, but with significantly less speed and distortion. In fact, last month D.R.I played at SF, and it was difficult to ignore the striking similarity across these seemingly different genres.

Entombed’s first two records are absolute death metal classics. Especially ‘Left Hand Path’, an unrelenting train of melodic guitar hooks, heavy down tuned riffs, exploding drums and deep growls. Even the leads are down tuned and always layered with grinding riffs. But, in between endless growls and distant echoing screams — almost like an accident – we have a full total of two seconds of desperate clean vocals. Undoubtedly, lyrics are even more morbidly tailored, and intended to finish off anyone who does manage to survive this buzz saw assault.

Entombed

Within this broad genre, Entombed is an icon. I had actually weathered 60 miles of rain storm and flu on a weekday night to see them live. A relatively small venue, crowd was sparse and probably not more than a few dozen. Set list was dominated by songs from their first two records – it was an absolute head-banging feast. Swedish death metal legends, tiny venue, and tickets priced at an affordable $19 — the perks of listening to sounds not many care about.

IMAGE Attribution:

By commons: Lilly Mpl.wiki: Lilly Mreal name: Małgorzata Miłaszewska (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons