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Mike Watt And The Missingmen At BloomfestLA, Saturday July 21st 2012

I guess Mike Watt says a lot of interesting stuff during his never-ending song sessions – I am not sure, I didn’t really count but they seemed to last for some good 30-40 minutes – but it was hard to hear his beat-poetry spiel behind the violent bass riffs, and the numerous noise assaults of Tom Watson’s guitar and Raul Morales’ drumming.

It sounded like total improv at times, sonically going in all directions at once, with little slowing down on the road, and just a few quieter moments during which I heard Mike talking about… a mouse…. They were probably playing ‘Mouse-Headed-Man’ off his ‘Hyphenated-man’ album, a sort of concept-punk-opera album inspired by creatures from the fifteenth-century paintings of Hieronymus Bosch! I mean I could be totally wrong, the strange thing is that the songs are under 2-minute long whereas they were playing long sessions, probably not even stopping between tracks and confusing me even more. I was in complete unknown territory, in weirdland… but as I was looking at the people around me, I realized the crowd was as diverse as it could possibly be, made of a guy in full punk attire, a trance-dance woman deeply into the music – who had warned me she wanted to save her dance space – a Native American guy who filmed the whole show without even blinking once, and the previous band's singer, Saccharine Trust, who had knelt down and was sketching Mike Watt during his performance with a ‘Mike flies a kite’ written above the drawing…. err I was not in Kansas anymore, and as Watt's album is also an inspiration from ‘the idea of Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ kind of tripping on what men do to 'be' men’, it was perfect.

Mike Watt looked like an old sailor, with an anchor necklace, a fade blue jacket, a plaid shirt and a pair of jeans, he seemed to be a guy who has spent a lot of time outdoor, showing a bonhomie that you can’t fake, and more facial creases you can count, as he was grimacing at each of these terrific bass lines. And the music sounded like his colorful character, indescribably tempestuous and something you had to experience live. His eyes half-closed most of the time, making large and expressive gestures, he was half-screaming-half-speaking his weird poetry. It was sloppy, erratic and discordant, theatrical and moody, angry and jubilant, and the crowd was really into their 45-minute-long jams; after a few minutes, trance-dance woman was already all-sweaty, the Navajo guy hadn’t moved one inch, and I was totally disconcerted by all these timing changes, these hardcore riffs, these jazzy elements, this false stopping, this quieter moment, and this sudden sweet melody line… it was like these strange abstract paintings exposed in the arts district which was hosting the festival, there were lots of touches that didn't go together, with no apparent structure, but hold together by a no-rule energy.

I have never seen the Minutemen, but I read that Watt wrote ‘Hyphenated-man’ after reviewing this work with them, and you could tell, from the few Minutemen t-shirts in the crowd, that people around me knew their subject. However, the guy is a legend, this ex-Minuteman is also the bassist for the reunited Stooges, and is said to have inspired an impressive number of people, so I was surprised not seeing more people around… furthermore he was coming from far away San Pedro!

‘I am grateful for what you did Mr. Bloom even though we've never met’ said Watt toward the end of the show, making an allusion to the hero of the Bloomfest, the pioneering community activist who helped shape the Downtown Arts District in Los Angeles. They played a little more of their firing numbers after this, with Watt’s deep and coarse voice making its way through the sharp turns of the amazing maze built by their distorted noise-jazz-punk progressions, like someone going through a series of mental crises and joyously triumphing each time.

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