Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Friday, March 26, 2004


Went and saw a rock show last night. Something I rarely do any more. The club is three blocks from my house, my friend Jake was going, and a good friend of Jake's -- John Ramberg, a real nice guy and a fine musician -- was opening the show. Unfortunately I missed John's act because my wife had to work late, but I caught the headliner, the well-regarded English punk band the Mekons.

Hearing live rock and roll in a small club was a blast. Literally -- a blast of sound and energy as the 8-piece band blasted away. Great drummer, rocksolid bass, with guitars, accordian, and a balalaika-type instrument they call a saz melanging together at you, along with an excellent violinist sawing away. Lots of group singing, which I love, 3 or 4 people singing together mostly in unison; and at other times 4 different people trading lead vocals, including one excellent singer, Sally Timms, the one member of the band not playing an instrument. Engaging and charming spontaneous repartee between Timms and the apparent bandleader, guitarist-singer Jon Langford. A feeling of a party, old friends having a blast together. Perhaps "old" friends is an unkind way to describe them. Middle-aged friends -- older and grayer than me. I'm all for people grayer than me having a rockin' party. The group's probably genuine "regular left-liberal folks" collective persona fit with their apparent solidarity and comradery and helped create a sense of sol & com with the certainly mostly left-liberal audience.

But despite so many appealing qualities, I ended up not liking the band. Loved the first three songs, but liked songs only intermittently after that. I didn't understand the appeal of most of the melodies. The most memorable song was also the most irritating, with a sing-songy chorus repeating over and over, "I love a millionaire." I'm pretty sure it was supposed to be satirical. The group didn't build enough differentiation within the wall of sound or enough variety from song to song. About half the band members appear to be no better than any living-room musician, which is part of the point of "anybody-can-do-it rock-and-roll," I'm sure, but doesn't make it necessarily more fun to listen to, especially at $12 a ticket.

I left before the set ended and enjoyed the quiet night air, my eyes burning from the smoke, bringing back warm childhood memories of Christmas Eves past, when my parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles would spend hours together smoking as me and my brother and sister would play on the floor. Which gives me another reason to go to rock clubs. Childhood nostalgia.


Fridays are usually childcare days for my beloved spouse. Reading the baby boy one of his baby books, she came across a merry-go-round scene and wanted to hear calliope music. She found some on the internet and played a few. The baby kept demanding to hear one of the tunes again, over and over until he fell asleep in her arms. She played it for me when I got home -- a lovely calliope arrangement of "The Liberty Bell," a march by John Philip Sousa that Monty Python used for their TV theme. Great tune. Never thought of it as a lullabye. Who knew?

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