Written by Samuel Barker
Mar 17, 2011 at 10:00 PM
ImageMike Watt has been on the cutting edge his whole musical life. From the Minutemen to his latest album, Hyphenated-Man, Watt has blended his love of 70s rock, punk rock and free jazz into timeless project after timeless project.

I first got exposed to Watt through fIREHOSE as a kid. One of the few times Brave Captain showed up on MTV, I was taping a show past my bedtime and saw the video the next morning on 120 Minutes. When I got older and punk rock became my focus, I got into Black Flag, which led to SST Records, which led to The Minutemen.

From that moment on, I was hopelessly in love with the Minutemen. My first instrument was a bass and Watt’s bass lines showed me a whole new world of punk rock bass playing, the jazz structures reminded me of listening to records with my dad and I just knew then that music was for me! Since that moment, I’ve done my best to “Jam Econo!”

With my confession of fandom out of the way, I must say I was walking into Hyphenated-Man with a bit of trepidation. The previous opera Watt released, The Secondman’s Middle Stand, never caught on with me. It was had some shining moments, but it felt drawn out, which made it a chore to listen to. It became an album that I selected tracks from instead of listening in one continuous run.

However, upon picking up Hypenated-Man a couple weeks ago at Cactus Records, I was impressed to no end with the idea and execution of the album. 30 pieces in 47 minutes to create a self-reflective narrative.

Now, it was time for Watt to take the show on the road. With long-time collaborator, Tom Watson, on guitar and drummer Raul Morales, a solid trio was set to bring the story to life.

One of the more interesting parts about being the show live is how centered the songs really are around guitar. Watt wrote the songs on one of D. Boon’s guitars and worked in his bass lines after the fact. It created a solid testament to finding your space and keeping the groove tight without overplaying.

The first testament to Watt’s love of all things musical is the fact that he came up a shaky staircase on a crutch with a knee brace, hoisted himself on stage and stood firm with his bass in hand. Watt bounced on his good leg while Watson kept the energy high bouncing around the stage. Morales, not to be outdone, was all over the drum kit and played with an intensity that rivaled the two elder stagemates.

The album was represented, start to finish, seamlessly. A couple hiccups were met with smiles and silly faces from the band. It was quite a sight to see 3 men pull off 30 pieces of music in a single run. The intensity was there, but so was the subtlety and quiet that pulled the pieces together. Watt and his Missingmen were a sight to behold. More proof that Watt is one of the most important musicians of the modern age.

ImageOpening the show was Lite from Japan. These youngsters were amazing. I realize in the internet age, words like ‘epic’ and ‘amazing’ are used with thoughtless abandon, but Lite genuinely was an amazing sight to behold.

A 4-piece instrumental group that performs brilliantly textured pieces that stop and start at breakneck speeds, that is Lite. Some of the silent moments left the members looking in opposite directions, not a single one looking at the other, only to come back simultaneously with intricate riffs.

Despite not having a microphone on stage, the band communicated with the audience frequently between songs, expressing gratitude for Watt and the audience. I know the feeling was mutual for all involved. Their set was something special to behold. I was so impressed with this band, I had to make my way to Watt after his set to personally thank him for bringing this band out on the road with him.

All those who huddled into the Backroom were treated to something pretty amazing, in the truest sense of the word. Seven musicians, in two bands, created a night of music that didn’t just display skill, but brought out emotional response and the uncontrollable desire to move along with it. Pretty amazing, right?