An interesting fact about me is that I will
inevitably find one band and fall in love with them in any given
year. Five years ago it was The
Rock*A*Teens. Two years later I found God in the back of
Eric Bachmann’s crooked
guitar. Last year I purged my soul of all sin through the
fire of Thee Michelle
Gun Elephant. This year, it’s The
Now, before you go getting the idea that this is some sort
of one-year wonder thing for me, let me disabuse of that notion
immediately. I still crack my skull against TMGE with glee,
I still think Eric Bachmann’s a fucking genius, and I still
<heart> The Rock*A*Teens (despite their apparent refusal
to play music any more.) Ten years from now I’ll still listen
to Cry in a state of near-religious wonder, and
when I’m done I’ll just as likely put Left
and Leaving into the rotation for the millionth
time in a decade, too. Because like The Rock*A*Teens, but in
a completely different way, The Weakerthans are just too fucking
great for words.
Another interesting peak into my psyche reveals an ever-growing
tendency to stay the fuck home at night. To be honest, it virtually
takes an act of Congress to get me out of the house these days.
I mean I just don’t go out anymore. There’s no great mystery
or meaning to it, no web of intrigue, no neat little anecdote
to explain it, nothing at all. I’m just getting old and cranky
and sedentary, I guess. I still love music and I still support
independent musicians as best I can. I buy CDs and listen to
them. I even review them every now and then, still. But when
it comes to live entertainment, honestly, you’re more likely
to find me lounging next to the wife, reading a book in my quiet
suburban apartment as you are to see me chatting up The Minions
at live shows.
All of this serves as setup for Sunday night, of course. Imagine
my surprise when, a month or so back, PostLibyan mentions in
passing that The Weakerthans were scheduled to play The Echo.
It was quite the shock. This is a band that has never played
Atlanta before. Not once. Ever. Yet here they are at the end
of the month? Well I’ll be damned. It took me an hour to remember
how to get to East Atlanta, but this was something I would not
At La Fonda.
God, I miss La Fonda on a daily basis. Of all the things I miss
about working in L5P every day, the office dogs and La Fonda
top the list. I had almost forgotten this place, buried as I
have become in the haze of The Exurbs of Banality™. It’s
good to be back here. P-Lib and I chat over quesadillas and
sweet tea, mixing Cuba and Georgia in a way that has to be experienced
to be understood.
Criminal Records is closed, so we are off to The Echo. Doors
were at 7:45, which means the show should start around 9PM,
right? Into the car for the jaunt up Moreland to E. Atlanta.
Um, what the fuck? When did they stick Front Page News there?
Goddamnit, the Highlands are slowly eating this place.
At the Echo.
Sparse crowd. I expected more kiddies for an all-ages show,
but it is a Sunday, I guess. PostLibyan and I make for the bar,
getting much personalized service from the bartender, who seems
genuinely glad to see people of drinking age. We speak to Club
Manager Alex for bit, and then wait.
Greg McPherson takes the stage.
McPherson is the end-result of some weird-assed Canadian military
experiment, I think. You know, like Wolverine, only without
the ‘snikt’ or the adamantium skeletal graft. (Shut up.)
What they did with McPherson is this: they took some random
Canuck, and they stuck him in a centrifuge. Then they took Bruce
Springsteen and threw him in there too. Then they somehow managed
to get Hank Rollins into the thing. Finally, they told Billy
Bragg that there was a union benefit there, and he wandered
in as well.
Then they turned it on, and it spun really fast. From men,
to goo, to Greg McPherson in one easy step. Maybe they had a
Jell-O mold in the shape of a Marxist to pour the goo into.
Who knows, really? The Canadian military is a terribly mysterious
outfit, after all.
McPherson plays like Bragg, writes like Springsteen and has
the biceps of Rollins. His solo work is best described as Modern
Canadian Pissed-off Populist. It all comes out surprisingly
well tonight. Edgy, passionate, and sweating. Like folk rock,
if folk rock didn’t suck ass and rocked instead. I'll make a
point to pick up the debut of The Greg McPherson Band, just
as soon as I find a job.
After McPherson there’s this chick-rock emo band called Denali.
They are apparently popular with the kids. The crowd gets bigger
and stuffier and starts reeking of that “far too into it” vibe
that indie-rock crowds get when an attractive girl is on stage.
They start to play and I lean over to PostLibayn and say “Portishead.”
He says, “Yeah.” Song two comes and goes and I lean down as
song three ramps up and say “Portishead,” and he says “Yeah.”
I go take a piss and spend most of the Denali set ruffling
through the anarcho-syndicalist literature that G7/8 have set
up in the back. G7/8 is the label that McPherson and the other
members of Propaghandi started a few years back. They have the
punk rock. They have the Situationist Internationale readers.
They have the Noam Chomsky pamphlets.
Denali is a pretty good band. They sound like Portishead. The
chick is pretty hot. I’m not into emo much, but I once gave
a dog to a guy we all call Emo Boy. I’d give that guy a copy
of this Denali record too. He’d probably like it a lot, though
not as much as he liked the dog.
Anyway, so now The Weakerthans take the stage. The crowd is
pretty big again; some late arrivals, some carry-overs from
Denali’s popularity. The Weakerthans, though they may not admit
it in public, are a professional band. They’re tight.
They know what show they’re going to put on from the moment
they step on stage. When they crunch on the opening aural gravel
of Watermark, they crunch perfectly together. They know
each other’s cues. They cover each other’s mistakes.
All of this is to say, listening to a Weakerthans live show
is a lot like listening to a Weakerthans mix tape, only with
the songs played a little faster, as live songs always tend
to be, and with the tenable energy of a live performance graphed
on top of things. This is a great band.
The Weakerthans put on a near-perfect show. They play all of
the songs that they should play, all of the songs that should
be hits off of their first two albums, if the world were sane
or fair or both. They play three or four new songs, one of which
involves something about having a dinner party with Michele
Foucault and leaving with this gnawing gut sensation that someone
said something very profound, but you were chewing too loudly
or something. Only The Weakerthans could have written that song
and have it work. I’m just saying. All of the new songs make
me wish a new album were forthcoming.
PostLibyan and I wonder back out of The Echo. We split at the
street and head for our respective automobiles. I’m still singing
along in my head. When I get into the car, I pop a Weakerthans
tape into the cassette deck. I am very happy. This was good
reason to leave the house.
If the Weakerthans come to your town in the future, go see
them. They’re nice guys. They’re witty and amusing in between
songs. (But leave your cell phones at home. They tend to not
understand the cell phone thing. ) They’re far too over-educated
for their own good. They’re like you, only with guitars and
a knack for poignant lyricism. They deserve your support.
Go see Greg McPherson too, if for no other reason than to figure
out what the hell that whole Canadian-military reference was
all about up there.
Hell, go see Denali. She’s hot, and the band is good if you’re
into that sort of thing.
The couch will be there when you get back.