In April of this year, Alex (booking guy at
The Echo) announced to The Minions that he had secured a Wire
show. We all did The Dance of the Merry Minions, and bought
tickets online way back in May.
Since then i have gone back and listened to the old Wire albums
i have. I have also read about Wire online. I now am more versed
in thing Wire than i ever was before.
You see, i was really pumped for the show because i was very
fond of two Wire albums from the late 80's: A Bell Is
A Cup Until It's Struck and It's Beginning
To And Back Again. Both are moody, post-punk synth
pop albums, and i really like those discs. Eardrum Buzz,
off of IBTABA is a truly classic tune.
That, my research taught me, was Wire Part 2. Wire Part 1 had
existed from 77 to 81, and then burnt out. Then they reformed
in 87, did those two albums that i liked, a few more, and then
burnt out again by 91. Now we are on Wire Part 3: re-formed
in 1999 and, if their pattern holds true, due to burn out again
in 2003. Oddly enough all three incarnations featured the same
four members, except for the tail end of Wire Part 2, when drummer
Robert Gotobed left.
So i went searching for Wire Part 1, and wound up trading mix
cassettes with a British guy who had an extensive Wire collection.
I sent some bootleg Cocteau Twins and got back 90 minutes of
Wire Part 1. Whoa. Wire Part 1 was an angry punk band (no "post"
about it). I listened to that tape extensively for a few months.
Not enough to learn any of the songs, but enough to learn that
Wire Part 1 was definitely worth checking out.
But that led to some confusion. If Wire Part 1 was angry punk
and Wire Part 2 was dark post-punk, what would Wire Part 3 be
like? I had to wait for the show to find out. And i'll admit
-- i was very curious to see what they would do live.
But as with most things in life, there was an opening act
to sit through. Or stand through, as The Echo was so packed
with older ex-punks that the seats had been removed and we
were shoved in there like commuters on a Japanese subway car.
Yeah, it was packed! Mercifully it wasn't sweltering outside,
so the temperature in the crowd didn't get too much above
85, i think. Hot, but not insanely so for The South.
Anyway, the opening act was Oxes, who are a three piece math
rock type band. I had heard some good things about them, and
was looking forward to their performance in the days before
the show. However, when i got there and was squashed into the
crowd, i just wanted Wire. I'll admit that Oxes felt like something
to be endured, and i paid minimal attention while waiting for
things to move on....
Even so, i thought they put on an interesting show. The thing
with math rock is that the performers are often either so serious
about what they do (like Purkinje Shift, R.I.P.) or concentrating
because it's so hard to do (like Ocelot did during their first
performances; though to their defense they have gotten better
at that). The end result is that there is often little to no
stage show, aside from watching fingers fly over fretboards.
Not so with Oxes. The two guitarists played with wireless guitars,
and they wandered around (often into the crowd) playing energetically.
It was kind of like a game: spot the guitarist. In particular,
there was a shortish (i'm guessing 5'5" or so) blond guitarist
who kept disappearing in the crowd. I could hear him playing,
and see heads craning over thataway, but since he was shorter
than the average Wire fan, i couldn't see him. Except one time
when he stood two people over and thrashed his guitar about,
causing the crowd to clear a space. At any rate, i found the
wandering of the guitarists amusing.
Musically i thought Oxes were okay. I would go see them again,
although i didn't find them brilliant. Then again, i was just
enduring them while waiting for Wire. On the other hand, Zythos
liked them a lot, and even bought their album after the show.
So maybe they were really good, and i just didn't pay attention.
Anyway, when they were done the crowd really packed in -- folks
pouring up from the back bar and the side lounge to stand, waiting
It was an older crowd, as one would expect. And it was mostly
male, again not unexpected. It was also almost 100% white, which
is typical of rock shows in Atlanta. However, as i previously
mentioned, it was packed. I don't know if i have ever seen the
Echo that packed. Maybe at Patti Smith's acoustic gig in the
spring, but at almost no other time. The Minions claimed our
usual space in about the middle of the club: halfway back and
just slightly to stage right. And we waited.
Fortunately tonight was not one of those nights where The Echo
wanted to keep people standing around forever, because Wire
went on at about 11:45.
The show started with a throbbing sequenced beat. It was almost
a rave beat, but it had more of an angry "thud" to it than the
ravey "thump". This went on for about 30 seconds, and then vocalist
Colin Newman jumped on stage, grabbed the mic, and became screaming
rhythmically while bounding around like a madman. I don't know
what his deal is, but boy he seemed angry.
This went on for a bit, and then the rest of the band joined
the stage. They took their positions and the song with the screaming
and the thudding beat flowed seamlessly into a similar angry
song, only this time with screeching trebly guitars. A brilliant
transition, and later i was to learn that these were the first
two songs off of Wire's brand new Read & Burn 02
EP, which i bought at the show.
I stood there, moving with the rhythm, entranced. It was everything
music should be. Wire's performance made me question everything
else i had ever seen. I sat there wondering why i went and saw
so many mediocre local bands with their twang fetish, or so
many emo bands with their incessant whining. Wire don't whine.
They do not obsess over their mythical "roots". They just play.
And it was great.
Newman's vocals were largely guttural screaming, with the occasional
melodic tune strewn in. Guitarist Bruce Gilbert (a mere twig
of a man, he was so tall and thin) played his non-descript guitar
the old fashioned punk way: the treble turned ALL the way up.
Drummer Robert Gotobed played his kit almost like he was a robot
-- it was all precision and intricate drum patterns. And last
but not least, Graham Lewis (the only one in a suit -- apparently
he didn't get the memo that the uniform was gray Wire t-shirts
and black jeans), whose bass thumped away just underneath the
trebly guitar wall.
And that was it, for the most part. There were some more sequenced
sounds here and again, but mostly it was just the four of them.
Flailing away. Bounding around the stage. Making an unholy racket.
Reaffirming my faith in music.
Seriously. I don't know how else to put it: seeing Wire was
a religious experience.
I grew up listening to punk albums, and i have been to see
some contemporary punk bands. But nothing compared me to the
fury and energy that Wire poured into this show. Seeing them
i understood why so many kids across this country formed punk
bands and screamed their angst. Sure, most of the stuff i had
seen live was derivative, but seeing Wire i understood why they
tried. Why they had to try.
I also wondered why so many people have, well, failed. As i
sat there, i realized that i had rarely seen a performance as
honest and as genuine as what Wire was doing. Few bands compare.
The only one that i can think of off the top of my head is The
Fire Show, and i might only have come up with that one because
i am listening to them as i type this.
But seriously folks: if Wire can do it, why can't other people?
Why does so much of the music i hear seem trite and petty?
Why do so many bands suck? Why do so many people stand up
there with their guitar and whine about how their high school
girlfriend dumped them? Sometimes i wish Colin Newman would
wander around to clubs and just climb on stage and punch people
for being idiots! In fact, all of the shows that i have seen
since this one have been colored by the Wire performance.
And everyone else pales in comparision.
Maybe it's just because i am too close to it still. Maybe in
time i will stop wishing for Wire members to spontaneously appear
to bitchslap whiney musicians. Maybe i will return to my sense
I kind of hope not.
Okay, well, enough about that.
Wire played for one glorious hour. I wish they had played more,
but honestly i was drained after the set, so maybe it is good
that they did not. I still have no clue what most of the songs
they played were. Now that i have Read & Burn 02
i think that they played most of this EP. At times some old
fans in the crowd would cheer the start of a song, and some
of these i vaguely recalled as sounding like the Wire Part 1
stuff from that cassette, so i guess they played from that catalog
as well. They did not play Eardrum Buzz or Finest
Drops, both of which i would have liked to have seen. But
i am not complaining.
So my verdict: Wire exist for stretches of 4 year at a time,
it seems. We have another year or so to go with this incarnation,
so see them when you can. I'll be there the next time they play.