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Concert review: Mike Watt at The Urban Lounge

by on October 4, 2012

One of the upsides of touring behind a rock opera for a musician must be that the show’s energy doesn’t rely on the crowd as much as it does the work being played.

Proof positive? Mike Watt’s show Wednesday night at The Urban Lounge, part of the bass master’s second U.S. tour in support of his hyphenated-man album/opera. While the crowd was depressingly small–come on, Salt Lakers, this guy’s a legend who’s been coming here for years. Where ya at?–Watt and his two Missing Men (guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales) knocked out the 30-song blast of arty punk with undeniable energy.

Watt  is always one magnanimous mofo, and that was no different Wednesday. While he and his band never paused once they started the hyphenated-man song cycle, once they started in on a few post-opera tunes Watt was chatting up the crowd and his typical garrulous self.

While the hyphenated-man set is delivered as a whole, you can divvy up the pieces into highlights from the show. One of them was the loping groove monster of “hollowed-out man.” Another was the aggressive “hammering-castle-bird-man.” Some songs are obvious nods to Watt’s past bands The Minutemen and fIREHOSE–“bird-in-the-helmet-man” and the almost gentle “baby-cradling-tree-man,” which features Watt vocals reminiscent of old tunes like “Walking The Cow.”

Angular punk styles came via songs like “fryingpan-man” and “shields-shouldered-man, while songs like “pinned-to-the-table-man” was more like a spoken-word poetry jam than traditional rock and roll.

But that’s Watt–the man has spent the better part of four decades throwing jazz, punk, rock, politics and poetry in a blender and spitting out the results with some of the most distinctive bass-playing you can imagine.

Here’s hoping he keeps coming back to town, no matter how big the crowd. Knowing Watt, I imagine that’s exactly what he’ll do. He was effusive in thanking the people who DID show up for doing so on a work night. And we thanked him right back.

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