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Thu, Aug 08

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Cabin Creek Venice

Mike Watt & The Missing Men

Enjoy a Summer evening of live music with bassist Mike Watt & his band The Missing Men and special guest Chris Murphy in our Venice Beachfront Courtyard under the sunset.

Mike Watt & The Missing Men
Mike Watt & The Missing Men

Time & Location

Aug 08, 2024, 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM PDT

Cabin Creek Venice, 517 Ocean Front Walk, Venice, CA 90291, USA

Guests

About the event

In the last five years, Mike Watt has contributed to more than fifty recording projects by dozens of bands and collectives. He's composed bass parts for an opera against nuclear war (Planet Chernobyl by Pelicanman on Org Music) and improvised behind poetry (Live in Fishtown by Mike Watt & Charles Plymell on Feeding Tube). He's helped build an ecologically conscious lo-fi pop record from scratch (Purple Pie Plow by SLW cc Watt on Kill Rock Stars) and performed parts written specifically for him in the post-genre power trio mssv (Main Steam Stop Valve and Human Reaction on BIG EGO Records).  He's recorded live in the studio with musicians in his hometown of San Pedro, CA (Lemonademakers by Lemonademakers) and crafted albums one player at a time via file sharing (Northwest of Hamuretto by Spirit of Hamlet on Broken Sound Tapes). He's had a proj made up solely of drums, bass, and horns called Mouthful and an on-going duo of bass and voice called Jaded Azurites. He's recorded tributes to John Coltrane, Squeeze, Bikini Kill, and the Stooges. He's got a band for which he's written a series of sonnets (Three-Layer Cake), and he's collaborated across oceans with musicians in Italy, Japan and Toulon in France. 

Watt's astonishing productivity and versatility inspire a combination of raw admiration and slight befuddlement. How does he do all this? The riffs he adds to a high-speed punk freakout are like taut little fists, yet in a quiet song the sound of his finger pads stealing along the strings is collateral beauty. He can carry a high-register melody or disappear into the background, more felt than heard. He can be propulsive or intentionally arrhythmic, the fat bottom of a blown-out jam or a choice embellishment in a controlled composition. He can deliver sludgy power or a quick little sigh.  Watt's willingness to work so widely, combined with his legendary discipline and technique, make him one of the most important bass players alive. The fact that he often works under the radar on idiosyncratic projects or limited releases makes him a nexus of thriving, overlapping independent music communities. This is role he relishes. Since 1980, when he, guitarist D. Boon and drummer George Hurley came together as the Minutemen, throughout the 90s when he fronted fIREHOSE, and into the 00's and 10's as he alternated solo albums with side projects like Banyan, Hellride, Unknown Instructors, and Dos, plus touring (and sometimes recording) stints with Porno for Pyros, J Mascis and the Fog, Tav Falco, and the reformed Stooges, Watt has been an inveterate community builder. It's virtually impossible to conceptualize the history of American punk rock, with its maze-like tendrils and offshoots, without him. 

Though perennially associated with punk, Watt's sensibility owes a lot to bebop. It's not the product that matters so much as the spirit that manifests when like-minded players join up. There's a selflessness to the way he prioritizes the music - the goal is to create something bigger and more potent than any one person. "He cares about my music as if it were his own," says Mike Baggetta, the guitarist and composer for mssv. "He approaches people as equals. Watt is there for the music, to do his best and that makes everyone else step up ,too. He's always got great ideas for improving the song, or the set, or the tour route, or the road food, or anything else. His mind is always running to help everything get to its optimal place in that moment. I think it's the mark of a truly generous person." 

"Watt elevates everything he touches," says Sam Locke Ward of SLW cc Watt. "He finds a place to exist and create that leaves room for everyone else to exist. At the same time, he inspires everyone around him to go for it because he is too."  Vocalist and violinist Petra Haden, a collaborator since 1995, remembers when Watt suggested she record a solo a cappella version of The Who's The Who Sell Out. "I wasn't familiar with the album," she says. "I wasn't even that familiar with the Who. But I wanted to do it for him, and it was a fun challenge. When I finished a song, I would call him and play some of it over the phone. His passion for music is so strong. His encouragement and support help me keep going."  It's through this kind of wide-range mentoring, providing a radically rethought template of what it means to be a musician, that individual projects cease to be isolated works and transform into what we know as culture.  Michael David Watt was born December 20, 1957, in Portsmouth, Virginia, the son of Navy sailor Dick Watt and Jean (Matranga) Watt, a secretary who sang in bands when she was a teenager. After moving around throughout his early life, the family wound up in San Pedro, where he stayed with his mother and two sisters after his parents divorced. Watt met his future Minutemen bandmate and best friend, Dennes Boon, when the latter fell out of tree on him in a public park. They learned to play by listening to classic rock and British punk records, strangely isolated from what other people thought was cool and free to please themselves. "you must understand that I never really saw myself as a musician or song/lyric writer," Watt says in the introduction to Spiels of a Minuteman, a collection of lyrics published by L'oie de Cravan in 2003. "music was one way me and d. boon shared our lives together so in a sense, the connection I had w/this art form was much more a personal than an aesthetic endeavor. the personal connection is what I found much more important than any other aspiration." 

They signed to SST Records in 1980, releasing four albums and eight EPs. But their trajectory was cut short when D. Boon was killed in a car accident in late 1985. Traumatized, Watt withdrew from music. Sonic Youth coaxed him back into a studio in 1986 - he played on the Evol album and the Ciccone Youth EP. Then, with Hurley and Ed Crawford, a trumpet student from Ohio reborn as a singer-songwriter, he formed fIREHOSE, which went on to release five albums, including two for a major label, Columbia. 

By the time of his first solo album, Ball-Hog or Tugboat? in 1995, personal connection was aesthetic. An entire musical movement showed up on that record: members of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Bikini Kill, Black Flag, Saccharine Trust, the Beastie Boys, Screaming Trees, the Lemonheads, Geraldine Fibbers, Dinosaur Jr., the Meat Puppets, Jane's Addiction, Pearl Jam, the Pixies, the Germs, That Dog, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. What had been known as punk, then postpunk, or indie-rock, or grunge, was morphing into a commercial force known as alternate rock; for musicians with mainstream success, Watt was a touchstone, a reminder of the sound's iconoclastic roots. His lyrics continued to blend autobiography ("Drove up from Pedro"), cultural commentary ("Against the '70s"), and philosophic musings ("Coincidence Is Either Hit or Miss").  None of his subsequent solo albums fits an easy definition. Contemplating the Engine Room (1997) explores male relationships, both in the Navy and in a band, overlaying images of his father with stories about the Minutemen. The Secondman's Middle Stand (2004), written after he almost died of a perineal infection, analyzes the stages of illness within the three-part structure of Dante's The Divine Comedy. Hyphenated-Man (2011) offers 30 short, white-hot punk bursts, each devoted to a character drawn from Hieronymus Bosch's paintings. Watt calls these works "operas" and it seems like a whimsical moniker until one realizes they really are ambitiously constructed sets of inter-reflective musical and conceptual motifs.  The reformed Stooges ended on September 29, 2013 - their last gig being that day at Saint James Park in San Jose, CA and after 126 months of getting to help them, Watt's career moved toward a new plateau: aggressively forward-looking, with constant new projects and collaborations, while simultaneously caretaking the legacy of the Minutemen. Their influence never waned. Music journalist Michael Azerrad borrowed a line from their song "History Lesson - Part II" as the title for his 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981 - 1991. A documentary, We Jam Econo, was released in 2005. Their most beloved album, Double Nickels on the Dime, only grows in stature. It still sounds like nothing that came before or after: flurries of nervy rock bits, half spoken and half sung, anti-capitalist, full of earnest questions. "Should words serve the truth?" D. Boon asks in "do you want new wave (or do you want the truth)?," a song written by Watt. In 2020, when Rolling Stone updated its list of the 500 best albums of all time, Double Nickels... jumped from #413 to #267.  But his real legacy may be the less visible one he currently creates daily. Now 65, Watt is a bulwark not just of musicianship but of independent thinking. He long ago achieved recording independence: tracks for most of his projects happen at home in studio tHUNDERpANTS, a Pro Tools Omni HD setup. Full band recordings happen nearby in Casa Hanzo, a studio run by organist Pete Mazich, also a member of the Secondmen. When the pandemic hit in 2020, suspending touring, he was well-positioned to adapt. He also continues (twentytwo years four months now!) to post episodes of The Watt From Pedro Show (twfps.com), logging several a week when he's not on the road. He's had The Hoot Page (hootpage.com) going since 1996 and besides the other stuff there, it's where one can read the tour diaries he's been chimping since a few years after he launched it.  Last fall he joined mssv for a 58-date North American tour in support of their new album, Human Reaction. Jaded Azurites, a duo with poet Karen Schoemer, releases a new EP, Number Six, in September. Projects are in the can with Tone Scientists and the Carducci Brothers. The Missingmen will begin recording a new album this upcoming December and then one with the Secondmen later in 2024. He and Petra Haden are working on eight new tunes for Pelicanman with poet Charles Plymell called Bunches Of Button-Ups. Il Sogno del Marinaio, an Italian trio (sometimes a fourpiece) with whom he's been working since 2008, will release a new 7" this fall, and a new album called terzo in the summer of 2024.  Incrementally, project after project, and cumulatively, year upon year, decade after decade, he re-evaluates what bass is and does - its place in a song, its capacity and potential. "old days had me thinking 'conventionally' like 'bass is a four string guitar,'" he writes in an email. "but years of working it has taught the TRUTH actually is more like 'bass is a four string drum set' - no fucking shit... took 'pert-near a fuckin lifetime for me to figure that out. damn me for being such a fucking slow learner, damn me." This, too, is an act of generosity: sharing with his audience what it's taken him a lifetime to achieve. Now we've learned something. And not just about bass, or Mike Watt.

Mike Watt Bio - written by Karen Schoemer - August, 2023

Website: more info here

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Spotify: listen here

Join us in welcoming Mike Watt & The Missing Men with special guest Chris Murphy to our new Venice Beach location - inside the historic Gingerbread Court courtyard just off the Venice Beach Boardwalk!

Tickets reserve you a seat - $10

Doors open at 5:30pm

Sunset Show: 6:00-8:30pm

Donation-Based Wine Bar

and 10% off TACOS from our friends we share the courtyard with, Surf N Turf Tacos (last door on the right, just show them your ticket)!

Tickets

  • General

    $10.00
    +$0.25 service fee

Total

$0.00

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