Reverence. That's the word to best describe the reaction of the crowd during Mike Watt & the Missingmen's sizzling performance Monday night at the Mercury Lounge.
Reverence? Concert crowds are generally described as "reverent" at singer/songwriter shows, featuring tender voices flowing sad songs of failed romance and mini-memoirs of victimhood.
This wasn't that kind of show at all, which makes the reverence even more phenomenal. Taking the stage after a couple of between-band Coltrane songs, Watt and crew—guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales—floored the packed house with a no-holds-barred, non-stop presentation of Hyphenated-Man, Watt's third opera, released in 2010 on the Clenched Wrench label.
It was a punkropera that hailed back to Watt's Minutemen roots and covered all the ground in-between. Thirty songs, inspired by Heironymous Bosch and played live—non-stop, in order—with such intensity that, if it hadn't been for gravity, the completely blown away crowd would have been thrust out the doors and onto Houston Street.
From the opening road beats of "Arrow-Pierced-Egg-Man," Watt led the charge, as lead singer playing unbelievable bass lines, that came across live at twice the potency of the incredible crush of the recorded version. The second one tune ended, the next one launched, turning 30 songs into one complete work, and leaving mere seconds for between-song applause.
The crowd listened so intently throughout, that it became a part of the show, riding the waves of contrast in each song, amazed by how all of these sounds and styles could come from the pen of one man, and the performance of just three. It was madcap dancing during the great segue from "Hollowed-Out-Man" to "Finger-Pointing-Man" (with its wondrous Minutemen styling).
On "Mouse-Headed-Man," with its acapella repeated whispered phrase, "like a mouse," the percussion was the heartbeats of everyone in the room. Contrast that with Watt's ferocious wailing in "Man-Shitting-Man," and it became clear that this performance was about limitlessness, about exploring all the facets of what it is to be alive. About Watt's (and Coltrane's and d. boon's and punk rock's) credo: Refuse to be a slave. Refuse to be an automaton. Live your life. Every. Second.
After the melodic final H-Man tune "Wheel-Bound-Man" left a few stunned seconds of "what did we just see" silence, the thunderous applause brought out the men for an encore. Watt and his bass moved from the spotlight to behind the drums and let six-string shredder Watson take over on spiel.
But how do you top what just happened? How about a six song follow-up including Minutemen classics "Toadies," "Black Sheep" (from the great 3-song 7-inch Joy), "The Glory of Man" and "Anxious Mo-Fo." Ghosts were all over the place, none more felt than d. boon, the guiding force behind the Minutemen and all that's happened with Watt ever since.
Opening acts included The Wicked Tomorrow, a jammin' duo with Michelle Feliciano playing meaty drums and Ian Jacobs kicking the show into a higher gear with his guitar work. Appomattox also rocked, with complex, yet catchy tunes, which—at 4-5 minutes each—were the longest songs of the night!