mike wattIl Sogno Del Marinaio  (a collaboration featuring Mike Watt)
The Joiners, Southampton
27th Feb 2013

Mike Watt pitched up to The Joiners the other day with a couple of Italian mates & proceeded to play of set of pretty smart contemporary prig-jazz. Louder Than War, naturally, were in the house.

MY QUAT?  THEE MY QUAT? At the Joiners! Tomorrow? Wednesday? (I still think of the place as being my local pub, although it’s been the city’s leading small venue for a decade or more) MIKE WATT!  From the legendary Minutemen and (the current line up of) the Stooges, who are just about to release a new album, but Mike Watt is playing unannounced gigs on the ‘toilet circuit’ with a couple of young Italian jazz-punk-dudes! Third on the bill?  You’re’Joe King?

To save time, this is from Mike’s blog:

“Il sogno del marinaio (“the sailor’s dream” in italian) is the name I picked for this collaboration w/ musicians stefano pilia and andrea belfi and why did I pick it? first off, it’s in italian and this is important cuz it’s the first time I’ve collaborated w/ artists from that land and also in their land (by the way, my ma’s people come from italy). I am the son of a sailor and so you now know a little about both my parents! my first time playing in italy was in 1983 and I’ve done lots of gigs since but never like this, collaborating w/ her native sons. I am intrigued by the works of both stefano and andrea and am quite interested in sailing their seas of music and seeing how they merge w/ mine. I think I learn more about myself this way, that is my dream – and to do the best I can for them. I feel for me it’s a voyage back home in a trippy sense, a sailor’s dream of discovery through connections that baffle linear thinking… that is part of the magical ocean of music I dearly believe in.”

I guess this is jazz as its not rock’n’roll…. My knowledge and liking for modern-avant garde jazz is limited to John Zorn (as part of Naked City), Terry Edwards various collaborations and the Thing and their recent album with Neneh Cherry plus a few other odds and sods like James Chance. It’s nice to take a break from punk rock’ n ’roll every now and then, it gets predictable….

With my punk background though I just cannot bear to describe this band as ‘prog’. It is a progressive music in a real sense, but with none of the abbreviated versions connotations of boredom-inducing self-indulgence and flash show-off-manship.  It has too much kinetic energy and intensity, yet as soon as Mike Watt addresses the audience, he’s genial, humble and easy-going, the least pretentious man on the planet. (“The nicest man in Rock” is how imposing but genial Pat the Joiners described him here.)

The guitarist plays his instrument with a bow at times, attacks it “like he’s beating a small child” (to quote Tad on the sleeve notes to Entertainment! A terrible expression I know but it’s sticks in the mind) and the drummer has a row of small gongs with his kit. And as for the bass player… well he never loses eye contact with the other two and plays a joyful, frantic / relaxed, tuneful / elastic, wayward zigzagging set. It’s just beautiful to watch, entrancing, and it never gets boring as it’s constantly changing, shifting time signatures….mutating….some instrumentals, the odd bit of recited vocal. One minute it’s like a jazz-funk Pixies, the next there’s a bit of Gang of 4-ish guitar, oh I dunno, it was just beautiful, original, off-the-wall, experimental yet welcoming jazz-punk, made with a passion and a charm, by a lovely man still eager and keen collaborate and to go into uncharted waters rather than sit on his laurels (now that’s a nice mixed metaphor innit?)

Great to see a down-to-earth hero in intimate surroundings and pleased he got an attentive and appreciative young audience (with a smattering of old farts like yours truly).

The Tour continues:

Tue, mar 5: eric’s– liverpool, england

Wed, mar 6: the trades club– hebden bridge, england

Thu, mar 7: the harley– sheffield, england

Fri, mar 8: the cookie jar– leicester, england

Sat, mar 9: the cavern– exeter, England

All words by Ged Babey. More writing by Ged can be found here.

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


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