05 December 2008

MCMYS East Bay Report

There's got to be an upside to being stranded in the East Bay for three and a half weeks, I kept telling myself, and sure enough, I'd been here barely a day when I discovered that my old friend JESSE MICHAELS was going to be performing down the legendary GILMAN STREET along with fellow legends KEVIN SECONDS and MIKE PARK.

I'm guessing, though I don't know for sure, that Jesse must have played at Gilman during his days with COMMON RIDER, but if so, I wasn't there, so this marked the first time I'd seen him on the Gilman stage since the last OPERATION IVY show almost 20 years ago. As you'd expect, some fellow old-timers showed up to see him, including PAT WRIGHT, who's been a part of Gilman since pretty much the beginning, and could barely contain his delight at having, at age 65, started collecting his Social Security. While others, including the lovely KAMALA, of the KARNIVORES et al., assured me (there were a lot of similar assurances going on among the Gilman old-schoolers) that I "hadn't changed a bit," Pat wanted to know if I too had signed up for Social Security, rather abruptly undoing all the good work by the numerous flatterers.

Also in attendance was AARON THORNS OF LIFE, who's taken up residence on the West Coast for a while, so Next Big Thing seeker-afters can relax for a while when it comes to finding out about that next top-secret show that they're not invited to. Meanwhile, what was happening up on the stage? Well, Jesse, who told me beforehand that his main goal in doing these shows is to "learn how to sing and play guitar at the same time so I can join a band," ran through about an album's worth of brand new songs (new to me, anyway, and I think to the crowd at large) with just himself on vocals and electric guitar. "But Jesse," I'd said, "you've already managed to be in a few bands and do, um, reasonably well..." "Yes," he said, but I want to be able to use the guitar as a composing tool for writing songs." "But it seems like you've managed to write a few songs in your time, too..." But at that point I uncharacteristically shut up, it having occurred to me that there was probably not much point in my trying to tell one of the greatest performers I've ever seen how to conduct his business.

The new songs do sound good, though they seem as though they're not fully developed yet, and would probably benefit from being performed by a full band. Jesse also seemed a little nervous on stage, at least during the opening songs, but relaxed noticeably once he realized that the crowd was totally supportive and was going to let him do whatever he wanted (i.e., no one yelling for Operation Ivy songs, etc.). As it happened, though, there was one magical moment at the close of Mike Park's set, when he came down into the audience to pose for a picture at the end of his set and then suddenly broke into a rendition of what was arguably Op Ivy's most anthemic number, "The Crowd." Jesse was standing just a few feet away, and eyes kept straying toward him to see how he would react, but then just as it came time for the second verse, he edged up to the microphone and started singing, "Drink drink in the badlands..."

Those of you who know the song will be aware that just as he kicks into that lyric there's an inadvertent (or perhaps not) catch in his voice that catapults things into another dimension, and not only did chills resonate up and down my body, but my eyes rolled heavenward until I was staring at the ceiling of Gilman Street. There's something about Jesse's voice when he really nails a lyric that does that to you, and I was reminded of the way DAVID HAYES described the feeling of another Op Ivy song, "Bad Town," where LINT (very creditably handles the vocals until the last chorus, when Jesse comes in with a "No, no no, no" that, as David said back then, was "almost scary."

But last night's magical Gilman moment was short-lived, at least for me: while everyone around me started singing along (just like Op Ivy shows of yore), the guy behind me sang so loud that even without a microphone, he completely drowned out Jesse. I hope it was a very enjoyable experience for him, singing along with his hero that way, but frankly, just for those couple of minutes, I would have rather heard his hero. Oh well. My feeling is that Jesse's headed in a good direction with the new stuff and that there will be more chances to hear him in the coming months.

Kevin Seconds also did his acoustic thingie and I enjoyed it quite a bit. Not sure how much he liked me reminding him that the first time I saw him with his old band 7 SECONDS was more than 28 years ago, but hey, we're all getting along in years, and the far more important thing is that he's still getting out there and playing and making things happen, and from all appearances, enjoying the heck out of it. From the stage, Jesse told a story that I'd never heard, and which I'll have to assume is legit: that back in the late 70s, Kevin and his brother started an American Sex Pistols fan club while, Jesse made sure to point out, "the Sex Pistols were still a band."

Anyway, good spirits and high times all around on a chilly California night. Gilman Street will be 22 years old in a few weeks time. It's an ongoing miracle, and almost singlehandedly makes up for much that is wrong with the world today.


Anonymous said...

The Weather Underground played out just like mainstream society: the rich white kids got away with murder (as Ayers casually and callously brags at the end of his deeply dishonest memoir; the working class members ended up dead or in prison for a long, long time. -'Livermore'

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.
-Bill Ayers

Somebody's lying

Larry Livermore said...

a) What in the hell does this have to do with a story about a Gilman show?

b) The two quotes are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Ayers simply glosses over the spoiled-rich-kid, daddy-bailed-my-ass-out-of-trouble part of his story and tries to recast him and his psycho friends as modern-day American heroes. Is that a lie? Not completely; it's mainly a case of selective emphasis (and de-emphasis), leaving out the more sordid and shameful aspects and focusing exclusively on what were at times idealistic ends pursued by often reprehensible means.

By the way, I recently heard Ayers interviewed on NPR, and he's sounding a lot more reasonable than the laughing, unreconstructed terrorist he was portraying himself as at the time of 9/11 and his book publication. I suspect a good PR agent has gotten to work on him.

Anonymous said...

Larry, you doofus, now pay close attention -this is not that hard to follow:

Either Bill Ayers is or isn't a murderer.
That's where one of you is lying. Comprende?
You have quite publicly accused a man of murder, so, let's see the proof.

Murder is a serious charge.

This is not something you should toss out as goofily as you would, as say, declaring never-heard-ofs as being legends or rattling on about all your past acid trips, whiskey-drinking and coke-snorting.

It's okay to cheapen the English language, happens all the time. You're not the first to suffer from diarhea of the mouth and constipation of the brain, but, even under an alias, one does not lightly accuse another of murder.

You are only as good as your word.

If you're privy to some exclusive information, please continue, who did he murder, where and when?

If not, show some decency and shut up. Take responsibility for the spirits you unleash.
Bill has never paid attention to all the wing-nuts who focus on him, but your nutty accusations could inspire some of your friends and wanna-bes to break his legs, or much worse.

Your subtext implies that you resent Ayers for having a father wealthier than yours?

Gilman Street? Wake me when it's over.

I mean, reliving your own youth is bad enough but how'd you get stuck reliving other's. What's with that? Highly profitable or what? Gives you attention you can't find elsewhere? Nipple substitute?

And what's a conservative like you doing listening to NPR?

Murder is a serious charge.

Ben said...

Say Larry, could you ban this freak, or at least give him your e-mail address so he can send his entirely healthy, totally reasonable and not at all weird and sad manifestos about you to you directly rather than making the rest of us suffer through them? Thanks in advance.

Larry Livermore said...

a) "Get away with murder" is a very commonly used expression which can describe anything from a kid going unpunished for stealing a candy bar to Mao Zedong enjoying a long, prosperous and unchallenged kingship despite having ruthlessly exterminated some 60 or 70 million of his countrymen.

b) Whether Bill Ayers personally took someone's life or was merely a co-conspiring member of an organization whose prime organizing principle was menace and mayhem, is of no importance. If I give you the weapon - or merely the inspiration - to kill someone, I am as guilty of murder, both legally and morally, as you are. And for those who argue that the Weather Underground didn't kill anyone - or at least that it can't be proved they did - it was certainly not for the want of trying.

c) This story was about a nice night at Gilman Street, not dredging up reactionary politics from the 1960s. Besides, man, Obama's the President now! And you know what else? He's liberal AND he's BLACK. Everything's going to be all right. You can go smoke a few more doobies now and relax. The grownups are taking care of things.

drydock said...

Katha Pollit on Bill Ayers:


AdRock said...

Well *I* enjoyed the Gilman St. narrative! Thanks.

(p.s. The phrase "got away with murder" struck me too as utterly innocuous.)

Sweet Emotion! said...

I went to that show! It was awesome, especially because I wasn't alive to see him play with Op Ivy (I wasn't born yet), and... did I mention it was AWESOME?!?!??!

Sheez, lighten up people! And if you're going to comment, comment on the post.