Thursday, November 09, 2006
Pope Gregs annual Euro visit: Pere Ubu
that's me and Pope Greg in the upstairs bar of the Dog and Duck in Frith Street. He looks a bit subdued. Maybe it's because he's jetlagged. Or maybe because he can't smoke in there, haha. Apparently it was the smallest postal blowfish meeting he's been to in a while. And it was also a smoke free, thanks to me. He comes over from Milwaukee about once a year and spends his Euro vacation in London, Amsterdam and then there's annual variations, this year it was Edinburgh. Three years ago we did GBV in Amsterdam together, a bit of a weird gig actually, drunk and messy, and a bit unfocussed, not as good as the first time we saw GBV at the Paradiso, but still, some good memories... hanging in Gregs hotel room afterwards watching MTV with Martin from Switzerland and his glamorous Russian wife, Simon, Gavin, Vanessa, drinking the bottle of vodka given to me by Sammy Powers (of Superdrag, temporary Euro tour only replacement for Tim Tobias) just before our favourite band drove off in their shitty little rock van. Who would have known it was the last set of dates Bob would ever do over here (unless something happens, maaan, ughhhh)? Last year we had a picknick for Greg on Hampstead Heath with a GBV bootleg theme, only GBV bootlegs got played on my boombox, oh, and Human League and Kate Bush in the later stages because there were a couple of people who weren't fans and they had music wishes too. But mainly GBV bootlegs. It was relatively successful and ended with appropriate drunkenness and later in the evening a pretty good Lou Barlow solo show that was really quiet compared to the next time I saw Lou with the reformed Dino Jr. Greg is, in his own words, "the second biggest GBV fan in Wisconsin", which is still pretty good considering the honourable Rich T. (GBV webmaster and Bob's ascended current tour manager)is from Wisconsin too. Anyway, it's always nice to see him again and he always sugests seeing shows when he's here so this time he asked around whether anyone wanted to join him to see Pere Ubu. He didn't need to ask twice with me...
A couple of people separately compared my long running "weird rock" band Plus to Pere Ubu, i guess the slightly unhinged semi-improvised singing style, and the weird abrasive new wave sensibilities, or whatever, i think there might be some parallels but they stop somewhere too. I finally got around to check out some records and like it a lot. You can see David Thomas perform fairly regularly in the UK as he lives in Hove. Friends of mine say they see him sometimes in an old pub near Hove seafront, where these old beardy guys hang out with their dogs and where they occasionally host little jazz and country gigs. It's a nice pub actually, I've never seen Mr Thomas there though. The only other time I've seen him on stage was with the reformed MC5 at the Royal Festival Hall, doing a spacey full on song with them at the end, don't know which. He was impressively weird then. So at the frankly rubbish Mean Fiddler (apparently it's not going to close for another year, i wouldn't mind it if they'd refurbish it and ban smoking in there, but right now it's unbearable in there when it's sold out)there were a very "Mojo" crowd gathered, and thankfully it wasn't not too packed either. Stan Ridgeway, formerly of Wall of Voodoo, warmed up with a nice sitting- round - the - fire - in - the - desert kinda set, playing some of the favourites too, Mexican Radio, etc.... Me and Greg were sitting on these weird barstools that were too high and didn't have lower ledges to rest your feet so Greg especially seemed to keep sliding off. Apart from that we were sitting comfortable near the stage. As soon as Pere Ubu started though i couldn't stop but going closer and dancing almost from the first beat, and almost all through the set. it was a revelation! It was like ... entering a new sonic space. I was knocked off sideways by it. Hard to explain, but a revelation. Occasionally at gigs I can go fairly mental, lose myself in the experience, and rarely have i experienced a band that encouraged this excessive weirdness, to forget where you are and explore, breathe in and out with the music, in such a controlled, genuine way. They are / were true originators, though Mr Thomas is still in charge and still doing new things. He's fascinating to watch, a bit of a bear, a bit grumpy, but when he starts singing you've got abrasiveness, alienation, and occasionally this beautiful wistful longing feeling too. A theremin, and a very capable, full on rock band supported him. Wonderful material, most of it new I guess. That said the couple of old classics tacked on, spontaneously it seemed, at the end, Sonic Reducer and New Alignment Pact sounded fantastic and euphoric. The new album is very good too though. And I want to explore more.