Mike Watt kicked off the seventh (!) consecutive week of his "El Mar Cura Todo" (The Sea Cures Everything) tour -- and Halloween weekend -- with a near-flawless performance at popular Old Town Philadelphia alternative/indie club The Khyber.
Sharing the stage with Watt and company on this night were two local acts - both appropriately trios. First up were The Perfection!sts, who, after opening their set with an impromptu take on the introduction of The Minutemen's "The World According To Nouns", delivered a bizarre but entertaining sound that mixed elements as disparate as The Pop Group, Pinkerton-era Weezer, Mission Of Burma, and The Cure into their set. One heckler in the back of the club yelled at the band to "get the fuck off the stage" until a dirty look from Mazich, who was also witnessing the band, silenced him. This writer was hanging out with Mazich during the Perfectionists' set; a reference to "the diatonic scale" at the end of one lyric couplet had both Mazich and this writer laughing, and also led Mazich to declare, "These guys are badass!". The Perfectionists closed their set with a near-faithful cover of the Breeders' classic "Cannonball".
Second opening act Northern Liberties (who also run their own Worldeater label and distribution company) -- a trio consisting of bass, drums and percussion -- played a high energy set of music from their debut full-length album Erode Disappear. With K's effect-laden, pick-driven bass covering all sonic frequencies and most of the melody, singer/percussionist Justin came off like a tattooed, ultra-hyper, depression-and-epilepsy-free Ian Curtis as he sang and played, unpreturbed by minor mishaps with both the mic cord coming out of his delay pedal and with accidentally knocking over a pitcher of water on the stage floor (where Mazich had to set up his organ right afterward - fortunately, no Stone The Crows like electrocution mishaps occurred) - definitely one of the best unsigned bands I've ever witnessed.
Accompanied by his punk organ trio The Secondmen (organist/singer Pete Mazich and new drummer Raul Morales, formerly of FYP) and preceding the set with the statement, "What we're going to do first is basically play one long song," Watt and his trademark bass led Mazich and Morales through the entire The Secondman's Middle Stand album/punk opera, playing with only minor, sometimes necessary, sometimes improvised, changes to the vocal and instrumental arrangements of the songs. For the first time ever in his almost twenty-five-year career as a bassist, Watt used a small rack of effect pedals to replicate the bass sounds he made on the original Middle Stand album (leaving out only the Theremin-like Whammy Pedal used for the middle of "Burstedman"). The seemingly most complicated track from the album to play and sing, "Pissbags And Tubing," especially came off without a hitch. Playing like a hyper cross between Keith Emerson and Jimmy Smith, Mazich equaled or bettered his recorded performance, while Morales did a more than extremely credible job of replicating original Secondmen drummer Jerry Trebotic's parts from the album while still interjecting his own playing style into the songs, especially the drum solos in "Pissbags" and "The Angels Gate."
After concluding the main set with the calmness of the album's concluding track, Watt and company came out and did a 25-minute encore of cover versions, most learned specifically for this tour (only two had been previously played by Watt And The Secondmen on previous tours).
Watt & The Secondmen's set list:
Puked To High Heaven
Tied A Reed 'Round My Waist
Pissbags And Tubing
The Angels Gate
Pluckin' Pedalin' And Paddlin'
The Red And The Black (Minutemen classic/Blue Oyster Cult cover)
This Ain't No Picnic (Minutemen classic, Mazich on lead vocals)
It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Bob Dylan, Mazich on lead vocals)
Riot Industry (Cobra Verde)
We Are Time (The Pop Group)
I Have Always Been Here Before (Roky Erickson)