Saturday, April 28, 2012

A Gathering Together: Mike Watt's Common Ground

They're calling it 'hellride east,' but when Mike Watt comes to NYC Wednesday May 2 to the Poisson Rouge, there'll be more than your regulation  'hoot, jam, thud and stooge' work going down.

The way I reckon it, it'll be a chance to gather with those who dare to dream as individuals, but travel together as a clan. With tolerance. To celebrate, as Mike Watt terms it, The Big Love.

If that sounds like making much of a thing, listen to Mike Watt's take on Walt Whitman

That's right, Whitman. 

Art Rock/Post-Punk/Jazz/Improv credentials aside, I was sold on this guy Mike Watt the minute I saw the Youtube of him at Whitman's grave in Camden NJ. (

Watt articulates a vision of Whitman and Leaves of Grass that, even filtered as it is through the crackling imperfections of a homemade Youtube vid, is as startlingly visionary as the Good Gray Poet himself. 

Leaves of Grass, says Watt, has got this tolerant open mind. When I'm reading it, it's like goddamn, my life's in this stuff. I thought about this stuff, the very pragmatic things to be done to make it work. Put a record together a tour together play with my bands. 

 Watt's keenly attuned to the historic context.  (Whitman's) first goal was to stop the war that was coming. He wrote it in 1855 -- the war was in 1861 -- but it was a slow slide the country was going in. Everybody knew it was coming and they felt helpless but he said, 'I'll write a poem to try to heal us, somehow, from warring.

This cat is like, you know what, you gotta be tolerant if you really want to make the real dream he saw. The one that resonates in me, the only one that makes sense if you're gonna call it a country, the idea of a place where we all live. 

You gotta dare like this man to dream big.

Rather than herd, the more generous idea is common ground. Then you have respect. That's a lot different from conformity and goosestepping. What Whitman's saying is if you want real togetherness then you have to have tolerance because we are separate cats, we don't dream by committee."

If that's not some cool shit, then you're not paying attention.

Mike Watt's music is a thing to behold, too, if you haven't heard it. Here's a great example, 'Chinese Firedrill."

living this life
is like trying to learn latin
in a chinese firedrill

The thing at Poisson Rouge itself on May 2 is a celebration of a most excellent book by Watt, put out by Three Rooms Press and having its NYC debut prior to being launched May 5 at Beyond Baroque in LA.  The book's called "Mike Watt: On and Off Bass," it's got poetry and a lot of pictures Watt took while kayaking off the coast of San Pedro where he lives. Jack Black likes it.

I'm not into kayaks, but I like this guy. I think what he said about Whitman is the shit. And I'm going down to Poisson Rouge and hear from the man himself. 

Why not? Like Mike Watt says, it's common ground.

(Three Rooms Press & CEP Presents: NYC launch for “Mike Watt: On and Off Bass” at Le Poisson Rouge. Featuring HELLRIDE EAST with Mike Watt + J Mascis + Murph, plus Appomattox and Dead Trend, and a reading and signing by Mike Watt along with additional very special guests. Book available for purchase at event. Advance Tickets ($20):

1 comment:

  1. Watt is superb, George. Very cool you're goig and writing about him...