Mike Watt has always been a musician’s musician. The go-to-guy who’s always namechecked in discussions on old punk rock influences. Thanks to his groundbreaking work with the Minutemen, fIREHOSE and eventual his solo stuff, he managed to built up a strong cult following as well, but he never really got much attention in the mainstream until his first solo album, the stellar Ball Hog or Tugboat in 1995. It certainly helped that the band he created to back him up read like a best of ‘90s alt rock list, including Dave Grohl on drums, Eddie Vedder, Evan Dando, Henry Rollins, J Mascus, Frank Black, Mike D and many others. There was no way that pubs like Rolling Stone and Spin could ignore a guest list like this one, so, at least for the moment, he was on everyone’s radar. And the album was pure Watt: sloppy, raucous, unpolished and absolutely great from start to finish.
Later that year, Watt packed up the van and took some of those same folks out on the road for one of the best tours of the mid-‘90s (if not decade). Those on board for the shows included Vedder, Grohl and Pat Smear.
A show at one of the stops, the famed Metro in Chicago, is being released for the first time on CD and double LP (it’s also out on digital, but where’s the fun in that?). The 16 tracks here manage to be even better than the studio album because like most punk rock, it’s built for the road. Among the highlights, are “Drove Up From Pedro,” “Piss-bottle Man” the Vedder-lead “Habit” and the anthemic anti-anthem “Against the ‘70s,” which is begging for an Against the ‘80s update.
Record labels have been slammed (rightfully so in many cases) for putting out some ridiculously inexcusable carp on vinyl simply because they found it in their vaults (Lullaby Renditions of the Grateful Dead anyone?), but this is one of those times when the re-release is worth the hype.
Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95/16 tracks / Legacy & Columbia / 2016 / http://hootpage.com/ / https://www.facebook.com/wattfrompedromusic/