Hi. This week’s Five Songs grows a couple of extra bonus tracks this lucky Friday the 13th. That’s because a band I never thought I’d see again is coming to Fresno tonight — fIREHOSE is playing at Fulton 55.
Got a rave review from Wednesday’s show at Slim’s in San Francisco, My pal Dema, fashion designer superb and a kitty who’s forgotten more good bands than many have ever heard, not only said the show was great, but added that Mike Watt, after all these years, was still “crushable.”
Just hearing about the show earlier this week, and the idea of Mike, Ed and George together again, were intriguing enough; they wouldn’t have had any reason to have reunited if there was a chance of embarrassing themselves. And now, a rave. I think I’ll have to be there. Guess I’m a little more excited than I’ve been letting on.
Plus, a quarter-century ago, a fIREHOSE show was a gateway into an exciting time in my life.
The back story: I accidentally backed into writing about music for newspapers in the mid-’80s. I was a sportswriter at my most heinous first newspaper, the Waterbury Republican-American, but by late 1987, I also had been freelancing album reviews for them for three years.
That year, because there was so much stuff going on musically in Connecticut — and because there was a nearby club that was starting to bring national acts, the Night Shift in Naugatuck — I pitched a Friday club column as well. And they bit. And as a natural extension of blurbing about clubs, I was starting to be contacted by record labels and publicists about doing interviews.
The Night Shift was a small converted disco in a strip mall in the farthest reaches of godforsaken Naugatuck, next town over from Waterbury, and now the site of a laundromat. At the time, a Portuguese immigrant named Fernando Pinto bought the place and had visions of bringing all sorts of “alternative” and blues acts to the place; he never could get his beloved Stranglers to play there, but damned if he didn’t put Naugy on the map by sheer willpower for the three years he owned it: Sonic Youth (with my favorite garage band, New Haven’s Double Naught Spys, opening). Two shows by Bo Diddley in the snow of February. Phish, just after their first album came out; they drew 20 people. The Fleshtones. The Lyres. The Cynics. The Last. Johnny Thunders & Patti Paladin. Dinosaur Jr. (The punch-up between Lou and J. on stage was used in Sonic Youth’s “Teenage Riot” video.) Johnny Copeland, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin. Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers. Mighty Sam McClain.
And fIREHOSE, the mighty little trio — two-thirds San Pedro, one third Ohio — grown from the ashes of The Minutemen. And their second album, “if’n,” was one of my favorite albums of the ’80s by the time they were coming to Naugatuck. And one of the first interviews I did with a musician, if not the first, was with Mike Watt, burgeoning master of the thunder-broom. Showed up midway through the show, after my sports shift. And afterward, he told me he read my interview and thought it was “righteous.”
And I would interview hundreds more musicians over the next 16 years. A couple years or so later, I would ditch the sports grind to write about entertainment full-time, with a heavy emphasis on music. And I eventually did it for 11 1/2 years at the New Haven Register as well, going places and interviewing people I never would have imagined.
And now, for the second time in a decade, Mike (who also does duty in The Stooges) is part of a never-thought-we’d-see-that-again reunion. And I think I can cut back on a couple meals and then some and splurge on a ticket tonight. Should be a righteous show.
And a righteous Five Songs, led off by the three most memorable songs from “if’n.”
Sometimes — fIREHOSE
In Memory of Elizabeth Cotton — fIREHOSE
For the Singer of R.E.M. — fIREHOSE
Wolves, Lower (Chronic Town outtake) — R.E.M.
Walls Come Tumbling Down! — The Style Council
Stop Beating Around the Bush — The Velvelettes
Pale Frail Lovely One — Outrageous Cherry