Sunday, August 2, 2009

LIve: Mike Watt and Nels Cline @ Central Park Summerstage 8.1.9

I had missed out on the Watt show in town owing to having ponied up hard for another ticket/social obligation and was kicking myself ever since, so when I heard he was coming through Summerstage with Nels Cline in tow, I made a point of being there. Further investigation turned up that the performance was the debut of yet another Watt project called Floored By Four that also features ex-Cibo Matto multi-instrumentalist Yuka Honda and ex-Lounge Lizard Dougie Bowne. An interesting combo, especially with Cline touring with Wilco and half of the band living a couple thousand miles away from Watt's home port of San Pedro. There hasn't been a diary entry about it yet, but as Watt was in town for the 25th Anniversary of Double Nickels On The Dime, I wouldn't be surprised if the lion's share of the music was composed over the internet and refined over the days before the show.

Like Banyan and the zillion other projects Watt works with out West, there isn't a huge structure to the proceedings. Everyone involved in the project can play, so chops weren't really so much the issue as the listenability. Most of the songs were pleasant enough, especially the closing Maggot Brain, where Cline more than earned his pay, wringing sounds and textures from his guitar that don't come from too many other instruments. From note one to note last, nothing Cline played did anything to take away from his role as the pre-eminent guitar player of our generation. It still staggers me that Wilco are so mind-numbingly boring with him in their ranks. Nels and his brother still run the experimental Cryptogramophone Records, which must afford him some solace, but the contrast is really striking. Watt was his normal self, playing his ass off when necessary, but never deviating totally from holding down the bass role. You'll never confuse him with Stanley Clarke, but he is totally unmistakable with a four-string in his hand. Honda got a moment or two to shine and Bowne certainly had a lot of work to do tying it all together, but both more than held their own.

Whether the crowd felt the same way, I'm not sure. Unless America's tastes have swung radically in this era of post-Obama euphoria, I'd say that 90% of the crowd was there to see M. Ward. He's a friend of friends and on Merge, but there's not too much about him that does anything for me. Safe money is that there were more people there hoping to see Zooey Deschanel than any of the openers, but Floored By Four more than held their own. I'm not sure how regularly we'll see the band actually perform, but it was a hell of a fine way to spend an Summer evening before a Mekons show.


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