The Feelies are back!! The Feelies are back!!
After an hour of me and my friends furiously clicking on the River to River NYC website in early June, and a two hour jaunt to pick up the free tickets later that month, I found myself on the Battery Park grass July 4 watching the third Feelies concert since 1991 (the first two were earlier in the week at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, one of their home venues back in the day, and where they played their formerly final show, 7/4/91).
I’d enjoyed their albums a lot — the frenetic and well-named Crazy Rhythms, which came out when I was 13, its six-year more pastoral followup The Good Earth where I first heard them, and the 1991 (temporary!) swansong Time for a Witness, where they put both modes together (less so the major label debut Only Life, a diminished reprise of Good Earth ). But only in the last few years had I come to really treasure them, their uniqueness, and really make peace with my impression that too many songs on Good Earth sound the same. They do, but after 20 years when no one’s quite done anything like it, it’s hard to resent someone doing the same great thing a few extra times.
When they started out the July 4 with three Good Earth songs (“On the Roof” “The High Road” and “Let’s Go”) plus two new ones that could have been outtakes from that one, I was slightly disappointed, thinking that maybe with principals Bill Million and Glenn Mercer in their early 50s, (right, I thought they were still in their teens when they made Crazy Rhythms, too) they’d left their crazy rhythms behind them. But not only did they sound really great anyway, but right after that they revved up with mostly fast beaty material for the rest of their 50-odd minutes. It was only on that sixth song that I noticed that sometime drummer Stan Demeski was accompanied on the side by other sometime drummer Dave Weckerman (now 58), on percussion (on one song, even bassist Brenda Sauter hit a drum during the intro.) So from then on they busted out the greatest dance party in indie rock, just like they promised on Crazy Rhythms. They were fun, they were good-humored, they did a couple of the noisy, accelerated rave-ups I’ve read about but hadn’t encountered on any of their records. They were back. And those new songs? They’re planning a new album, although as of now they have no contract.
And that 50-minute set? Well, they were only the opening act. This other band headlined, the group whose leader got the whole reunion going just by inviting them open in the first place. This other band, who it seems most of the crowd was there to see (although there were a few vintage Feelies t-shirts around — though unfortunately none for sale; the only new Feelies shirts I saw said “I’m with Bill Million” on the back).
After a self-indulgent opener that had me fearing the worst, the headliners switched into proper holdiay mode with a more-or-less greatest hits format, and with 20+ years of great songs they killed to the finish, with only one early-80s number dragging. Sonic Youth they’re called. When Kim Gordon bounced and spinned her 55-year-old body around during Thurston Moore’s solos, I wondered who her trainer is, or maybe that the band’s name means something. When she collapsed into a hug with Moore when she forgot the second verse of “Drunken Butterfly,” or when Moore knelt at Gordon’s feet when he started off the “100%” finale with one of his shredding solos, they gave a glimpse into the all-time #1 rock & roll marriage (24 years! At least 13 albums! Lots of tours!) that they don’t seem ever to write about.
They would have torn up the stage if the Feelies hadn’t already obliterated it a half-hour before.
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Tags: Feelies, Sonic Youth