The Feelies are back!! The Feelies are back!!

05Jul08

(David writing)

     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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One Response to “The Feelies are back!! The Feelies are back!!”

  1. 1 Kenny

    I now have a list of five serious essays I’m in the middle of/thinking about, but I really particularly owe you an account of my recent concertgoing, which includes Youssou N’Dour and Erykah Badu (each strongly exceeding expectations), Todd Snider (perfectly meeting expectations), Kimya Dawson (sucking up the joint, but at least having an excuse) and Stevie Wonder (sucking up the joint with no excuse at all, but what excuse does a rich man thirty years past his prime need?). As you know I will be seeing Steely Dan in a few weeks, who I have very low expectations of so they should meet them, but it looks like I’ll miss Bonnie Raitt this year, because it now appears that I will have a date conflict with work. Of course Raitt is someone I can see any year in Northern California, just as you can see Sonic Youth any year in New York, and boy am I glad I saw the Feelies (twice, actually) before I moved west because even if they make another album I’ll be surprised if they come out here again in my lifetime.

    Oh, and before I forget: I am producing Amy Rigby and Wreckless Eric in Merced September 4, just as I promised I would start to do. I have a partner and a business plan, so if this (and the event Alan is planning for March ’09) go well, I will be doing it a lot, probably around 8-12 times a year; indeed, I will have a serious second business on my hands. The important point being that election administration and concert production are actually two versions of the same job, which is event organizing, something I also did when I worked on political campaigns, and when I was employed as an academic but spend my time organizing poetry festivals. At age 30, even at age 35, I had no idea that event organizing, rather then writing, would be the true theme of my life, but here I am going on 41 and that’s clearly the case.


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