the loud bassoon concert scene

Mekons @ Abbey Pub, Chicago, USA
13 September 2002

Celebrating their 25th anniversary of drunken rabble-rousing, the Mekons played a series of several shows in one weekend, each devoted to a particular era of their music. This show centered on the 80s stuff, which is "my" Mekons era. For me, So Good it Hurts is the ultimate Mekons album, although confusingly, everyone else seems to think this album is a curiosity at best. At any rate, the 80s brought Sally Timms to the Mekons, so if for no other reason, this is the era to celebrate.

The venue was ideal, although curiously, the crowd was noticeably smelly. As my companion SIC remarked, "I've been to death metal shows that smelled better." Lots of BO and bad breath, no matter where we positioned ourselves. Also, the crowd was super OLD, so there were virtually no cuties to scope and/or attempt to hook up with. Not that I ever end up doing that anyway, but I like to have the option. This was much more like being at a Borders than at a concert.

Opening act The Nelsons cheekily played an all-Mekons setlist, which answered the question "What if a bad band played all Mekons songs?" Fortunately the couple of drinks already consumed by this point helped things along. About halfway through the set, SIC wisely decided to accelerate the inebriation, and I agreed, so we were primed for the Mekons once they took the stage.

This was my first time seeing the Mekons, surprisingly enough. I'd consider myself a pretty big fan – certainly So Good it Hurts is one of my top three or four favorite albums, although for some reason, none of their other albums hooks me in nearly as much.

I was glad that they played a few off that album ("So Good it Hurts," "Sometimes I Feel Like Fletcher Christian," and the encore of "Ghosts of American Astronauts"), and several from Mekons Rock 'N' Roll and also Curse of the Mekons. High point may have been "Big Zombie" from Edge of the World.

Jon Langford was in prime drunken rambling mode, Sally Timms a perfect foil, Tom Greenleigh my newfound hero (had no idea it was his voice and not Langford's that I've been in awe of all this time). After awhile things got a little unfunny and unfocussed, but I guess that's the point.

The climax for me was Sally using a puppet voice with "Mitch" the puppet skeleton, insisting that Langford had destroyed his own career. It's true. I mean, the guy settled in Chicago, probably the most stubbornly second-rate town of all.

All in all, I'm glad to have seen the Mekons, but I don't need to see them again. By far more memorable were SIC's work anecdotes before the show, and our rambling, Vodka-and-Red-Bull-fueled tangents about the link between pirates and the Delta blues.

Review by Marcus Morelli