If ever this motorcycle goes slip in the mud…
So I went to see The Walkmen the other night. It was not my first choice of a show but it was looking like I might be standing in line hoping Blackalicious wasn’t sold out, so plans were changed. I listened to Bows & Arrows back when it came out but it never grabbed me. Too droney. No melodies. Kinda boring.
But live, I thought they were a blast. At least for an hour or so. Still no melodies but I could watch Matt Barrick drum every night. He, along with bandmates Paul and Walter, was once part of Jonathan Fire*Eater, a band that remains among my all time faves. In fact, the very first web page I created featured them along with Palace and Six Finger Satellite. Odd combo.
Anyway, the first time I saw JFE was at Lucy’s Record Shop–a small all ages club in town. They set up and then left the stage. Matt came on alone and started playing this hellaciously loud, totally simple beat. Then one by one the other members joined him. If I recall correctly, the song was “The Silver Surfer”–also the opener on their absolutely terribly-produced self-titled CD. I remember this because the bass was the last instrument to join the song–it doesn’t come in until more than halfway through–and it made for such a dramatic introduction to a band.
It blew my friend Todd and me away but our friend Nate hated it. During their last song, he went in the bathroom and wrote “Jonathan Fire*Eater is the worst fucking band in the world” on the wall. After the show, we talked to Stewart, their singer, outside for a while. I remember he asked me for a light. I didn’t have one.
A year later, they returned on the heels of their amazing new EP Tremble Under Boom Lights. They blew us away again. Stewart joked from the stage that at their last show, someone had written “Jonathan Fire*Eater is the worst fucking band in the world” on the bathroom wall before they even finished playing. They were wearing sharper suits and they were unbelievably good. After the show, Stewart asked me for a light.
A year or so later, they’d been snatched up by Dreamworks and released Wolf Songs For Lambs which just ruled. It wasn’t as streamlined as Tremble Under Boom Lights but it had catchier songs. If dark narratives about girls having seizures at parties and such can be catchy. I was living in London and I went to see them in a venue that was an old church. It was fucking unreal. We were standing in pews. And they just kicked tremendous ass.
After the show, I introduced myself to Stewart. He didn’t remember me specifically, but he remembered that someone had written “Jonathan Fire*Eater is the worst fucking band in the world” on the bathroom wall of Lucy’s. He asked me for a light. I told him that I’d seen them three times and every time, he’d asked me for a light. I swore I’d bring one the next time I saw them.
They broke up soon after.
Before The Walkmen show, I was talking to a friend about JFE. I Googled Stewart to see if he was doing music still. Turned out he was playing CMJ with Judah Bauer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion. He’s also in a band called The Childballads. I downloaded the only song I could find. Stewart’s tempered the drama in his voice (and his band isn’t nearly as theatrical as JFE) but he’s got the same old grit and mystery.
I wish them luck.