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Mike Watt + The Missingmen at Launchpad

By August Edwards

Mike Watt + The Missingmen vitalized the Launchpad stage on Monday, October 28th for the “Dick Watt Tour 2019.” The celebrated Minuteman, the illustrious and kind guitarist Tom Watson, and the ingenious drummer Nick Aguilar treated every second of their performance like a gift.

Albuquerque’s own Russian Girlfriends were supremely adept as the opening band. Their punk prowess and spunky attitudes set the uptight energy for the night. Russian Girlfriends are fast and riff-driven. Their sound tears you in half, both mesmerizing you in place and compelling you to do kickflips off of a wall.

After Russian Girlfriends exited the stage, John Coltrane floated from the Launchpad speakers. Watson engrossed himself with the crowd as he set up. An interested audience member marveled at the J Mascis Jazzmaster. Noticing the interest, Watson explained the intricacies of the guitar, which included different styles of pickups. To someone who’s not versed in breeds of guitar at all, it seemed like it was some sort of Frankenstein piece, made better (or at least cooler) by his modifications.

The music of Mike Watt + The Missingmen is as soulful as it is ass-kicking.They opened their set with “The Red and the Black.” Watt ripped the unforgettable, heartbeat-spiking riff on bass - a sheer inspiration of velocity. Watching Tom Watson navigate his guitar is a joy, as he is timeless in his pure effervescence.

The trio were set up very close, walled in by their amps. Rather than delegated to the back of the stage, Aguilar’s drum set was front and center. This meant more interaction on many levels. At one point, Aguilar reached over to the tuning pegs on Watson’s guitar and turned one, effectively making a string out of tune. This drummer was engaging, hanging on to Watt’s gospel-like words between songs. When not supplying vocals, Watt stood behind Aguilar and his set. In these moments, Watt demonstrated oneness with his bass - the instrument nothing more or less than a natural appendage. This way, he was able to engage with his drummer unbridled. That is what it means to create rhythm.

Mike Watt is not for the faint of heart. From the perspective of an audience member, it seemed that his performance - and perhaps musical philosophy, though this is all speculation - focused on artful containment. Through the closeness of the trio and the fast tempo and short length of songs, Watt gave the impression that he knew he was playing with something delicate. Music is delicate, and time given to appreciating music is precious.

The end of the show was signified by Watt shooting his fist in the air and commanding, “John Coltrane.” There was no encore, but it is hard to complain when Coltrane takes over.

Photo by Hillery Terenzi

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