BARFLY TOP TEN: James McCann of James McCann and the New Vindictives
2018? This year all blurs into one for me , like being a passenger down the river with the occasional stop off to play, talk, refuel and get back on and cruise.
The cruise hasn't been steady, it's been rocky. More than any other time - or for some time.
The boat feels like it lost i's rudder and all the Generals on the field are nowhere to be seen; what would they say, what would they want us to do? I think we all know the answer to that.
So, here is my attempt to make neither head nor tail of the year 2018 so far...
I never thought i would see Matt Johnston do his thing. It kind of blindsided me to say the least. Matt and the band in a basic five-piece mode. Not much trickery everyone was on, and the band seemed to be led, or charged by, Matt and the drummer, who drove the guitar player and bass player higher. The key board player was in seventh heaven; he was off the hook and having a field day, and he did that famous solo with a break of running around the stage behind the drums and hitting the keys at the moment you hoped he would. To me, this music is timeless.
I never thought i would see these guys either. To see them finally was really exciting, the sound at the Forum was good and the two Les Pauls chimed and stumbled equally. That voice. Those harmonies. Just for a start. You know those songs , tap tap tap on the snare bass rumble and a croon with the punk yelp sewn in and a switch to the acoustic guitar. Several encores. How generous.
Jackson Reid Briggs and the Heaters
I met these guys through an entrepreneurial young man called Max. He introduced me to Yeah Don't Care. We were booked to play a gig together but we couldn't do it , but i kept in touch with Jackson and we hooked up in Paris last year at the end of both our tours .
We were both a little shell-shocked to say the least, but Jackson and his guitar player Craig Dj in a tiny dive bar at the base of Mont Martre. i lasted three songs and as my mind was so fried i could not handle another dirty old night in a club, It was a cool place and everything; i just needed a quiet room and a bottle of wine.
So check out their albums and clips and the new record especially A tough and most heart felt band with a fare pinch of anger and a groove , they remind me of the Saints in places. They are all from Queensland , Spencer P Jones said to me once as being a Kiwi he really like people from Queensland and WA and he put that down to the isolation factor. Maybe he was onto something.
Stewy Cunningham Benefit Melbourne at The Tote
I find this heard to review. It's non reviewable. It was a feeling. Brother Stewy was down, so we rallied - and quickly.
The Tote stood up , the musicians stood up and it was an incredible evening of camaraderie with Matty Whittle, PLS, Swedish Magazines, Adalita, Wrong Turn, Hoss, Draught Dodgers. All the egos get put aside when it comes to looking out for a friend , and it reminds you how tight knit and strong our little music community is
Cruise down the river only to spill you out into the ocean: "Now my foolish boat is leaning"
And Spencer and Brian and Conway
As Penny Ikinger said to me: "The Generals are leaving us."
The Generals of Love and in all that love encompasses regret, acceptance, denial, fear, joy, creativity, drugs, booze, sweetness and attitude up to your neck.
Spencer P Jones, I was lucky enough to call Spencer a friend.
He got me my first record deal in Europe. i bumped into him once in the front bar of the Greyhound Hotel. He was sitting with Hoody, “Hey man, grab a seat.” He told me how he was going to tour Europe and was flying out next week.
“Give me some music on a CD and i'll give it to this Spanish label Bang! Records." i told him my new stuff still wasn't mixed properly, he gave me that steely blue eyed look and said " I don't just offer to anyone you know.”
He was known as the rocker wild man - and he could be.
But my favorite times with him involved sitting around, talking, smoking "combustibles" as he liked to call them, drinking coffee, sometimes just drifting off and reading. We really enjoyed each other’s company. i miss that.
In the evenings, things got a little wilder; guitars , booze, more combustibles - and lessons from the master. He knew so many chords , he would challenge you to learn them or incorporate them in a new song.
Some nights sitting around the table i am writing this he would play a new song he was working on and ask for input .
“What do you think?"
Then he would ask: “You got any new ones?" Then i would meekly play my new one,
" like your new one man, but you should put this chord in there "
Goddamn, i miss that. He was good. So good.
Other times when he was in Beasts of Bourbon mode, he could be a pain in the ass. Bragging about touring with Iggy…he knew i wasn't impressed by any of this - and he could tell.
I liked the guy, not the legend, and he knew it.,
We worked together for four years on a tribute compilation to him. 50 bands in the end: Kid Congo, Violent Femmes , Chris Bailey, the Drones, Adalita. Just to name a few.
We enjoyed it - although i knew he found it hard to pick and choose. He really didn't want to hurt anyone’s feelings and i knew he found it difficult. Then he got sicker and sicker and we drifted off from the album. “I igot more important things to think about."
This is a testament to Spencer's character , last time we were together he was struggling to concentrate but got out a pen and paper and said: "Let’s do the track listing for the album." His concentration drifted and i said: “Man, it's OK . i remember what you said and i know what has to be done. Don't worry.”
Then we smoked our last combustible and as he put it out he said: "Done and gone dusted.”
Some people’s week really is better than your year.
This year has no top 10 for me , it's been a series of moments , now at years end i find myself falling back to family and friends and the band , always the band.
“Baby, life's what you make it ; celebrate it.”