Swedish American Hall
San Francisco, CA
October 5th, 2007
The Mekons are currently celebrating their 30th year of making shambolic, life-affirming, muckraking rock n’ roll. Co-founded by Jon Langford and Tom Greenhalgh at university in Leeds (the same class, coincidentally enough, from which sprung both Gang of Four and Delta 5 —must have been a good year indeed) and currently sporting a more-or-less stable lineup (Langford, Greenhalgh, spitfire chanteuse Sally Timms, Rico Bell, Lu Edmonds, Steve Goulding, and Sarah Corina —they’re a chameleonic lot, so I may have missed a few), the group have reached their 30th year sounding as fired up and vital as ever —no mean feat, considering how hotly they’ve burned, and so consistently.
The group may have gained both chops and subtlety over the years, but the embers of punk rock ire are still sparking, and with overabundant wit and cracking good humor. Deftly shaded with political engagement, satiric intent, and deeply felt, pure rock n’ roll, the Mekons’ songs run the stylistic gamut from full-throttle punk to mournful country-tinged laments, with plenty of room for improv and ridiculousness in-between. (They take music seriously, but never themselves. It’s a crucial difference.)
Alas, I was destined to miss them this historic go-around, as I had to attend a family event in San Francisco coinciding with the group’s East Coast dates. Hellfire and damnation! No 30th anniversary shows for me.
But the rock n’ roll gods must have been smiling down upon me, for who should be loitering en masse in front of my hotel as I rounded the corner of Sutter and Larkin but the just–alighted MEKONS, fresh (?) from their east-coast flight. My eyes fairly bugged out of my head:
“WHEN ARE YOU PLAYING?! WHERE? HOW? Weren’t you JUST in Fall River?!”
Yes, yes, yes, they’d just gotten in from l’il old Providence, RI (land sakes!) and they were playing at the lovely Swedish American Hall that very evening!
And lo, it was good, as delightful a Mekons show as I’ve ever witnessed (and I’ve witnessed a few).
I wish I’d had a chance to tell them as much after the show, but alas, I didn’t happen to run in to any band members back at the hotel. So I’ll say it here: Thanks for fighting through the jet-lag and putting on such a spirited set. Long may you reign, and may the next 30 years be just as fruitful.
In the meantime, don’t forget the HNIA contest. The first prize is two tickets to any of their upcoming shows, and the runner-up gets a copy of their new album, XMMER.
The contest ends October 15th. Send in your entries! I need more, and soon!
To enter all you have to do is write a little HNIA-themed haiku (3 lines, consisting of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, five syllables —17 syllables total) explaining who, exactly, is the “KING OF SWEET.” You could even describe the album, in the style of those old Bunnyhop album reviews that came in haiku form, like:
King of Sweet, blurred
Cornfields, Roethke, and sex,
So far shows have been announced for NYC (with ST. VINCENT!) —October 19th, Chicago, Mnpls. Later in Nov. (27th) there’ll be a show in Boston. So if you live in or near any of these cities, please drop a haiku here or over at the post linked above.
If you don’t happen to live in or near these cities, don’t let that stop you —I’m sure an alternate prize could be worked out easily enough.
Palace Brothers, “For the Mekons et Al.” (from the Hey Drag City compilation, 1994)
MEKONS PHOTO BY: ROBER LOERZEL