Not so Dandy...

Coogee Bay, Sydney
July 30, 2004


You can’t put your arms around a memory.

Like a lot of other people, I went out and bought a ticket to the MC5 show and then wondered about it. Was this, somehow, the right thing to do? Meaning, it isn’t the MC5, it’s the three living ex-members playing those songs with a few guests to fill in the gaps. I don’t have any kind of problem with someone making a living from singing songs that they wrote. That’s no sellout, it’s honest work. But recent events concerning Wayne Kramer (as documented in this website) caused me to think about it nonetheless.

Fact is, I had a great time. I danced and shimmied and met a cute girl, and it was great to see the three living members of what was once the greatest rock and roll band to walk the face of the earth, together on stage. Dennis Thompson is still a great drummer. Then I bought the CD and all the doubts resurfaced.

Mostly, it hinges on Evan Dando’s useless presence. A word of advice here – never, ever, buy a CD of a gig if you are in the slightest doubt of the quality of the singing and playing. What’s great in the heat of a venue, surrounded by punters, blinded by lights, deafened by volume, is revealed in all its naked shame when you’re sitting in your loungeroom. That’s how it is with this CD. Mark Arm’s vocals are badly out of tune but Evan Dando is utterly unlistenable.

He was obviously affected by something at Selinas, bad (or good) enough for him to spend 8 or so bars of ‘Lookin At You’ staring mesmerised at Davis’ rattling bass strings. He shambled about like a homeless hippie you wouldn’t give loose change to. His attempt to sing ‘Miss X’ ranks as one of the worst vocal performances I’ve ever witnessed. He was, by all accounts, far worse at Byron Bay.

Mark Arm, by contrast, got stuck into it with energy and enthusiasm, even if his pitching was often awry. The band were much better when he was on stage. But let’s face it, Rob Tyner isn’t that hard an act to follow, so what gives?
Rumour has it that Kramer wanted to kick Dando off the tour after the Spider up the Arse gig in Byron, but the promoter pointed out to him that Dando’s name was all over the posters and it would be some kind of breach of contract with us, the dear punters who ponied up $50 to see Evan weave his pop magic, yeah, fuckin’ right! I wouldn’t have given a shit whether

Evan was there or not, and neither would anyone else. Still, legalities are legalities.

At least it answered the question that everyone was asking a few months back when the tour was announced, being "What the fuck is Evan Dando doing there?" He’s there to lure a few extra punters through the door. As is Mark Arm (he was in Mudhoney, you know!). As is Deniz Tek, who at least has the history and the guitar to be worth his place in the lineup.

Actually, he’s a better singer than either of the two hired to do it.

Wayne delivered a sermon abot how Fred and Rob were there with us, in spirit or whatever. If so, they’d have been mortified at what was being done to their old band in the name of celebrating the legend. To be charitable about it, they aint getting any younger and need to finally buy a house, or put the kids through college or whatever. I don’t deny them that. What I do object to is the air of bullshit sanctimony that hovers around the whole thing.

If it really was a celebration, why not recruit a guy from a Detroit bar band who can sing the songs properly? (Wish I’d been there to see Mick Collins do it.) Why not put the songs first and really do them justice, as opposed to hauling in a coupla guys who might sell a few extra tickets? Who’s lacking faith in the pulling power of the name "MC5"?

Like I said, I had a great time at the show. I wish I hadn’t bought that damn CD. The next night I caught Giants of Science and Gazoonga Attack, from Brisbane. Giants are a rock and roll band who manage a weird, bizarre angle to their music without sounding like too-clever-by-half wankers.

Gazoonga Attack are a gang of four teenage chicks who possess one of the most extraordinary group charismas I’ve seen in a local band in the last 20 years. Admission charge and several drinks were somewhat cheaper than the MC5 ticket. I enjoyed the show, met an intensely sexy woman and, best of all, didn’t walk out of there with the vaguely disquieting feeling that I’d somehow been had.