I HEART MEKONS – Live at the Horseshoe 2016, a Review

September 18, 2016 at 3:10 pm (Uncategorized)

It was a perfect English summer day: Light intermittent rain; warm enough not to bring a coat, but with occasional chilly gusts that made you wish you’d brought one.  That and watching the second season of Detectorists  put me in the perfect frame of mind to appreciate the Mekons, a still-standing class of 77 band now based in Chicago; a punk band who don’t quite play punk anymore, but are not a fraction less essential for that.

The Mekons were in town to play TURF – the Toronto Urban Roots Fest, a three-day show down at the Fork York Garrison Common whose name pretty much sums up the event. As in previous years though, in additional to the festival, acts appearing at TURF often play club shows , and for those fortunately attendees, this year, the Mekons played the Horseshoe. (And if you’re reading this before 8:30 PM on September 18, you still have a chance to catch the band  as they close out the Rebellion Stage at the festival.

It was a late show, so I decided to forgo opening act Simone Denny, and arrived around 11:30, half way through Skinny Lister’s set. Skinny Lister is a British folk-punk group who reminded me a lot of The Men They Couldn’t Hang, who play a similar style and are equally energetic. For me, it felt as if the band were trying a little too hard, but that was probably just me. The audience at the Horseshoe were certainly into them, and people sitting near me after the set, had come to see them and not the Mekons.

12:30. Mekons on stage. If Skinny Lister seemed a little forced, the Mekons were their polar opposites. The band were a DIY punk band, but in the mid-eighties began to incorporate other sounds, folk, blues, country, salsa, dub, into their sound and created something quite unique in the process.  If you haven’t seen in, check out the2013 documentary The Revenge of the Mekons to catch up and to hear a hilarious U2 story.

Live, the band is a seeming contradiction. A band which perpetually seemed on the verge of falling apart on stage, but somehow produced some of the tightest, most exciting rock and roll you’re likely to see anywhere. A band who seemed completely natural, just concerned with giving the audience a great time. The band opened with “Memphis Egypt” from The Mekons Rock ‘n’ Roll, and then blasted through crowd favourites like “Millionaire,” ” Hard to be Human,” “Last Dance” and more through a 65-minute set. Aided and abetted by Dallas and Travis Goode of the Sadies. The band even found time for a couple of new songs from the new record/book Existentialism (recorded in Red Hook during the summer of 2015, the package consists of a live CD, a 96 page book of essays, poems and drawings along with a link to a video – it was great listening on the trip home)

After a lengthy set, two sets of encores concluding with the anthem-like first single “Where Were You?” the band said goodnight, and shortly after 2AM we stumbled into the night to go home. The Mekons played the Horseshoe last in 2006 (Yes, I was there). Don’t feel bad you missed last night’s show. You still have nine hours until tonight’s show. Else you’ll have to make the trip to Chicago to see them there (actually, not a bad idea).

Cheers.

 

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