MC5 bassist now in Chico
Kick out the jams! “And right now … right now … right now it’s time to … kick out the jams, motherfuckers!!!” That is easily one of the top 10 opening lines in the history of recorded music. It was a call to action lobbed into the crowd by MC5 frontman Rob Tyner during the intro of the live recording of “Kick out the Jams,” a supercharged garage-rock anthem released in 1969 that became part of the proto- punk foundation being formed by the likes of the Velvet Underground and Britain’s The Seeds, and later MC5’s fellow Michiganites, The Stooges, and remains one of the most kick-ass ways one can spend two minutes and 52 seconds.
So, imagine my slack-jawed amazement when I got an email saying that the man who provided the fuzzed-out bottom end for that seminal song is currently living in Chico! Now 68 years old, Michael Davis moved here in June and has been spending his time painting and drawing while also attending Butte College (with plans to transfer to Chico State in pursuit of finishing the BFA he started at Detroit’s Wayne State University in 1963). The email from his wife, Angela, was an announcement that Davis will be among the group of artists showing a piece at RayRay Gallery’s upcoming Jesus Show (opening Dec. 10). Check out his site (www.michaeldavisstudio.blogspot.com) to see what he’s been up to lately, and show up at the opening and shake one of the hands that created rock ’n’ roll as we know it.
Thanksgorging You’ll have to bear with my thankfulness (and self-indulgence) once again, because I’m not quite ready to give up on my indie-rock nostalgia. Strolling down memory lane with Calvin Johnson last week triggered a memory of another piece of my personal indie-rock history, one that was probably the most influential of my life.
The story starts on Sept. 24, 1992, with me and my Chico crew road-tripping to see one-time indie kings Pavement open for Sonic Youth at The Warfield in San Francisco. It was Sonic Youth’s Dirty tour, and Pavement was riding high on the wave of praise following the release of its debut full-length, the nonpareil Slanted and Enchanted. If the story ended right there, just with witnessing those two bands at the height of their powers on the same night, it would rank as one of the best moments of my life so far. But it didn’t end there.
While standing around in the upstairs bar between bands, Pavement’s then-drummer, Gary Young, shuffled by and we somehow summoned the courage to stop him and slobber on about how much he ruled the universe. Before letting him go, one of my indie-rockin’ cohorts of the era, Sean Harrasser (leader of such notable Chico groups as Harvester and now Envelope Peasant), tore out a personal check—which had his contact information printed on the front—handed it to Young and said something along the lines of, “If you ever want to play Chico, call and we’ll set it up.”
And, a few days later, while sitting around Harrasser’s apartment, Pavement frontman Steve Malkmus did call. A date and an insanely reasonable monetary arrangement were proposed, and on Oct. 11, 1992—a couple weeks after the S.F. show—we hosted our favorite band in the world at the Whispering Clam Room (the cozy performance venue that used to be connected to Duffy’s Tavern, in the space now occupied by Melody Records). And, to add to the indie-gasm, both of our bands—Harrasser’s Disaster Scrapbook and my Pinecone, playing its first show ever (!)—got to open … for Pavement!
Needless to say, that was about the most DIY-affirming experience a 22-year-old music nerd could possibly have. And if I include the fact that the future Mrs. DEVO and I attended the show together and were engaged one month later, that fall included the two catalysts for basically everything that’s happened in my life since. Thank you, thank you, thank you.