Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Corey On: The Feelies, Becoming An Old Guy

By: Corey C.

While The Pizza Underground were licking the sauce off of their wounds after being heckled in Europe, leading them to cancel the rest of their tour, another band was doing a Velvet Underground tribute properly over at The Met in Pawtucket, RI.  Macaulay Culkin and his under-cooked pizza pies could’ve learned a trick or two from Glenn Mercer and company. 

The New Jersey group has been playing on and off, in one form another, since 1976, and this time the line-up featured Mercer on lead guitar and vocals, Bill Million on rhythm guitar and vocals, Brenda Sauter on bass, Dave Weckerman on various percussion, and Stan Demeski on drums.  Note how none of them are former child actors, already a huge improvement from The Pizza Underground.

This was my fourth time attending a Feelies live performance.  I admit I’m just plain addicted to their style of music.  Every song starts with a strummy two or three chord progression, usually catchy as fuck, then builds up to a climatic, Mercer-destroying solo that reminds me of Neil Young for some reason, but really sounds something like Ira Kaplan or even Bob Quine.  OK, no, you’re right, he sounds like he only listens to the second and third Velvet Underground records.  Whatever.  Every song is exactly the same and perfect. 

The first time I saw them a few years ago at The Middle East in Cambridge, MA, they finished the night with “I Wanna Sleep in Your Arms,” a deep Modern Lovers cut.  From that moment on I’ve been hooked.  The third time I saw them perform was notable because I ended up in the front row grinding with a pretty girl during their take on The Doors’ “Take it as It Comes”.   

Yes, The Feelies play a shit load of covers, but I swear their originals are great, too.  This time around they came out for their first encore with the VU’s “I’m Not A Young Man Anymore” and “White Light/White Heat.”  Their second encore started with The Monkeys’ “I’m A Believer”, then they went, ironically or not, straight into The Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except For Me and My Monkey”.  They played a couple originals, came out a third time and played The Doors tune I mentioned previously.  The fourth and final encore was The VU’s “Rock & Roll.”  Mercer flung his guitar off at the end, due to some equipment malfunctioning, and then stormed off the stage.  Lou Reed’s ghost was clearly lurking and it wasn’t hard to imagine him sitting in the corner, nodding and babbling incoherently to himself, yet still making a motion of approval towards the night’s proceedings. 

It was 12:15 am.  The Feelies had been playing since 9:15 pm and had only a twenty-minute break in between two sets.  They always do this: no opening act, back-to-back sets, and one long-ass show.  By the end, the crowd had thinned out from the original 75 attendees to around 25 hardcores still rocking out.  I looked around and thought to myself: so here’s my future. The entire crowd was at least fifteen years older than me.  There was a Harold Ramis lookalike to my left.  He was jumping up and down in place and noticeably sweating.  Ben Linus’ doppelganger kept trying to dance with a young lady who was already with Don Johnson’s twin.  I knew at least three record storeowners there.  One hippy with a Jerry Garcia fro and beard tried befriending everybody.  Half the crowd wore glasses.  Band shirts and Chuck Taylors were ubiquitous.  Everyone was slightly disheveled, chubby, and intelligent-looking.  I had found my people.

At one point in the night I was watching the Spurs-Thunder basketball game at the bar and I started getting into an argument with some bro about a terrible non-call by the referees that screwed the Spurs over.  They were playing in Oklahoma City, and the refs were doing their best to give the home team an advantage, yet the Spurs eventually still won the game in overtime, because they are bad-asses and have Tim Duncan.  It occurred to me that The Feelies are the indie equivalent to the Spurs: humble, quietly dominant, easy to root for, and magical to witness in their triumphs.  I know, this comparison is quite the stretch, but I don’t care.  Go Spurs!

Last note: I had chosen to see The Feelies that night even though recent Internet sensations Lumpy and the Dumpsters were playing in Providence at AS220.  I’m bummed I missed them, but The Feelies are old and might die soon.  Lumpy’s claim to fame is that a firework hit a kid in the back at one of their shows in NYC.  Also, all their songs are about slime.