John Doe Reigns at The Triple Door (Seattle, WA)
John Doe brought his punk energy and some Texas twang to The Triple Door in Seattle. Doe is in the middle of a short tour to promote The Best of John Doe This Far, his multi-decade collection of greatest hits and personal favorites, along with some previously unreleased material. The genre-bending performance entertained and engaged the audience from start to finish.
Opening for John this night was Austin’s Jesse Dayton, who, like Doe, is a bit of a renaissance man. He’s a top-notch session guitarist (he played on Waylon Jennings’ last two albums), a stage and screen actor, producer, zombie movie star and soundtrack artist, screenwriter and film maker (ZOMBEX), raconteur and comedian.
Dayton, who played a dark and dirty Gretsch guitar, was accompanied by Chris Rhoades on doghouse and electric bass, and Eric C. Hughes on drums. The three boys let ‘er rip with some rollicking alt-country and Americana tunes with humor and big Texas style.
Jesse was “brangin’ it” (his motto) with a screamin’ rockabilly solo on the first song, “Daddy Was a Badass” and a slappin’ bass beat. In a faux bravado move, Jesse held his hand up to his ear and begged the audience to make some noise for him. The crowd whooped and clapped heartily.
He said he was from a parallel universe called East Texas, and dedicated the song, “We Can’t Help The Way That We Are” to Waylon Jennings.
“Beautiful Thing” is a song about the creole woman from Louisiana who helped raise Dayton. When he was a boy, they spent the weekdays listening to blues artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins. On Sundays, she only allowed gospel music. “She was my best buddy,” he said. He played a soulful acoustic slide with a nod to his favorite blues guitarists. One lyric in the heartwarming ballad really stood out: The Funeral was black and white / but our tears were all the same
Not wanting to get too sentimental, Jesse kicked it up a notch and quipped, “It’s all drinkin’ and cheatin’ songs from here on out!” Sticking to his word, he introduced the next tune, “I’m At Home Getting Hammered While She’s Out Getting Nailed”, by proudly exclaiming that it has “two whopping chords in the whole song, and no bridge or chorus”.
After a few more tunes, he joked, “I hope we passed the audition tonight.” His last song was dedicated to Eddie Spaghetti of Supersuckers. Jesse first told a story regarding the beautiful time he had traveling with Eddie on tour and stopping at a Love’s Truck Stop for some duct tape. Eddie wanted to purchase some chrome girly mud flaps for his garage wall, too. In a “Shakespearean white trash epiphany,” Jesse promptly went back to his car and wrote a song called “Arkansas Chrome (Duct Tape Song)”.
After a brief intermission, Jesse and the band joined John Doe on stage.
John Doe is a singer / songwriter with almost four decades of songs to his name. He’s an actor (with a long list of credits), a poet, a teacher, a horseman, and punk royalty. Doe is most recognized as the bass player and vocalist with the renowned L.A. punk band X with Exene Cervenka. He was also with The Sadies, The Knitters, and participated in other collaborations.
The talented and beautiful songstress Cindy Wasserman from Dead Rock West joined Doe on vocals this night. He facetiously introduced her as the meanest woman in rock ‘n’ roll. Cindy’s harmonies blend perfectly with his clean and controlled vocals. The tone of his voice is still so powerful; he can hold a note and take it for a ride into the stratosphere.
Doe played an eclectic set, mixing X songs with his solo projects and included a few covers. Singing from the heart on moody ballads, he also balanced out the tone with politically-fuled songs and up-tempo rockers. With Jesse Dayton’s band backing him, it was high-energy rock show overall, but infused with Americana, country, roots, and blues–crossing genres without apology.
John dove into the set with “This Far” from 2002’s Dim Stars, Bright Sky , featured in his latest collection.
One of his old friends was in the audience this night. He introduced “Handsome Devil” from Keeper and warned the audience to never let a friend of a friend spend a couple of nights, because bad things might ensue. The foreboding lyrics explain:
here comes a stranger
a friend of a friend
knocking on our door
sliding it open
he talks the blues, so do you
this ring is getting tighter
my finger is falling off
this changes everything
he stole your wedding ring
this changes everything
he walked right in, sat right down
baby let your mind roll on
& roll right outta town
where’s my gun?
oh that’s right, I don’t have one
so devilishly handsome
should of known he was actually Satan
this changes everything
Another song of betrayal, “Burning House of Love” from X’s Ain’t Love Grand included Rhoades, back on upright bass, and an explosive solo by Dayton.
“4th of July” a bittersweet X song, is a perfect accompaniment to these sunny summer days, but Doe complained that he always gets someone requesting it in November.
John checked in with the audience: “Are you all having a good time? Excellent. It’s all going to come to an end.”
“Lucky Penny”, a heartfelt love song from Keeper, generated a wistful sigh from lucky Booth 13.
“Who has worked in a factory?” asked John. A few people raised their hands. “Seven people? No wonder this country’s so fucked up. There are no factories here anymore!” “Giant Step Backwards” from Keeper, can also be interpreted as a song of love lost.
Doe flew into another Keeper tune, “Never Enough”, which rants about our materialistic society, or as John put it, the “fucked-up-edness of our country” and lists all the junk we have–and it’s never enough. Although the lyrics are scornful, the upbeat tempo is undeniably danceable.
“This May Be the Last Time” from Dead Rock West’s second album, Bright Morning Stars was introduced by John with, “Nothing is as fearsome as an unhappy partner!” He let Cindy take the lead, and Jesse backed her with lots of bluesy reverb.
Exene wrote the next song on her last record, called “Alone in Arizona” and Doe loved it, so he played it this night. Jesse accompanied with a mood-altering solo to a somber audience. The lyrics are dark and heavy: My heart is blue with losing you / My soul is still losing you / The road is rough, I’m losing you / The sun beats down, I’m losing you
Doe didn’t leave the crowd hanging in the dark for long, and picked up speed again with “Telephone By The Bed” from Freedom Is…with Jesse taking a Billy Zoom punk stance and tight, thumping drums from Eric Hughes.
“The Have Nots”, his ode to the dive bar, was prefaced with the plea, “Take the dive bars back from the fucking hipsters!”
“Golden State” from A Year in The Wilderness was another crowd favorite, made even more special with Cindy Wasserman sharing vocals with Doe. They ended the regular set to more cheers and applause.
They soon returned to the stage as the clapping continued and played the quietly moving “Darling Underdog”, also from A Year in The Wilderness and co-written with Exene.
John Doe wrapped up with X’s “The New World”, a fitting end to his diverse set.
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Photo Credit: Jacob Knight