Jon Nolan and The Working Girls live at The Press Room, November 5th, 2011
Loving rock’n’roll isn’t about being a devoted fan. I love whole milk, but that’s not why I drive to the store to buy it: I hate having to drive to the store, but I need it, because my life just isn’t right without it. Drive two hours to see a band only a handful of people really care about? No question, when the band is lead by the extraordinary writer and true rock player, Jon Nolan. Add to that I still hadn’t yet seen the Working Girls line up and the gig was in Jon’s home stomping grounds and one the oldest remaining live music venues in New England.
Where to start with Jon Nolan? The learned and the published know more about the details of his career than I do, as do the cadre of really old fans at the center table. I’ve seen Jon play solo on a bar stool, ‘in the round’ at The Press Room on a Sunday afternoon, and in a few loud, smelly, amped up clubs where few are listening and music like this thrives. Some of you reading this know Jon’s name was made from yet another of the great (arguably greatest) of unsigned bands of the late 90’s, Say Zuzu. Their live recordings were better to listen to than the records put out by most bands and most labels of the time. Others of you might remember his name from Peter Blackstock’s best of list of 2005, when Jon released his first solo record Remember When The Summer’s Lasted Long.
I’ve been going to The Press Room for something like 25 years now, so I shouldn’t put off by how few people are there to really see and listen to the feature. And I figured since this is across the river from where Jon is from, the place would be packed and I’d squeeze in somewhere. There were a lot of people both upstairs and down, but I had no problem getting a table right up front. The two couples who landed at the rest of my table had never heard of him, they were out for drinks and noise on a cold, damp New England night; before they left they were on the mailing list and had bought at least one CD, I think. There are few things more redeeming than watching casual listeners get swept up by a great band.
What is it about a writer/performer,or a band like this that will get me to drive to Portland, or Portsmouth, or maybe even Boston? All said and done, it’s just that there are not many acts like this anymore, not around here anyway. The last time I saw Jon play, I wasn’t all that thrilled with his back up, however on that particular night he had some playing that reminded me of James Honeyman-Scott, and I have never seen or heard a guitar player do that, anywhere, ever.
I’m not saying you can go to see Nolan and expect that, or expect anything, actually. That’s the thrill and the reason to go see rock bands who write and develop their own material. It’s not a commodity, and it sure isn’t a run to the grocery store.