Mekons – First Avenue (Minneapolis, MN)
It seems there are only four basic rules that govern a Mekons show these days: 1) They will play music. 2) The crowd will lose their minds. 3) Everybody has a good time. 4) Mitch, the roadie, will come out a take lead vocals for an unintelligible, thrashing punk song to end the evening. Everything else is up for grabs.
Kicking off their first visit to the Twin Cities in four years with “Heaven And Back”, it was clear that the 21-year-old punk band (finally old enough to drink, thank goodness!) was still at the top of its game. The voices of Sally Timms, Rico Bell, Tom Greenhalgh and Jon Langford blended together perfectly, and their playing was tight and loud.
With the band’s most recent release, Me, making heavy use of digital manipulation and sampling, the band chose to reinvent the songs rather than put on a keyboard-driven show. The results were some stunning interpretations that brought out the band’s country and world-folk influences. which mixed nicely with a handful of Mekons classics including “Oblivion” and “King Arthur” from 1986’s country-punk masterpiece The Edge Of The World and the sea-chantey-flavored “(Sometimes I Feel Like) Fletcher Christian”.
While music was the evening’s mainstay, fun was its theme, and there was no shortage of the usual insanity. Two songs into the set, Timms asked the crowd if anyone was planning to have “novelty sex” that night, before proceeding to toss yellow “Mekondoms” into the crowd. She went on to explain they were for “novelty sex only” and attempts to use them as birth control “won’t work!” Jon, Tom and Rico, not to be outdone, took an extended break during “Narrative” (a song told from a dog’s point of view) to run around on their hands and knees barking, humping and pretending to urinate on the mike stand, proving that 21 years together has not led to maturity.
The high point of the show, however, came before the encore. Breaking into the chorus of “Back To Back”, the band taught the crowd the words and a dance. After getting the audience to sing along, they proceeded to leave the stage. The crowd, however, proceeded to sing and dance at full volume until the band returned several minutes later (with fresh beer) to pick up their instruments and finish the song.
After two short encores, highlighted by a mosh-pit-inspiring version of “Memphis, Egypt”, the evening came to a close when the blue-spandex-clad Mitch took the stage, finally diving off the stage onto an open patch of the concrete floor to officially end the show.