Posted by: Mark Nielsen | October 29, 2007

Live From Hell: Wee Hairy Beasties & Other Musical Fun

Live From Hell - Oct 27, 2007

“Live From Hell !!!” How’s that for the first sentence my five-year-old kid ever read entirely on his own, with no prompting? Is that totally rock ‘n’ roll, or what?!

These words were on a sign to the left of the stage at Martyr’s, a nightclub in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood where I took Graham to see the Halloween show for the Wee Hairy Beasties. They’re a kids’ group/side project for Waco Brother Jon Langford and some of his roots rock/alt-country label-mates on Bloodshot Records. Here’s a shot of them performing in costume.—>

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If you can’t tell, Jon is dressed as Devil Elvis. He’s a true original: a native Irishman, brogue and all, who’s been writing great American blues and country-influenced rock songs for about two decades with the Mekons and then the Waco Brothers. As expected, the Beasties are a class act, as well. Their album Animal Crackers, released last year, features great pickin’ and playin’, plus lyrics that will keep adults laughing as much as the kids, though for different reasons. My favorite is a hilarious re-write of Muddy Water’s “Mannish Boy (I’m a Man)”. It’s called “I’m an A.N.T.” They didn’t play it at the show, but when I heard it in my car on the ride home, it made my purchase of the CD worth the $15 all by itself.

One thing they did do at the show that was kinda cool: backed up by some creepy kooky ooky music (by members of Devil in a Woodpile), Jon did a spoken-word rendition of the first half of Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Then when they got to the book’s Wild Rumpus, they launched quickly into (what else?) Wild Thing, the garage rock classic. It didn’t matter a bit that most of the kids didn’t know the original. They don’t need an excuse to go wild, we adults do…

Dancing Beastie Boys & Girls

As you can see, about half the kids were in costume, too. Graham’s actually in the above picture, but sort of in the background at a table, so you probably can’t see him (look to left of the dad in the white sweatshirt). Yeah, Graham’s the one in a sorta beatnik/Pearl Jam-style ripped jeans jacket, swilling his Sprite, filled with ennui, inwardly mocking the quarterback, the cheerleader, and all the other “popular kids” out on the dancefloor.

It was shortly after I took the above shot and went back to our table that Graham –completely out of the blue– pointed and observed “That says ‘Live From Hell’ “. I was shocked, and laughed very loudly for at least a full minute. He’s been sounding out single words lately, but this time he just read the whole schmeer, without stumbling over pronunciation or anything. Furthermore, he did it with no frame-of-reference whatsoever as to context: he doesn’t know what hell is, nor has he intuited much about the “bad boy” mythology connected to both rock music and Halloween.

Just as importantly, he enjoyed the music, too. But predictably, he spent a fair amount of time distracted by the little prizes the band provided for all the kids. (See photo.)

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Next up, maybe we’ll go see a Scorpions concert. I’ve never been much of a headbanger myself, but if the kid’s gonna lean that way, more power to him! Beats the heck out of Kids Bop, Kenny Loggins’ “House at Pooh Corner”, Raffi or Barney’s Greatest Hits.

Time to buy Junior his own Stratocaster!

That’s all from Hell, ladies and gentlemen. Devil Elvis (and Angel Graham) have left the building.

(…and the Red Sawx are about to win the World Series… I gotta focus here… ‘scuse me while I kiss the sky…)


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