Borrowing the title from a Big Daddy Kane song, there “ain’t no half-steppin” in the artistic world of Mike Watt. In a culture where the phrase “Do It Yourself” is thrown around like confetti, Mike Watt is testament to the biggest element of the DIY ethic, which is…“Doing It.” Going full-force, working your craft and keeping the adventure going once you’ve started it. Just as Mike Watt has been voraciously doing his art for over three decades.
While accolades are thrown at his feet like roses, Watt keeps his feet moving by jumping from creative stage to stage in a worldwide dance of touring, recording and collaborating. Even when his body is struck by illness and injury, Watt’s spirit and passion propel him to reach the visions he has created over his lifetime. On this turn of exploration, Watt and company jumped into his white 2005 Ford Econoline E-350 van and navigated another ambitious project that included a stop at The Handlebar in Pensacola, Florida.
First act on the three band bill were rock unit, “Deadly Fists of Kung Fu.” Formed in Pensacola, Florida, the DFKF tour throughout the Gulf region and are led by Zac Hobbs (vocals/guitar), Phread Touchette (bass), Andrew Bennett (drums), and Jason Hurt (guitar). With an upcoming gig in New Orleans, the band signaled the start of musically adventurous evening.
Second on stage were “Lite” from Tokyo, Japan. With an instrumental foundation, the members of “Lite” (Nobuyuki Takeda (guitar), Kozo Kusumoto (guitar), Jun Izawa (bass), and Akinori Yamamoto (drums) build a dynamically intense sound that mixes extreme technique and near-infinite energy. Playing 10 dates of Watt’s tour, “Lite” are contributing proceeds of their album sales to help survivors of Japan’s tsunami tragedy.
With the music of John Coltrane whirling in the bar, Watt and the Missingmen set up in preparation for their reel in the evening’s triple feature. With a promise of “No breakdancing” due to his knee injury, Watt and company transformed the Pensacola crowd into open-mouthed eye-witnesses of his most recent inspired feat. With the goal of performing his third and most recent opera, “Hyphenated-man” 51 times in 52 days, Watt began the opera with an introduction that seduced the boundaries of spoken-word touch with the emotion of a heartfelt greeting.
“…so much….good people of Pensacola…its been awhile….so sorry. And late for a work night…huh…so sorry. I’m very grateful you come. Really…really happy that you got to watch and hear my buddies from Tokyo, my brothers…Lite. Respect. This is the first time they ever played in Florida. You know…respect. It means a lot. Thank you. And Kung Fu..Fists… thanks for helping us with the amps and sharing the stage with us here…and you people at The Handlebar for having me back. We’re gonna play. We’re gonna do a f*cking weird thing now…”
With endearing salutation given, Watt and his Missingmen performed “Hyphenated-man,” a 30 song non-stop push of self-exploration. At the conclusion of the opera, Watt showed appreciation for the Handlebar crowd, both opening bands, and then introduced his band members before they kicked into another set of songs to the delight of the crowd.
-Michael L. Smith