We love the ICA. We've spent many hours in the cinema trying to pry off the Takeshi Kitano nameplates from the chairs and sipping wine (the one that's ten pence more than the house red) in the bar while dunking chips and ruminating aloud on why the second series of The Tripods was never released on DVD...
But we don't tend to head towards the Mall to see punk rock gigs - we're usually in the Verge in Camden trying our best to forget the time that some drunk got naked during the Groovie Ghoulies set and rubbed his testicles all over the pole that holds the ceiling up...
We were excited then that Mike Watt would be bringing his Second Men to the ICA (as commented on when we spoke to him) because the one thing that that black box at the back of the ICA has is fantastic acoustics. We bumped into Watt on his way into the gig and about twenty minutes later he was already up on stage and playing his bass like a madman who's been given a second chance to do what he loves best.
If you know your punk history then you'll know that Watt is something of a legend, but it was great to see so many youngsters in the crowd mixed in among the ragged and faded Black Flag and Minor Threat shirts. For Watt, Raul Morales and Paul Roessler this is the last outing for their sickness opera, 'Secondman's Middle Stand' - the vivid story of Watt's near death experience after a massive abscess in his perineum was missed by a doctor and eventually burst.
We were treated to songs like 'Pissbags and Tubing' and the glorious 'Pluckin', Pedalin' and Paddlin' which lovingly turned into a bit of a sing-along towards the end. The sound that these three get out of their instruments is amazing. Morales obviously loves that drum kit as much as Watt does his worn and battered thudstaff. No guitars here, but Roessler's keyboard more than make up for that with all eyes on Watt as he directs the changes and takes it upon himself to punch the cymbals from time to time - it's reminiscent of a stripped down Zappa band which is high praise indeed from this Londonist.
As a nod to the older fans the encore is made up of Minute Men tracks with Roessler handling some of the vocals and his keyboard filling in for D. Boon's lost guitar on the beloved 'Corona' (or the Jackass theme, as it has come to be known to the same people who think Ozzy Osbourne is a reality TV star). No matter what the tune though it was hard to take your eyes off Watt's fretboard. So many bands treat their instruments as props, hanging in front of ironic t-shirts, but Watt knows exactly what a bass guitar can do and boy does he put it through its paces. In music circles he's like the test pilots that first flung their planes as fast and as high as possible - self taught and not worried about doing things with those strings that seem wrong or just plain impossible the man was remarkable to see in action up close.
Strong support came from The Capricorns - not these Capricorns (although we like them too) but rather the London based (almost) instrumental rockers who knocked our hearing out again after it had just recovered from the vampires gig. We're keeping an eye on these guys as their set was blunt and powerful and we'd love to see them headline.
More pics can be found here.