Slim Mike Watt regains strength

Rating: NNNNNWith no new record to flog, you could have excused Mike Watt for taking some time off and spending.

Rating: NNNNN

With no new record to flog, you could have excused Mike Watt for taking some time off and spending his downtime at home. That wouldn’t be Watt, though.

Predictably, the post-punk bass boss, who’s done 40 tours so far — that’s at least two tours a year — is spending his between-album holidays banging out 90 minutes of old Minutemen, Firehose and Wire songs and talking about shoes, vans, politics and the idea of pro sports as fascism.

Tuesday’s Horseshoe gig was a loose, greatest hits-style review, or would have been if Watt had any hits. Joined by guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Vince Meghrouni, the flannel-clad Watt was remarkably relaxed, casually storming through his record collection and playing classic Minutemen jams with an uncommon edge. His awkward concept disc Contemplating The Engine Room was virtually ignored in favour of older, more explosive punk fusion, and the tiny but appreciative crowd were thrilled.

For all the laid-back attitude, though, there was also an urgency to Watt’s playing. “It’s been a tough year,” he reflected, repeatedly alluding to a devastating illness — an abscessed perineum — that had put him at the mercy of the U.S. health care system and left the once-burly bassist rail thin.

The health scare might have forced Watt to select a shorter bass and cut his set down to just one encore, but from a musical perspective, Watt seemed unfazed. Barely a note was missed, and more importantly, Watt seemed genuinely thrilled by the chance to be up on-stage playing. How often can you say that?

MIKE WATT, at the Horseshoe, October 10. Tickets: $10. Attendance: 130. Rating: NNNN

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