Willie Loco Alexander's 70th Birthday Party
The Jimmy Timgle Theatre
If we don't tell you about something it's because we don't know or we forgot, except for this time - this time
we were sworn to secrecy. Anne Rearick went about giving Willie Loco Alexander a surprise 70th
birthday party in an age of instant communication and with Willie's big presence on Facebook.
Anne had booked the Jimmy Tingle Theatre in Davis Square. There was
promise of the Nervous Eaters and The Neighborhoods. We were told
to come by 7pm. Most did, the party was already going on by that time.
The amazing night started really started to take shape as you looked around and started to see the notables. We saw Jon Macy, Steve Morse, TMax, Bob Colby, Tontileo, Cal Cali, Mach Bell, Bret Milano, Skeggy, Mr. Curt, Jon Seamans, Boby Bear…the list goes on!!
At one point there was word that Willie and Anne, who had a meal in the upstairs restaurant, were being brought down on some pretext to look at the theatre. It was at that point that we had an odd situation where there was a full room of people sitting quietly in the dark for several minutes. Willie got to the curtained entrance; they pull it back and turn on the lights and the room erupted in cheers to a truly amazed Willie. I don't think he got over the shock for 15 minutes as well wishers streamed to be near him.
The night could have ended there because this was a wonderful loving salute to a man who's given us…the scene…the city…his great music - so much. Of course it didn't end there, but proceeded with the over 20 groups performing Willie songs.
The first group was an unfamiliar one to me called A-Train. A North Shore blues band that play in Willie's current locality. They were very accomplished and had a powerful punch with ace horn playing. They did two songs and gave Willie the kudos.
We've seen and heard of Preacher Jack, another North Shore entity, and today finally got to glimpse some of his magic. It seemed like he could have talked three hours away but held himself back and launched into Whole Lotta Shaking Going On, an inspiration to both him and Willie. He had the rock and roll spirit. One key to his success is his strong left hand playing: it's so strong it lifts and carries the song to where ever he wants it to go.
Next flew up Ed Moose Savage who gave his own style prose tribute before doing an a capella version of Shopping Cart Louie. I think someone might characterize Ed's performance as 'fearless' but that's sort of assuming he is brushing fear aside whereas in truth fear is not in Ed's reality at all. He's out there without a net and he thinks there is no ground. In any case that's what gets him into the space where he can deliver an emotionally charged performance as this which is unlike any other. He brought home this great song telling the ironic fate of the veteran who survives the worst war can give just to end up a casualty of neighborhood thugs. The greatest thing you can do tonight is give Willie his own song back and show it as inspiration. Ed did it.
In a night full of surprises seeing the Bags was one of the biggest. People have been bemoaning their loss and trying them to do a reunion show for years, yet here they were. The trio did a neat version of High Tide Heroes off "The Dog Bar Yacht Club" CD and then cracked everyone up with a combo of Little Willie by Sweet and a punked up Alexander's Rag Time Band. Guys, why the tease? Do a few gigs!
Randy Black had been acting as a stage coordinator and MC took this chance to do one song with his new line up. We recently raved about Randy's appearance with The Heathcroppers at the Rosebud. We think the quality of the whole scene went up a few notches with his reemergence. Randy picked You Looked So Pretty When and managed to refashion it with his deep and dark style. He made the main guitar line softer and repeated some lines a few extra times. It left you wanting more.
Eric Lindgren does so many amazing things that it can spin you head. Tonight he takes Birdsongs through some orchestrated trips mashing up Stravinsky and Alexander. They started with a piece called Basket Case. They ended up focusing on Ken Field's arrangement of Gin, an early WA song about a former girlfriend. Ken took the line Matthew McKenzie played with slide guitar and filled it out enhancing its romantic quality. It was one of my favorite musical moments of the night. Eric gave Willie the sheet music to the orchestrations. I'm sure Willie will glue it to his wall.
Reddy Teddy did one song…much too short for this great group. They played a not often heard song written by Willie and Matthew McKenzie, that they played back in 1970 (think about that) at the Outside Inn a club across from Fenway Park. I think it was called Pretty Tree Climber (I could be wrong) that sounded like, well Reddy Teddy. There last gig was a few months ago at Cantab and they have no gigs lined up now so this was a treat.
Rupert Webster was up next. He was in Willie's band in the 80's. He did a great version of Radio Heart and had a boss English accent. Boby Bear filled in on drums for Reddy Teddy and continued to drum for Rupert. It was really great to see Boby up there on stage again - its been a while!!
I never saw them before they hit the stage but all of sudden there they were - the Nervous Eaters with Robb Skeen on bass and Boom Boom David McLean on drums. They play a real early song RA Baby (RA=Rhythm Asshole). Wild! I would say the evening went into overdrive at this point with everyone now up out of their seats and in front of the bands. The rock and roll attitude overtakes any reservedness we might have had earlier.
Next up two short poems were delivered by friends of Willie's...and remember folks this is a birthday so out come the cakes- several of them. A table was ceremoniously brought onto the dance floor and each cake was presented to Willie first, who had to blow out the candles on all of them. A lot of thought went into the design on these cakes- see the pics.
Now we hit new highs of expectations as the Boom Boom Band lines up. Up comes a Scottish garbed Kenne Highland who rocks it out with At the Rat. Kenne is perfect for a night like this because he needs no warm up, he's rock ready. As luck would have it Jimmy Harold had walked in just a little earlier. We all know when a group like this gets together the Spirit of the Rat is there by default. Kenne helped to bring that to the fore and for the first time tonight we get to hear Billy Loosigian 'squeeze' those sustaining lead lines from his Les Paul…saaaaaaaawwwwweeeeeeeett.
The Boom Booms stick there and the great Frank Rowe captures Dirty Eddie, one of Willie great full-bore rockers. It's fast, it's frantic and it makes you feel like you deserve a smoke. Frank did an amazing job of delivering the lengthy span of gibberish Willie spews in this song.
There's no stop as Jon Macey and Michael Roy join the Boom Booms for a sleaze full Looking Like a Bimbo a song that name checks…JON MACEY. And you can believe Jon left that in there when he did it. That was a mind bender. Jon gave it all for one of the most memorable performances in this packed night.
The pace continues with Asa Brebner doing Everybody Knows one of Willies oldest tunes. It's also a ballad, thankfully. We need a minute to catch our breath.
That doesn't last long, it's now John Powhida aptly performing Hair a long time favorite in the Willie catalog and for this Willie joins the group - it had to happen. He was continually inching closer to the stage as the night went on. Now we've got another level of crazy.
The Boom Booms now are lead by Dennis Brennan who is a musician that other musicians go see when they want good music. He did a version of BU Baby.
So up comes Peter Wolf! A little Wolf patter, he commends Willie for being true to himself and his vision and goes right into Mass Ave. Video of Wolf doing Mass Ave. Can you imagine the excitement at this point? We're thinking, what can be coming and how long can this go on?
But no rest as Mission of F'n Burma joins Willie for Hit Her With the Axe. Video of MOB and Willie. In what Boston rock and roll fantasy land does this happen? Here, evidently. Wow. I think MOB did another song. Hard to remember and the note taking got lost in the shuffle a few times.
You knew it had to happen even though in the tremendous line up of greats you might have forgotten…the Neighborhoods show up and who's at the party if we hadn't mentioned it ..Mike Quaglia the original Neighborhood's drummer, who flew up from Florida especially for this! With Willie still up there they bang out Gourmet Baby and Melinda. Here's the video for you! Remember these guys used to back up Willie at the Rat before he had the Boom Booms!!
So, kill me now, I'm ready to go. I think it's about 11 PM by now and the theatre has gone from a pleasant sitting experience to a very hot and sweaty standing trial. I'm on my first day out after a case of the flu and am getting tired but I soldier on dear reader thinking of you.
The Persistence of Memory Orchestra adds Roger Miller on keyboards and Scott Baerenwald gets to sing Kerouac, the self-made, mailed from his house 45 that started the punk era in Boston. Lots of history recalled, as well as being made, here tonight. At this point Boby Bear is back up on stage for even more drumming.
The POMO then backs up Barrence Whitfield doing Garbage Man. And what a joyful performance he gives us, with the signature Barrence howls, yowls and screams and taking delight in the idea of gettin' nasties all over his hands!
Andrea Gillis steps up to give us a dose of her unique voice for two songs then a young group called Mancie from Brooklyn who have known Willie for a while do several credible covers. Then we get a group called Boyfriends…I don't know I'm losing track at this point!
Finally Willie plays with Scott on bass. Doing any song he can think of that hasn't been covered yet.
What a night!! Never has there been a line up like this and I don't think we'll see it repeated any time again.
This was a worthy salute to Boston's greatest punker and he's so much more than even that.
The BGN throws our Happy Birthday wishes to Willie and congratulations and thanks Anne Rearick for her work to set up this party.
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