July 11, 2003

Hit the East

Last weekend I was reminded of just how unbearable summer in the northeast is. Damn, was it hot. And sticky. Icky.

It might've been the pre-show infusion of iced coffee (Martin) and ginger snap/maple walnut ice cream (me) from Toscanini's, but the air inside the Middle East wasn't too unbearable, depsite the club being chockablock with antsy Fall fans ready to get their Mark E on.

Sadly, we missed openers the Rogers Sisters, opting instead for a post-dessert dinner in the upstairs restaurant (lentil soup! falafel! lamb shank with string beans!). But we wandered downstairs just minutes before the main event began.

The band, minus their conspicuous frontman, took the stage, and a tuneful rumble spread out across the room to cheers from the crowd. And at the first sound of that distinctive Manc bark a few minutes later, the audience began to buzz. Where was he? I stood up on tippy-toes to confirm the visible non-presence of the bark's owner. Though a few minutes later, stage right: Mark E. Smith enters, loping across the stage, mic gripped firmly in hand.

It was a scene oddly familiar -- I'd been right here at the Middle East less than nine months earlier, about to see a lauded, long-running, post-punk band whose favorite material of mine was almost 20 years' past and had not a chance of being played that night. And sure enough, just as Wire had done last October, The Fall focused on new material for most of their set.

Unlike Wire, The Fall took awhile to get rolling. Maybe it was due in part to Mark E's frequent off-stage breaks, or bouts squatting, back turned, next to the drummer at the back of the stage. Because the current line-up, of decidedly recent vintage, was otherwise fully capable of grinding those few chords into the floor, guitar skritch-a-skratch over bang-and-bounce rhythm, select notes of keyboard drone shearing through the mix. They were our silent partners, as we watched the Fall frontman strut and amble and stop every now and then to inaudibly gesticulate at some of the worshipful near the front of the stage, their outstretched arms and waving hands proffered in supplication.

The real treat was the set-capper, an extended version of "Big New Prinz" that pounded that beat into our skulls in tandem with Smith's searingly enunciated repetitions:

Check the record, check the record
Check the guy's track record
Check the record!
Check the guy's track record

Sweating, ears buzzing from our close proximity to the speakers, we used that as our own parting shot to propel us back through a crowd still milling about, hoping for more.

Posted by nstop at July 11, 2003 12:24 AM


This summer is the hottest I can remember. It's awful. Europe will soon be a desert if this trend continues.

Posted by: RS78 on August 4, 2003 03:22 AM

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