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The Mummies! Live!

Posted by on Jun 18, 2009 in Music | 0 comments

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Singing while balancing a Farfisa on your head helps dull those sharp notes.

I’ll fess up right off the bat.  When the three New York-area shows for The Mummies were announced I was one of those jerks who bought tickets for all three and cleared those days for vacation at work.  The boys were playing an early and a late show at Maxwell’s in Hoboken on a Tuesday night and then one show at Southpaw in Brooklyn the next night.  I was going to need the rest.  I mean, hell, even when I was in college, it was tough getting out of a show at 2 AM at Maxwell’s and walking the mile and a half or so to the PATH stop to get back to the city.

Expectations were pretty high for The Mummies’ first shows in the U.S. in 18 years — and the fact that the first was taking place at the site of the last one in 1991, you knew there wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house. Certainly not from those who dropped $50-$60 to scalpers after the shows sold out immediately ($15 face value for each ticket!).  But could anyone really miss these shows?  In fact, you’ll see those strange orbs floating around in my pictures.  Maybe they are the spirits of Mummies fans who have died in the intervening 18 years who wanted to cross to the other side see their favorite band?

For those who don’t know, The Mummies are/were a garage rock band from the Bay Area who wrap themselves up in guaze and generally act like idiots on stage.  Of course, that all serves to mask their talent, which is pretty obvious when they crank out Wailers and Sonics covers along with their own original Budget Rock (a phrase that they claim to have trademarked) such as “(You Must Fight to Live) On the Planet of the Apes).”

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The early show started with the drummer coming out.  He warbled, in a voice uncannily similar to Joey Ramone (who started in the Ramones as the drummer), “You paid the money to see a professional show.  Let’s not waste any more time. . .let’s go with. . .professional show business!”  Then he kicked off a beat.  Mummy bassist came on and started playing, as Maxwell’s capacity crowd of 200 recognized the lines from “Food, Sickles and Girls.” Then the guitarist came on and started playing.  At this point people were chanting, “Food, sickles and girls!”  And then the lead singer/keyboard playing mummy jumped on and said into the mike, “Okay, everybody.  Grab your ankles.  You’re gonna get screwed!”  After hitting a few chords on his Farfisa, the band lurched into the song with full gusto and bodies both on and off stage jumped around like grubs on a hot plate.

The Mummies are known for trash talking as well.  Early on the singer said, “We’re gonna have to clear you guys out for the V.I.P. show,” referencing the later show.  “This microphone taste like shit. . .did G.G. Allin just play?”  About halfway through the set, a few songs after a version of “He’s Waiting” that blew apart, the bassist asked, “Hey are we skipping something here?”  “Shhh!” said the singer, “that’s for the V.I.P. show, man!”

Some in the crowd yelled for The Mummies to just stop the banter and play.

“You know, back in the old days,” the singer countered, “you know, when your parents used to come see us, they’d be lucky to get, like, 15 minutes of actual music, so stop fucking complaining, all right?”

Encore: “Zip a Dee Doo Dah” and “Justine.”

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The later show was even more high-energy.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I felt the entire Maxwell’s crowd moving that fast and in all directions.  This time, they all came onstage at the same time.

The bassist announced that they “saved all the good songs for this V.I.P. show.”  People were screaming pretty much anything.  “Don’t get too excited,” said the drummer, “you may be disappointed.”  The singer added, “Too bad you guys missed the V.I.P. show that happend a little while ago.”  Then he said, “You can feel free to sing along to this one.  Except Russell.”

The Mummies launched into a hi-speed and raunchy version of “Skinny Minnie” and the floor seemed to convert into a junction of moving walkways as torsos twisted and slammed against each other.

A few songs in, the bassist chided, “If you were here at the last show, please stand in the back so the other people can see.”

“This place is a dump, look at this!” said the singer, referring to the cups and other crap that people thew on the stage.

As the bassist tuned up, the singer said to his bandmates, “Let’s see how long we can make them wait.  The funny thing is, they can’t make us actually play, and they can’t make us play good.”

Encore: “(My Love Is) Stronger Than Dirt,” (bringing things full-circle) “Food, Sickles and Girls” and “Show Me.”

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It was kinda more of the same at Southpaw the next night, which, in The Mummies’ case, is a great thing!  The Brooklyn club actually had curtains drawn as the boys set up, so when they parted, as the drummer keeping a beat on the high hat, it was actually pretty dramatic.

They opened with a ferocious cover of “Come on Up” that saw the singer stand on his Farfisa, grab a ceiling beam and swing from it.  Of course, someone else in the audience later in the show got a boost from a buddy and did the same thing.  How original.

I have to say that the crowd of 500 were more vocal than the Maxwell’s crowds, although the latter were way more physically active.

When the regular set was over, the crowd chanted “food, sickles and girls!”  And they got it for the first song of the encore. Then there was “(My Love Is) Stronger Than Dirt.”  After that, the bassist asked the crowd, “Are you guys getting bored?” to a resounding “NOOOO!!!!”

The ultimate (in many ways) song followed, “(You Must Fight to Live) On The Planet of the Apes.”  The crowd continued to roar for more, but the boys were done, off to some shows in Europe.  Will they ever play in the U.S. again?

For more pictures, check out my fan page on Facebook.

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