STILL FEELIE AFTER ALL THESE YEARS
The Feelies - Maxwells, July 3
by Jim Testa
It really wouldn't seem like the 4th of July without the
Feelies at Maxwell's. This is a tradition that goes back
to the Eighties and was reborn in 2008 when the band reunited
after an 18 year hiatus. This is the lineup that made the
The Good Earth, Only Life, and Time For A Witness,
and that's the bulk of the material they played on Saturday,
the mid-point of a 3 night soldout stand at the 200-capacity
club in the Mile Square City.
Let's part out by saying the band sounded great - Dave
Weckerman continuing to polish Million and Mercer's diamond-cut
songwriting with frenetic percussion on woodblock, tambourine,
and other instruments. The band's lost none of its intensity
or speed, but still captivates with the more pastoral, mid-tempo
material like "The High Road," "Let's Go,"
and "Higher Ground."
My (ahem) inside sources tell me the band has started pre-production
on a new album and has already been scouting studios, with
as many as 20 new songs written and ready to record. Of
course, that doesn't mean we'll see a new album anytime
soon; as Bill Million told me in an interview last year,
"you might have noticed that the Feelies don't treat
time the way other people do." That echoed a quote
that Dave Weckerman gave me over 20 years ago: "Being
in the Feelies is like living in a pyramid - nobody gets
older and nothing ever changes."
We've all gotten a little older and a few things have changed
(especially during the band's long hiatus,) but you cannot
deny the timelessness that surrounds the Feelies mystique.
At Maxwell's, I counted 10 people in the room that I've
known for 25 years or more - and that doesn't include the
band. Think about that for a second. Except for a high school
reunion, how often does that happen? It's truly a wonderful
thing to be enveloped in the Feelies time-bubble.
But let's go back to the set. Including the three encores,
they went heavy on the covers. In fact the band opened the
set with the Velvets' "Sunday Morning" and Jonathan
Richman's "Egyptian Reggae," and later worked
in Neil Young's "Don't Cry No Tears Over Me" and
"Barstool Blues," REM's "Carnival Of Sorts
(Boxcars,)" their hyperspeed cover of the Beatles'
"Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And
My Monkey" and a super-psychedelic "He Said/She
Said," the Stones' "Paint It Black," a Doors
cover and the instrumental "Fun To Be Happy" by
the 80's Athens band Love Tractor. There were at least three
new numbers, but since the Feelies don't do stage patter
or introduce their songs, you had to be both a fan and listening
intently to figure out which they were.
The band did two sets, as is their custom at these Maxwells'
shows, covering much of the final three albums but only
a few selections from their classic first album (although
"Fa Ce La" came up in the encores, and of course
they closed the second set with "Crazy Rhythms,"
a tradition locked in granite.)
When the Feelies reunited in 2008 and played their first
Maxwell's reunion, the room was filled with 40- and 50-somethings
nostalgic for the band's original incarnation. But over
the last few years - with a little touring and some festival
appearances - the Feelies have started to reach a younger
audience. Last night's crowd definitely had more younger
people than I've seen at a Feelies show in a while (although,
to be fair, quite a few of them were the children of band
members;) but then again, the punk and hardcore website
ran a feature on the Feelies' weekend performances, urging
its mostly teen and twentysomething readers to check the
band out. My guess is that there'll be even more young'un
at next year's Fourth of July concerts. And I'll certainly
be crawling of my pyramid to be there.
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