Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile


Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC

Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
June 30, 2023 04:06PM
So I took the plunge and went up to NYC to see the Pere Ubu/Faust show. First off was MV Carbon, a woman playing electric cello and tape manipulations. Mostly drone and that was fine but the crowd was pretty antsy to see the main acts. Actually, the general buzz was for the all star Pere Ubu assembly. Really, this lineup should have been called Dave Thomas and friends interpret Pere Ubu songs. Made up of Thomas, long-time bassist Michele Temple and original bassist Tony Maimone, Jack Jones on Theremin, Eric Drew Feldman and Allen Ravenstine on keyboards and Wayne Kramer on guitar. After the first song, Thomas introduced the band starting with Kramer, who got a loud response, afterwards Thomas joked that he should saved Kramer for last. During the first part of the show, Thomas was actually playful, saying the song is dead, long live the song and to save music, something had to go and in this case that was the drums. He even teased the crowd about not joining in during "Texas Overture". But as with all the Ubu shows I've been to, something starts to bug Thomas and in this case it was his Apple watch. He wasn't able to charge it and he constantly wanted to know what time it was. I've seen variations of this before and I always wonder if it is just a put on*. Finally, after complaining for the umpteenth time about the watch, Kramer said that it was time for Kick Out the Jams, which the band proceeded to play a ripping version. A word about the music. Since this was basically a one-off and the band only had a day to practice, the songs were for the most part improvised. If someone went to this show not knowing much other than the 'hits', they would've been very puzzled. Besides playing a set made up of mostly mid-period Ubu songs, 30 Seconds over Tokyo, Chinese Radiation and Final Solution were given a radical interpretations that only the lyrics gave them away. Most surprising was nothing was played from or mentioned about their new album which had been released earlier in the month. After a Neil Young cover, Thomas was told they were finished and he said a quick thank you and that was that. Thomas was sitting on a platform in the middle of the stage and with him now being wheelchair bound it took some time to get him up there and back down. While he was getting down, both Ravenstine and Maimone were helping and at one point Thomas had draped his arms over Ravenstine that it looked like he was giving him a big hug and I found it kind of touching that probably two of his oldest friends were still there to help.

Next up was Faust. Wow. Maybe because Pere Ubu had been so primitive, Faust wanted to something else because the Faust that I saw was one tight band. At times they sounded like what it would've been if George Clinton had founded Funkadelic in Germany. Of the six members only Jean-Hervé Péron is an original member but guitarist Amaury Cambuzat has been a member since 1996 and Péron's daughter Jeanne-Marie Varain has been a member since birth (Péron likes to say that). For some reason there were also two people knitting on stage throughout the entire set.** The real star of the show, however, was the keyboardist, Pierre Chevalier. Keeping with the Funkadelic comparison, he wasn't Bernie Worrell but he kept them going. That's not to say that the entire show was like that. Varain played a chanteuse for Peter/Bulle/Dream and Harlekin. For most of the latter song, she roamed the crowd just laughing seductively. Probably the closest I'll get to the Kit Kat Club. One song was a homage to former collaborator Tony Conrad, a drone piece that had the violinist (a brand new member) and Cambuzat banging on his guitar with a bow that kept building and building until one could barely stand it. The (in)famous cement mixer made its appearance for Listen to the Fish. Instead of just being a novelty, the sound of the mixer really added to the song. They finally finished with Krautrock ("We don't play rock and roll, we play...") which was unlike any other version I had heard before. They tore the roof of that sucker. I'll say it again - wow.

*afterwards, I saw someone posted on Pere Ubu's facebook page about how they wondered if Thomas was mad because was second billed and was taking it out on the band, to which someone (I think it was Thomas) asked if this person was at the same show and then when the poster said yes, he said 'interesting..."

**I later found that this is not unusual for them but no explanation why.

Pere Ubu:
Turquoise Fins
The Fevered Dream of Hernando DeSoto
Chinese Radiation
On the Surface
Flames Over Nebraska
30 Seconds Over Tokyo
George Had a Hat
Texas Overture
Surfer Girl
The Modern Dance
Kick Out the Jams(MC5 cover)
Final Solution
Running Dry (Requiem for the Rockets)(Neil Young & Crazy Horse cover)

Morning Land
The Sad Skinhead
Miss Fortune
Tony Conrad
Listen to the Fish
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
June 30, 2023 05:32PM
As with Ubu, Faust also played few of the "hits." Did he hold up the fishbowl during "Listen to the Fish"?
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 01, 2023 05:22PM
No fishbowl just the cement mixer. Actually, I'm not even sure of some of the song titles. The guy who posted them said they were from the setlist but I saw said setlist and some of the songs titles were just drawings; Listen to the Fish was just a drawing of a fish. That song I've also seen called just 'Fish' so I don't even know what the exact title is.
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
June 30, 2023 10:54PM
I saw Faust a couple of weeks ago. Instead of knitting, the two women read the Wall Street Journal. They disappeared about halfway through.
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 01, 2023 10:46AM
> As with all the Ubu shows I've been to, something starts
> to bug Thomas and in this case it was his Apple watch.
> He wasn't able to charge it and he constantly wanted
> to know what time
> it was. I've seen variations of this before and I always
> wonder if it is just a put on*.

Yeah, the one and only time I saw Ubu, Thomas seemed to be increasingly bothered by something during the show. I don't remember what it was, but his attitude plummeted during the last few songs, until he cut the set short with a loud, abrupt "Good night!" Within a few minutes, though, he was at the swag booth, still looking grouchy and aggravated but signing autographs just the same. Whatever it had been, if he was too irritated to get through the setlist, yet not irritated enough to forgo the meet & greet ... well, that makes me wonder if it was a put-on as well.
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 01, 2023 05:32PM
I've always had my suspicions but when I saw his comments on facebook about it, I did think it is a put-on. He also was hanging out after the show. As I thought of this, I was reminded of Michael Jordan's need to have something to motivate him to play better where he would sometimes invent slights to push him. Maybe Thomas needs to get angry to put on what he thinks is a good performance. Michael Toland interviewed him, maybe he can shed some light.
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 02, 2023 12:57AM
I've never seen Pere Ubu live, but when I saw Rocket From the Tombs, Thomas complained onstage about the other members' musicianship. If it was an in-joke, he sounded convincingly cranky.
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 03, 2023 02:16PM
I've often wondered the same thing about Thomas' crankiness. The first time I saw him was with RFTT in the early 'aughts, right as they re-released The Day The Earth Met. (I've recounted this story before.) This was the version that was closest to the original lineup, with a Cheetah Chrome/Richard Lloyd guitarmy. Some idiot threw his drink at Thomas and splashed liquid on his nice suit. The band left the stage immediately. They came back a few minutes later, still pissed, and told the crowd they'd only continue if they felt safe, and proceeded to rock the club's world. Instead of the well-performed but bloodless show I was expecting, it was a soul-on-fire rock & roll performance that made the young punk bands who opened for them look anemic by comparison. Afterward, Thomas sat on the edge of the stage and sold CDs and chatted with anyone who wanted to. He never smiled, but he was very gracious to everyone that I saw go up to him (including me).

I should also mention that we had a bunch of bros in the audience who kept yelling out "Punk rock!" Cheetah responded at one point with "We're not a punk band, we're a real band," which might have been a slap at the folks who played before them, while Thomas threw out "We're not a punk band. Punk is an unnatural something a man does to another man," which did not go down that well, but didn't cause enough of a stir for anyone to leave.

So around 15 years later he came back to Austin with back-to-back nights: one with Pere Ubu, and one with Rocket (and I think a totally different lineup except for the drummer). I was offered an interview with him for the Chron. Frankly, I didn't think I was up to it, due to his legendary crankiness and suffering no fools, but the publicist talked me into it by telling me how witty he was and what a fun interview it would be. We did it over Skype with the video off - the only way he would agree to do it - with a bad connection (he was in London, where he's lived for however many decades now - he kept having to hang up and call back). He was mostly perfectly polite, but at one point I did say something that set him off. I never got the impression he was mad at me, or even the question itself, but it led him down another path to something he found irritating, and he ranted about it for a few minutes. Unfortunately, that's when the Skype really started acting up, and I got only a few words here and there - I never did quite discern what he was on about. And while it may have been the moment where he thought to himself, "I need to inject some of my infamous irritability here," it sure didn't feel that way. It felt very spontaneous and unscripted. (The printed results of the interview are here. As you can see, he did laugh and make jokes from time to time.)

As for the shows, I don't recall anything particularly crazy at the Pere Ubu show. For Rocket, he was ill, and puked twice on the stage beside his chair during the intro of the first song. I assumed that would be it - I mean, he walked with a cane, seemed to be physically uncomfortable, looked unhappy, and seemed embarrassed about having thrown up in front a sold-out club. But he just waited for the crew to clean up, and then the band re-launched the show. No ranting and raving either night - just powerhouse performances. How it was that he was sitting down for both shows and somehow managed to be more intense than at the Rocket show from 15 years before I don't know. And after both shows he hobbled to the front of the club, where a table was waiting for him, and signed whatever CD or piece of memorabilia fans brought him. Again, he never smiled, but was perfectly willing to chat with anyone who approached.

All that is to say, when it comes to Thomas' crankiness, well, the jury is still out. Considering the bomb blast of that first RFTT show, while I know the anger was spontaneous due to the circumstances, I also think the band understood how to harness the energy to power their performance. After talking with him over Skype (as best I could), I tend to lean toward his outbursts and irritability being genuine, but he's also been in the biz a long time, and I know from having a theater actress wife that performers know how to use their own genuine emotional states to enhance their act.

This also reminds me of an interview with Sonny Sharrock I read in a guitar magazine around the time of his late 80s resurgence. He told the interviewer that he liked to used the heaviest strings available and to keep the action on his guitar neck as high as possible because he "like[d] the guitar to fight me." Which explains a lot about his fiery playing. Conflict fuels creativity for some folks.
Reply Quote
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 03, 2023 07:16PM
The homophobia of that onstage punk remark is gross, but Thomas states in almost every interview he gives that he hates punk rock and never thought Pere Ubu had anything to do with it.
Re: Pere Ubu and Faust in NYC
July 02, 2023 03:13PM
> When I saw Rocket From the Tombs, Thomas complained
> onstage about the other members' musicianship. If it was
> an in-joke, he sounded convincingly cranky.

When I saw Hole, Courtney Love criticized her bandmates' musicianship onstage as well. Eric Erlandson laughed heartily at her jibes, but Melissa auf der Maur just kept a bemused expression on her face. If that was an in-joke, well ... I'll just be polite and say that it made it seem more like the joke was on Courtney.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login