wayne kramer - The I-94 Bar

50 years on, the jams are being kicked out again

mc50 logoWayne Kramer is marking the 50th anniversary of the MC5's “Kick Out The Jams” album with a world tour under the banner of “MC50”.

Joining Kramer will be Brendan Canty (Fugazi), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Doug Pinnick (King's X), and Marcus Durant (ZenGuerrilla). Each night the band will perform “Kick Out The Jams” in full, followed by a rotating encore built from later MC5 material.

Some European festival dates, including Spain’s Azkena Festival ,have been announced but only one US show – September 27 at the Fillmore Detroit - has been released. Watch this space.

FLASHBACK: Wayne Kramer and the fight against mediocrity

wayne kramer epitath promoFLASHBACK: First posted October 16, 1999: It's been quite an odyssey for Wayne Kramer. From 1964 to 1972, he was point man and Fender guitar terrorist for the legendary MC5, the Ur-American garage band turned psychedelic radicals whose high-energy jams prefigured much of the next 30 years of rock and roll dementia.

Kramer sat out a couple of years at the end of the 70s in Federal penitentiary on a drug charge, but resumed his career when he landed back on the street in 1979, playing in Gang War with Johnny Thunders, recording with Was (Not Was) and others.

Then in 1995, when a lot of people had written him off, he roared back into action with an album on Epitaph entitled "The Hard Stuff". Since then there have been three more Epitaph albums and a plethora of side projects.

Brother Wayne joined me at the bar on three different occasions, twice from his home in Hollywood, California and once from the L.A. studio where he's currently producing an album for Damned founder member and former Iggy Pop sideman Brian James.

Grande Ballroom movie released and it's Louder Than Love

It’s been years in the making and "LOUDER THAN LOVE", the long-awaited documentary paying tribute to legendary Detroit music venue the Grande Ballroom, is finally available.

The Grande was the birthplace or breeding ground for the likes of the Stooges, the MC5, The Up and The Rationals. It also became a notorious killing field for visiting international bands who had to undergo a "trial by support band" where the locals did their best to blow them off the stage (sometimes succeeding.)

“LOUDER THAN LOVE: The Grande Ballroom Story” is Tony D’Annunzio’s first independent film as a producer and director.  His movie chronicles the Detroit music scene in the late 1960s, as told through the eyes of the legendary bands that played there.

He also served: Gang War drummer John Morgan and life in the trenches with Johnny Thunders and Wayne Kramer

gang war on stageGang War at Second Chance in Ann Arbor in 1979.  Sue Rynski photo  

It’s said the drummer in a rock and roll band has the best seat in the house. It’s given John Morgan his unique perspective on some of rock and roll’s most talented, fascinating and sometimes flawed characters. 

Now living in Ventura, California, John Morgan’s spent half his life as a professional musician, playing with a long list of blues and jazz bands. But it’s his insights into two in particular: Gang War and Sonic's Rendezvous Band - the former as a partcipant, thw latter as an observer - that will hold the most interest for I-94 Bar patrons. 

High Time: MC5 honoured in home town

mc5 tribute postermc5 tribute posterThey can't crack it for a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but the MC5 will be honoured with a 50-year retrospective exhibit and concert in their Detroit-area hometown of Lincoln Park, Michigan, at the Lincoln Park Historical Museum.

An open reception will be held on July 11 with a concert on July 12. The exhibit will run through Labor Day, September 7, with regular museum hours (Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1-6pm.) Admission to all events is free though donations to the Lincoln Park Historical Society are encouraged.

The exhibit highlights iconic photos by Detroit photographer Leni Sinclair and Lincoln Park-raised Emil Bacilla, original psychedelic posters by Carl Lundgren, and Gary Grimshaw (also raised in Lincoln Park) and band memorabilia (including personal artifacts from the Derminer/Tyner family.)

The concert will be held in the Park Band Shell in Memorial Park - one of the earliest sites where the MC5 played – with music from Timmy’s Organism, Rocket 455 and Chatoyant.

Surviving MC5 members Wayne Kramer and Dennis “Machine Gun” Thompson and the families of Rob Tyner, Fred “Sonic” Smith and Michael Davis have been invited. While Kramer is unable to attend, Thompson will be in attendance at both the Saturday and Sunday events.

While the band was the target of establishment harassment during its existence, the afternoon concert will be marked by Lincoln Park Mayor Tom Karnes presenting the keys to the city. Ain't irony grand?

A limited edition of Carl’s Lundgren’s artwork created for the anniversary celebration poster will be available for purchase at the opening night and on the day of the concert. The Lincoln Park Historical Museum website is here.

Human Being Lawnmower - MC5 (Total Energy)

mc5 humanI was just looking at my review of Bro. Wayne Kramer's reished "Hard Stuff" and I musta been outta my fuckin' mind when I wrote it...that album definitely rates five Rolling Rocks if anything does. Which made me wonder, why am I so hard on Wayne?

I Brought Down The MC5 – Michael Davis (Cleopatra)

I Brought Down the MC5“Brutal” was the first word that came to mind after finishing the posthumous autobiography of MC5 bass player Michael Davis and that adjective is still hanging in the air, 24 hours later.

Over 350 skilfully-written pages, Davis shines a spotlight onto the lives of family, friends, lovers, bandmates and associates over five decades, but it’s the glare cast on his own existence that’s the starkest.

By accident or design, “I Brought Down The MC5” only covers Davis’s life up until meeting his last wife, Angela, and moving to California in the late 1990s. It excludes the DKT-MC5 reunion with bandmates Wayne Kramer and Dennis Thompson, his fight with Hep C, charity work and near fatal 2006 bike crash. 

All of that, and Michael finding redemption, could have made a dynamite second book, but Davis sadly passed from liver cancer in 2012, aged 68.

In Heat - The Fools (self released)

in heat the foolsLet’s get the clichés out of the way; the show business myths that promise that the cream rises. That living fast and dying young will ensure immortality. It’s all bullshit. Too many artists fall through a crack in the Earth whilst laurels crown the insipid and the banal.

How many great albums and films have vanished to land fill? How many books are lost because libraries can’t afford the storage on their back catalogues? How much blood, sweat and tears has evaporated into the ether? Forgotten whilst the over culture lets us eat dog food. Here is your chance to right that wrong.

Lexington - Wayne Kramer & The Lexington Arts Ensemble (Industrial Amusement)

lexingtonHe’s back with his first solo album in 13 years (how long?) and no-one could accuse Wayne Kramer of not taking chances. In fact, if you’re a longtime MC5 fan, chances are you might struggle with “Lexington” as it dives headlong into territory that his old band - at least on record - visited without fully casting adrift its rock anchor.

Louder Than Love - The Grande Ballroom Story

louder than love coverSeismic changes in music don’t occur spontaneously. They’re usually a result of people unwittingly being in the right place at the right time, running into a catalyst and stumbling over a big stockpile of serendipity.

Does anyone think CBGB would have been anything more than the source of dogshit on the soles of a few Bowery bums’ shoes if Hilly Krystal hadn’t been conned by a supposed bluegrass band into giving live music a try?

How quickly would the Sex Pistols have fizzled out if Queen hadn’t cancelled on Bill Grundy at the last minute, presumably so Freddy could get his nails done? McLaren had no more planned the TV outburst that propelled his band to infamy as Steve Jones had sworn off the booze.

In 1966, a former dance hall on the shady side of Detroit called The Grande Ballroom became both a focal point for the counter culture and a scene. It attracted and generated a strain of high-energy, blue collar rock and roll, the likes of which have been seen rarely anywhere else. It came into being through good management, but also through incredible luck.

Manhattan Project - Kevin K (MVD/Real Kool Kat)

manhattan projectA bunch of New York City’s rock and roll past and present recently gathered in Manhattan to celebrate and play the music of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers.

Led by the eternally cool Walter Lure, who was assisted by Blondie drummer Clem Burke, ex-Lower East Side resident and MC5 member Wayne Kramer, Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and a bunch of guest vocalists, the band played four sold-out shows. And they were reportedly underwhelming.

Mobile Homeland - John Sinclair (Funky D Records)

mobile homelandNo introduction needed for the onetime spiritual leader of the MC5 so here’s a personal note about meeting John Sinclair:

It was on a night off during a business trip that involved a flying visit to Ann Arbor, Michigan in the early 2000s. Sinclair was in town for that city’s annual Hash Bash and had just played a show at The Blind Pig. I’d been drinking at the Eight Bar Saloon with some locals, including Scott Morgan who did the introduction.

The Hard Stuff - Wayne Kramer (Muscletone)

hardstuffOut of print for two years? Shit, hard to believe, but it's good to have this one back in circulation (on Bro. Wayne's new label, with expanded versions of the rest of his Epitaph catalog and even the L-O-N-G gone "Death Tongue" set to follow in its wake - a reissue program long anticipated by true Rock Action devotees, especially those who missed out on 'em the first time). This was, after all, the one that started it all, solo-career wise, as well as serving notice to the world at large that Detroit rock'n'roll was alive and well in the '90s.

The Racketeers - Mad For The Racket (Muscle Tone)

racketeersAccuse me of revisionism if you will...but when I caught Mad for the Racket live at SXSW, I was less than optimally stoked with their performance. Coupla months later, in a column, I was making more conciliatory noises.