MC5 – The Rescue Rooms, September 2004

“It’s in his eyes,” spoke the wizened, sun-scarred face. “It was always in the eyes but no-one has it anymore.” The hoary Mexican was speaking of Poncho, an outlaw revolutionary who fought for a new way for the people. Situated further north on the time-and-space map, MC5 battled for the same cause as Poncho. Substituting music for guns they fired sonic salvos into the fat, orthodox body of late-sixties America. Following their incendiary, live debut album – Kick Out The Jams – MC5 were viewed briefly as both social visionaries and counter-culture hoaxers.

Having ignited the post summer-of-love fuse, the band burned out and faded away in the early seventies. Exploding from the geographic heart of America’s manufacturing industry, MC5 had already looked around and found no time for perspective. The time was now. “The MC5 was visceral, all sweat and muscle and the whole concept of high energy,” states Wayne Kramer, the band’s six-string-slinging shooter. “We strived for passion, fervour and commitment to what we were doing.” Joining forces with hippie king and White Panther member, John Sinclair, the MC5 aimed to destroy society’s manufactured walls. The antithesis of white power groups, the White Panther’s stated intent was “cultural revolution through a total assault on the culture, which makes us use every tool, every energy and any media we can get our collective hands on. The message is FREEDOM!.” (A White Panther statement, 1968.)

MC5 never delivered freedom. The authorities, drugs and perceived musical inconsistency made an almost unimaginable task impossible. But judging by the many and varied eyes in tonight’s crowd, the band left an indelible message. Original members Kramer, Davis and Thompson launch into Rambling Rose, with the help of Mudhoney’s Mark Arm and Nic Royale of The Hellacopters. Missing the sunburst nowness of social context and Rob Tyner’s remarkable vocals, the song is stripped to the predictable progressions of a blues standard.

However, licked by knowing fingers, the fretboards of Kramer and Davis begin to inject energy. And when Kramer draws a parallel between the unwanted wars and pimp presidents of 1968 and today, the connection is made. Musically, DKT/MC5 are tight. Davis and Thompson build a rib-splitting foundation on which searing guitars, harmonica and four-part vocals fuse, swirl and swelter. But MC5 never strived for hilltop, aesthetic judgements. As band and audience melt and meld the atmosphere becomes electrifyingly loose. Static zips between the stage and floor as the audience is compelled by Kramer to add its voice to Ramma Lama Fa Fa Fa. There is no Robbie-esque ego-sing-a-long divide tonight. Briefly we are one. Looking at the audience and band as they delicately brandish Kick Out The Jams, American Ruse and Starship, it’s easy to see. It’s in the eyes.


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