Like everyone who cares about real rock and roll, Glorious Noise loves the MC5. When it comes to good old sloppy punk rock, the MC5 pretty much wrote the book. Or at lease one of the early chapters. So when we missed the American leg of the first reunion tour of the surviving members (Wayne Kramer, Dennis Thompson and Michael Davis), we were disappointed. There was no other recourse than to fly to Europe to catch one of those dates. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Of course there are those who argue that this isn’t really the MC5. And it isn’t. Not without lead singer Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith who are both dead. The remaining members get around this by billing themselves as “DKT/MC5” and calling the show “A celebration of the MC5.” Pretty sneaky, sis. This tiny bit of slight-of-hand hasn’t kept promoters and other interested parties from referring to it as simply the MC5. It’s the MC3.
But so what? Why shouldn’t those guys get to capitalize on the fact that they were in one of the most influential, most exciting bands in the history of recorded music. (Even if their paltry discography almost completely fails to measure up to how great it seems like they ought to have been.) This is as close to the MC5 as any of us are ever going to see. Especially now that the Mooney Suzuki has gotten all flowery on us.
The Elysee Montmartre sits down the hill from the Basilica of Sacre Coeur in Paris’ artist/hipster neighborhood. There’s a bar next door that plays hardcore music and sells pints of Amstel for four euros, which I’ve been assured is very cheap for the city. The show started promptly at 7pm which seemed very early, but since there are residential apartments on the top floors of just about every single building in Paris, I guess they’ve got to keep the noise down.
Mother Superior is from Hollywood, California, which they told us after their opening song. But you probably could’ve figured that out on your own by looking at their GNR hairdos and listening to their Paul Stanley vocals. They had a few good riffs that were consistently spoiled by their singer’s theatrical voice. That shit might pass in la-la land, but dude, you sing like you’re auditioning for fucking Queensryche. They’d be the perfect backup band for someone like Henry Rollins. Oh wait, they are.
Next up was Tokyo Sex Destruction who totally blew me away. Like a combination of everything great about the Hives and the previous incarnation of the Mooney Suzuki, these Spanish freaks absolutely kicked out the jams. Playing on this tour has got to be a dream for these kids because they’ve very obviously studied at the school of MC5. Must’ve graduated at the top of their class too because despite their stupid name they really do it right. The key ingredient in good garage rock is soul music. If you can pull off the soul, you can be a real badass, and Tokyo Sex Destruction understands this. By the end of their set I was wondering if DKT were going to be able to live up to these guys. Because, well, you know, those guys are all old.
I didn’t need to worry.
They took the stage as a three-piece and tore in the gloriously sloppy “Ramblin’ Rose” with Kramer on vocals and a perfect combination of tightness and abandon. Next, they dug up their 1967 single, “I Can Only Give You Everything” (the Them song), and Davis sang in voice so weak that they really captured the vibe of the primitive teenage punks who actually practiced in garages and basements all over the United States in the mid-sixties.
I hadn’t heard anything about who was doing the guest vocals for the european tour, so when Mudhoney‘s Mark Arm came out for the third song I didn’t recognize him. From the back of the room at the bar, he looked like a taller, older Beck. But damn, could he sing! Along with additional guitarist Nicke Andersson from Sweden’s Hellacopters, this new Five really sounded great. There was an honest energy shooting out of these guys who all were very clearly thrilled to be making this great music together. There was a great chemistry as Arm sang for the first half of the set.
I was wondering if anybody else was going to sing because in America they had a bunch of guests including Evan Dando and Mark Lanegan. Just when I figured that Mark Arm must be singing the whole set, out came the Bellrays‘ Lisa Kekaula who ratcheted things up to a whole new level. She’s a soul sister with a huge voice that made my idea about Tokyo Sex Destruction’s soulfulness seem naive. This gal can sing. Powerful, powerful stuff, and I can only imagine that if Rob Tyner could’ve heard those MC5 songs coming out of her mouth, he’d be more than happy with the results. It was that great.
And when everybody and their cousin came out on the stage because it was time to…it was time to…it was time to…kick out the jams motherfuckers, it was a moment that would have any doubters shutting their mouths. Or maybe even dropping their jaws.
Later that night after we left the venue and were heading out to grab some Liberty fries and a final round of Kronenbergs, I looked over and saw the Eiffel Tower all lit up, and then all of a sudden it started blinking in this wild, glittery, glammy freakout. My expatriate friend said he’s never seen it do that in the 15 years he’s lived there. Must’ve been the electricity from the Elysee Montmartre had wound its way through the streets of Paris, crossed the Seine, and decided to put on a little rock and roll light show in the city of lights.
Big thanks to my man Perry, lead singer of the Goo Goo Clusters, who told me about the show, speaks perfect French, and contributed additional reporting to this article. Photos by Jolie Brown.