The Cord That Spun its Own Top

Matthew would have wanted us to go hear some good bass. Our long-time hero Mike Watt was in SF to finish off his “the cord that spun its own top” tour at Bottom of the Hill. Went with Will, Mike, Roger, Chris, Josh (xian and Jeremy also there). No words for this show — bass, drums, organ trio, but this was no Jimmy Smith, no MMW — organ such a perfect foil to Watt’s bass, rhythms unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, but totally rocking in a maritime punk sort of way. Difficult to describe, but utterly satisfying.

Matthew told me once he actually had mixed feelings about Watt’s playing, and I guess I can understand why, from Matt’s perspective, although he did dig a lot of Watt’s thing — just not all of it. At the same time, Matthew was nothing if not totally open minded, happy to be turned on to new experiences, happy to see people stretching out into new territories. I think he would have really enjoyed the evening — it sure felt like he was with us. We hoisted a glass or two in his honor.

As the band approached the stage for the encore, I snagged Watt and told him quickly about Matthew Sperry, Bay Area bassist hit by a car while on bike and killed two days ago. Watt took stage and dedicated the encore to Matthew, so everything that came next was for him. It was hard to know whether to focus my attention on the music or on the memory of Matt, so I danced instead. The encore consisted of a (for lack of a better description) Hawkwind-style driving space jam segued into The Minutemen’s “This Ain’t No Picnic,” morphed into The Stooges’ “Little Doll,” which finally evolved into an inspiring rant on getting real, connecting with people, making your own art, etc. In a low voice, Watt intoned:

Go to the source. Cut the strings. No Old Navy. No Gap. No American Idol. Make your own life. People living together. Start a band. Make your own fun.

Later, as Watt was busy signing posters, we came up to the stage and told him a bit more about Matthew, told him how much the encore had meant to us. Watt said he was a bicyclist himself. Seemed genuinely moved. Pressed his palms together and made a small namaste bow. Signed a poster for us:

bass and bikes,
Mike Watt

5 thoughts on “The Cord That Spun its Own Top

  1. xian

    hey, i went particle man during watt, flowing through the crowd and hearing from many vantages. funny, i sent an email to watt about sperry but probably too late – glad you got to him. show was cathartic. great seeing you and meeting your friends…

  2. chris

    I was inspired by what Watt said about making your own art and fun. We don’t need no stinkin galleries! Do it yourself, keep it true, keep it close, ignore the formulas. I spent much of the night in a cloud of my own preoccupations, but this struck home. “45 year old punk rawk! YEAH!!”

  3. Abe

    picked up a copy of that SF tabloid paper (the Examiner?) on Muni this morning. They had a decent size article about your friend. So tragic. My heart goes out to you, his family and other friends.

  4. Evan

    Thanks for asking Watt to do that… I was really moved hearing the dedication.

    I talked to Watt after the show, and told him how I knew Matthew (as a dad more than a musician), and thanked him for his kind words on stage. Watt was really touched to hear how many folks were close to Matthew.

    I remember Matthew once saying he liked Watt’s playing, but wasn’t a huge fan of his solo material or singing… I was hoping someday I could convince him otherwise…

    — Evan

  5. Matthew Selznick

    I heard about Matthew Sperry’s loss through the Mike Watt message board at Yahoo. While I only knew Matthew’s work through his sessions with Tom Waits, a loss is a loss. I’m a bassist, too — not in a class with either Matthew or Watt, but I still feel the loss of part of the “corps.” My thoughts are with you and yours.

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