It's worth noting that the historic Rialto Theatre, after nearly a year of sitting vacant as it changed ownership, will finally reopen its doors in time for the Crawl. Keep an eye out for next week's issue, which will include a handy pull-out section with a full schedule of the event, a map of participating venues and outdoor stages, and a brief description of all Crawl performers. Until then, be sure to head over to CD City, 2890 N. Campbell Ave., to pick up your Crawl wristband in advance. By doing so, you'll not only guarantee yourself entry to the event (the Fall Club Crawl sold out); you'll also save yourself a couple bucks, as wristbands are $8 in advance, and $10 on the night of the Crawl. Stay tuned.
We found out quickly.
The show was billed as Rock Against Reagan, and it featured two bands we had never heard of: the headliners M.D.C and opening band the Crucifucks (which included future Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley). We had simply seen it listed in our local newspaper as a "free outdoor punk rock concert," and this wasn't the sort of thing that happened every day in Springfield, Ill., so we took the bus downtown--probably for the first time in our lives--to the Old State Capitol Plaza. The plaza is a rather historic place; the band area was set up an equal distance from three historical landmarks: a marker denoting the launching spot of the ill-fated trip West taken by the Donner Party; the law office once occupied by Abraham Lincoln; and the Capitol itself, where Lincoln had tried cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and had delivered his "House Divided" speech in 1858 ("I believe this government cannot endure, half slave and half free").
Brian and I milled about with 50 or so others who had gathered, listening to various politically idealistic speeches that, no doubt, had some effect on our malleable minds. Just before the bands began, we found a spot up-close-and-center to soak it all in. The moment the first chord rang out, we found ourselves in the middle of the first mosh pit we had ever experienced, let alone seen. (For the record, the term "mosh pit" hadn't been invented yet; in 1982, these were still slamdancers.) The music was faster and harder than anything we'd previously heard (it made the Sex Pistols sound downright quaint by comparison), and where the Pistols were railing against the Queen of England and their former record label, these guys were tearing Ronald Reagan and John Wayne to shreds. And their fans were beating the living shit out of each other to register their similar disgust--and we had no idea why. (We had only read about slamdancing in magazines.) I still remember that moment as one of the most simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying of my life.
M.D.C., it turns out, stood for Millions of Dead Cops, though it would become an acronym during the ensuing years for, among other things, Multi-Death Corporation and Millions of Damn Christians. And the 1982 self-titled debut album from which the band lifted most of their set that day--and which would eventually be come to be known as an underground punk classic--included such memorable songs as "John Wayne Was a Nazi" ("Sure, he would string up your Indian brother ...") and "Corporate Deathburger," an indictment of the fast-food industry. Later releases boasted songs like "Chicken Squawk," which was later acknowledged as the first pro-vegetarian punk song, and which reportedly coaxed Ian McKaye into the meatless life. They continued criss-crossing the country for several years, performing at VFWs anywhere they could, laying the groundwork for thousands of bands that would follow, and eventually selling more than a half-million copies of their albums.
This week, the band, in its original lineup--singer Dave Dictor, guitarist Ron Posner, bassist Michael Donaldson and drummer Al Schultz--hits Tucson as part of their 25th anniversary tour, and to promote their latest album, Magnus Dominus Corpus (Sudden Death), released April 5. Though he's now tearing Dubya apart instead of Reagan, Dictor's targets remain largely the same: warmongering politicians, money-grubbing punk poseurs (including Rancid, whose Tim Armstrong once worked as an M.D.C. roadie), and of course, cops. A quarter-century on, they're as pissed off as they ever were.
M.D.C. perform on Wednesday, April 13, at Vaudeville Cabaret, 110 E. Congress St. Life Crisis open the show. For more information, call 622-3535.
Headlining this year's Revue is newly signed Alligator Records singer/guitarslinger Guitar Shorty. While his latest album, the blazing, hard-rockin' Watch Your Back (2004), may be his Alligator debut, Shorty's musical history is about as rich as they come. Born in Houston and raised in Florida, Shorty (nee David Kearney) was enough of a virtual blues sponge that, at the tender age of 16, he joined Ray Charles' band. In 1957 he released his first single, released on Cobra Records and produced by the legendary Willie Dixon. Soon after, he and his band became the house band at the famed Dew Drop Inn, in New Orleans when he was only 19, he moved to Los Angeles--where he lives today--to accept a job offer from soul crooner Sam Cooke. During a stint in Seattle, where he was married in 1961, his brother-in-law would regularly go AWOL from his Army base to come to Shorty's shows and intently observe his guitar playing. That brother-in-law was Jimi Hendrix, who was largely influenced by Guitar Shorty, as were Buddy Guy and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Also on the bill for the event: former cab driver and funky New Orleans blues master Mem Shannon and the Membership; former Elvin Bishop sideman, singer and saxophonist Terry Hanck; and locals Stefan George, Anna Warr, Arthur Migliazza and The Night Owls.
The Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Revue runs from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday, April 9, at the DeMeester Performance Center in Reid Park. Admission is free to all. Following the event, there will be a post-festival jam at the Radisson City Center. For further details, head to www.azblues.org.