Old punk rockers who are still willing and able: that list would include Mike Watt. But unless you were a fan of the Minutemen or fIREHOSE or ’80s Southern California punk revival in general, you’ve likely never heard of him. I think it was the spectacle of Watt letting loose on stage that earned him prominent fans among his peers — the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sonic Youth, Henry Rollins. When Watt released his first solo album, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, huge rock stars like Dave Grohl and Eddie Vedder rolled out and toured in Watt’s band. Not really a virtuoso or even a star in the traditional sense of the word, Watt’s bass guitar work has been called explosive, over the top, and rich with ideas.
But it’s what he brings to the stage that really matters. I saw it myself when a band (I can’t remember who) brought him onstage at a punk fest I was attending with my then-teenage daughter. Watt’s playing lit up the house, an ability not lost on Iggy Pop — who hired him when he reunited the Stooges in 2003 — or on Bass Player magazine, which bestowed its Lifetime Achievement Award on Watt earlier this year.
Watt recently turned 51 and lives in San Pedro. He published a book about the experience titled Spiels of a Minuteman. Now gray haired and wearing jeans, sneakers, and short-sleeve plaid shirts, he looks more the part of a hardware-store counter guy than a punk holdout, but he still gets in his van and drives the club circuit as if it were 1980. His current band, the Secondmen, is more melodic and even jazzy, but the vibe is still the same: by the end of the evening, you wonder how one little club stage could have contained so much Mike Watt and his bass guitar.
MIKE WATT AND THE SECONDMEN: Casbah, Sunday, January 4, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12.