Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Sonics

So I was gonna post something about the Sonics but then OMF wrote a little something that says it way better than I ever could so here it is along with some video clips of Friday nights show:

Just got back to californee and am still reeling from
the idea that I saw the Sonics not once, but twice
this weekend. No offense to the other bands on the
bill, but this whole event was about the Sonics... no
one else mattered. Anyone who went to this event and
doesn't understand that, doesn't get it.

No, they were not perfect... there were missed
changes and a few rough endings and even an
ill-advised modification of 'Like No Other Man'. The
sound system was spotty, most notably on Rob Lind's
sax which was absent from the mix at times-- even
during one of his solos on Sunday night.

But there was the sound. They kicked into 'He's
Waiting' as the curtain opened, and the crowd went
apeshit. With good reason.

Parypa's guitar sounded amazing. I heard comments
that it was high in the mix... it was, and it was just
right. That thing roared. It should have-- it was
the original Epiphone Riviera that he recorded EVERY
Sonics song after 'the Witch' with. Parypa had the
class to play the songs pretty much the way he'd
played them the day he recorded them-- no dopey
'updates' to his sound and brisk, tasteful solos that
would have sounded right dropped into a 1966 live
show. Parypa was once of the best rock and roll
guitar players on earth, and when he ripped through
'Cinderella', 'Shot Down', 'Strychnine' and the rest,
he proved that he still is.

The rest of the band sounded great as well, except
when the soundman dropped Lind out of the mix. When
Lind hit the solos (and the soundman turned him up) it
was straight off the fucking records. His sax solo on
'Have Love' in Friday's set was unbelievable-- it
sounded like he'd just picked up where he left off the
day the Sonics last left the stage. I was happily
impressed with both the drummer and the bassist who
totally 'got' it.

Roslie was the enigma of the group. I'd always
assumed that he'd been the frontman for the band
because he was the singer and songwriter. I was
surprised to see him in a sideman's role with Lind
being the obvious frontman, talking to the audience,
doing the introductions and such. Over the two shows
it became pretty clear that this was probably the way
it had always been.

Parypa's guitar and Roslie's voice were the two most
distinctive parts of the Sonics's sound (closely
followed by Bennet's drumming and the sax). I think
everyone has by now heard of Roslie's ongoing health
problems, and I, like most, wondered how he could
possibly pull it off.

He did. There was undoubtedly a loss of intensity, as
there would be with any man singing 40 years after his
heyday... but he was Jerry Roslie, no question about
it. He sang all his classics in his trademark
white-Little-Richard shout, and he sounded great. The
years have limited his range, and he handed some of
the higher-range songs, like 'Dirty Robber', to the
bassist who really did an excellent job with them,
sounding not all that far from a younger Roslie.

Was I transported back to 1966? No. Did I see 'The
Sonics', and not some wonderbread bullshit 'oldies'
circuit band? Fuck, yes.

The Sonics, now, as then, were real.

Of course they made mistakes. These guys almost NEVER
played their original material on stage back in the
day. 'The Witch', yes.. it was a bonafide hit.
Sometimes 'Psycho' or maybe one of the other Roslie
songs... but a whole fucking set of CLASSIC Sonics
shit? Never. They had to relearn songs that in some
cases they probably played only a few times during the
recording session and then haven't played a dozen
times since. Anybody who has ever been in a band
knows that shit goes wrong all the time on stage and
you just learn to cover it up. The only thing missing
was their ability to hide the mistakes.

I went into this expecting nothing more than to get a
chance to actually see them, to join the exalted
coterie of those who had actually seen the Sonics. I
knew about the health problems, about the two replaced
members, and I know the results when most bands who
packed it in 40 years ago reunite-- the feeling that
they never should have unpacked. I didn't even want
to hope.

The Sonics did it. They pulled it off. They
recaptured something that existed 40-odd years ago and
disappeared when they packed up the van that last
time. I have the feeling that if Bennet and Andy
Parypa had been involved, the shows would have been
mindfuckingly unreal. And, if they didn't quite knock
it out of the park, they certainly hit a home run.
The Sonics pulled it off.

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