On the last half of their North American tour, MC50 made their way to the John Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles on October 5. MC50 is a supergroup evolved out of the Detroit proto-punk band MC5. They are out making their rounds in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their landmark album Kick Out the Jams. Wayne Kramer continued to lead the way with guitarist Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, drummer Brendan Canty of Fugazi, bassist Billy Gould of Faith No More and vocalist Marcus Durant of Zen Guerrilla circling out the group. As in the late ’60s, the evening was an effort, as Kramer said, to push beyond the current “corrupt regime in power” and have the audience leave “fueled by the positive and unifying power of rock music.”
The night was dedicated to Kick Out the Jams, so it was without a doubt MC50 would play the album through, and then round out the set with a handful of their other songs. However, Margaret Saadi, Kramer’s wife, informed the audience of the core purpose for the show. The set was technically Rock Out 4, an event to benefit Jail Guitar Doors—the anniversary just happened to coincide. The nonprofit organization works to bring musical instruments and mentorship to prisons.
It wasn’t long before the voiceover of “Ramblin’ Rose” sounded off: “I want to hear some revolution!” Kramer played a guitar with an American flag design, no less. The second the band entered, the 1,200 or so occupants were all on their feet. From a generally older crowd, it felt like a sign of respect. Going into “Kick Out the Jams,” Kramer acknowledged the invigorated crowd. He said, “Well I sure hope Anson Ford can handle all this soul. We have a lot coming on.”
Aside from the beginning and end, MC50 changed up the track listing slightly, jumping from “Come Together” to “Motor City is Burning,” for example. Nonetheless, there was no disruption of flow. The performance energy was met by equal crowd excitement, propelling the night through. Durant, in all his 6’7″ glory, certainly could handle all the soul. He danced with the kind of ease and groove that might be difficult for someone of such stature and somehow made the harmonica very rock ‘n’ roll. Kramer, to Durant’s right, was more than just a sidekick. With the guitar, whether electric or acoustic, he moved around the stage to take front and center, sing along or jam out with other band members.
After getting through the album tracklist, MC50 played another set of eight songs, including “Shakin’ Street” and “Baby Won’t Ya.” Despite the supergroup lineup, the set featured some guests. Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan appeared for “Future/Now,” as Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs did for “Skunk (Sonicly Speaking).” It was a night aiming for a communal appreciation of music and its relevance in American culture. Toward the end, Kramer made a call-to-action about enacting change through voting: “We got to get to work brothers and sisters.” It was a more than fair request when considering the history that occurred throughout the week in the Supreme Court.
For the final song, MC50 was boosted by both McKagan and Dulli, taking the supergroup to a whole other level for “Sister Anne.” The song was sealed by another expert harmonica moment by Durant. When the song ended, the group gathered at the center and bowed in unison. Kramer promised to be back next year and gave one final reminder to vote, beaming as he exited.
- Ramblin’ Rose
- Kick Out the Jams
- Come Together
- Motor City is Burning
- Rocket Reducer No.62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)
- I Want You Right Now
- Shakin’ Street
- Future/Now (with Duff McKagan)
- Let Me Try
- Baby Won’t Ya
- Skunk (Sonicly Speaking) (with Greg Dulli)
- Looking at You
- Sister Anne
Photo Credit: Heather Kennedy