If you know the Mekons, chances are you love them. And if you are part of that elite group and you were in the Village Work’s backyard at 90 East 3rd St. on Sunday, you were pretty darn happy. Sally Timms and Jon Langford, accompanied by Steve Goulding, Jean Cook and Martin Billheimer, enthusiastically entertained the capacity crowd of 30 people with a mix of old favorites, covers, obscurities and new tunes.
It’s been a long road for Langford and Timms since they began their careers over 4 decades ago, acquiring critical status, a dedicated fan base and a huge catalog in and out of the Mekons while somehow eluding the success that came to less talented bands.
As their sound has gone through some changes, we wondered if their artistic goals have as well.
“Not drastically,” states Timms. “We both came out of punk rock and neither of us had any expectations to be musicians in a band, and definitely not for 40 odd years. Punk was about making things for yourself, being DIY, creating for your community. We still do that, but we’re better at what we do.”
The pair, who live in Chicago (separately), had plenty of time to spend in their community during the COVID lockdown. Timms, who has a steady gig as a paralegal, thought that working from home would give her more time to work on her music but that turned out not to be the case. Langford, who is also an accomplished painter, “was really bored by 2021with the idea of trying to pivot.” Nevertheless, they managed to produce a new Mekons album through the magic of digital communication ( ‘Exquisite’, available on Bandcamp.com ) and do a series of streaming shows and backyard gigs as things loosened up.
“People were very generous with us,” Langford recalls. ” I don’t really like the big gigs,” he muses. “We’ve opened for Robert Plant…it’s not really us. I really like house parties and small clubs, even before the pandemic.”
Timms concurs, adding, “We like an intimate show. I’d rather play three small shows than one big one.”
There were two small shows on Sunday, an afternoon and evening set both with a generous setlist. The audience was quite pleased, with one exception (more about that later). Noted musician Deerfrance said, “It was great. They made some change, they entertained everyone, it was beautiful! “
Kate Peila of The Front NYC, co-produced the event with Gianluca Tramontana and had plenty of positive feedback.
“My joy is producing events that not only showcase great artists but also inspire the community to join in,” she said. “Jon Langford/Sally Timms et al did just that and more! Everyone who attended not only thanked me but also told me how special it was because of the intimacy – they felt like they were almost a part of the band. “
Joseph Sheridan, the proprietor of the Village Works shop, sounded like he’d do it again.
“It was so nice to host Sally Timms and Jon Langford’s acoustic music at Village Works in association with Kate’s release party for Gianluca’s Changui box set of 3 CDs and a book,” he said. “Just the kind of collaboration we like, as a gallery and bookstore that supports cool culture in the neighborhood.”
The neighborhood, being the East Village, holds some memories for both Langford and Timms. Sally recalls that “we played CBGBs many times, but the main thing this time for me was wandering around the streets where I’d roamed about thirty years ago. It felt a little poignant.”
“The East Village was always where we gravitated to even back in the eighties,” relates Jon. “So many memories of naughty nights on the town…..even went with Joey Ramone for beers after a gig in 1987!” But, he adds, “Nostalgia, f–k it. Future future future!!! No room for sitting on the punk rocker laurels!”
Neither of them seems capable of sitting still anyway. Recent productions include two charity projects, the ‘Freakons” – a combo of members of Freakwater which will benefit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and the Pine Valley Cosmonauts, who have recorded their cover version of Tom Waits’ first album as a benefit for the Chicago Independent Venue League. Mekons fans will also be happy to know that the band is planning on recording again soon.
You can’t please everyone though – despite the fact that they were breaking no laws and the music was not even amplified, a noise complaint was lodged and duly followed up by the police, who confirmed that there was no reason to stop the show. For the record, we would like to share the complaint, which Peila calls “a brilliant review of an amazing day.”
“There has been a nonstop hootenanny concert going on in the backyard patio space at 90 E. 3rd St. since about 2:30 this afternoon. Trap drums, bongo drums, people singing, people chanting at the tops of their voices, audiences applauding, crowds yelling and woo-hoo-ing.”
Yes, there was a lot of woo-hoo-ing. And it was well deserved.
For further info on the web: www.mekons.de/mekonhom.htm, www.themekons.co.uk/. Jon Langford and Friends will be at TVEYE in Ridgewood on 10/22. Jon’s painting can be found at www.yarddog.com and you can follow him on Instagram: @jonlangfordofficial