Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard Rock the Bell House

As a founding member of the legendary UK punk outfit, the Mekons, Jon Langford has been making music since the late '70s.  And he doesn't show signs of stopping either.  Earlier this week, he dropped his sixth solo record, Here Be Monsters, which has been earning great reviews from anyone who listens.  Last night, he brought his band, Skull Orchard, to the Bell House to show Brooklyn how it's done.

Opening act, Meghann Wright, was raised in Hawaii and resides in Bushwick, though she sounded very little like either locale, favoring a sort of soulful alt-country vibe.  After a tune titled "Cocaine," Wright remarked, "That song's about feelings, so this song's about drugs," and eased into a newer number called "Can't Carry Water."  You could barely hear her acoustic guitar in the mix, but her lead guitarist was so good, it didn't matter.  Her best performance was a toss-up between the rollicking "Brooklyn's Most Wanted" and the expressive "I Don't Know Why."  "Hopefully that song made you wanna go home and bang somebody.  If it didn't, then I fucked up," she offered after the latter.

Jon Langford & Skull Orchard kicked things off with the new album's first track, "Summer Stars," sans introductory poem.  Although the Mekons began as a band where no one could play any instruments, it was immediately evident that Langford assembled a crack team of musicians for this group.  Joe Camarillo's drumming especially lent a great deal of power to songs like "Drone Operator" and "1234ever."  Of course, no Jon Langford show would be complete without some choice banter, and it came in droves.  Revealing that earlier in the day he'd been given the gift of Johnny Cash's trousers, he clarified, "I'm not wearing them.  Johnny Cash didn't wear brown corduroys from Target.  He wasn't the Man in Brown Cords."  While Jon was extolling the virtues of a lunch he'd eaten at Rein's in Vernon, CT, one tall crowdmember disagreed, shaking his head and shouting, "Fuck it!"  Without missing a beat, Langford shot back, "Fuck it?  It was an enormous building.  I wouldn't know where to start."  He followed a head-bobbing "Lil' Ray o' Light" with "What Did You Do in the War?" a slow-burning political duet with violinist Jean Cook.  Langford then took things to Australia, first sharing the lyrics of "
Mr. Alcohol & Mrs. Marijuana" by a band he met at SXSW called Dog Trumpet, and then a full-band cover of the Go-Betweens' "Streets of Your Town."

At this point, he could've coasted.  He could've even ended the concert, having already played for an hour.  But what did Langford do?  He pulled out a hat trick of three of the night's best performances.  Starting with a rocking "I Am the Law," Langford next moved to "Are You an Entertainer?" a song he'd recorded with the Sadies.  As the crowd picked up on the chorus, Jon acted out the lyrics, getting progressively goofier and naughtier until Bill Anderson was laughing so hard he could no longer play guitar.  Then he out-Strummered Joe Strummer on "X-Ray Style," Langford's voice nearly a dead ringer for the late Clash frontman.

The set lasted almost an hour and a half, but why stop there?  Skull Orchard returned for a four-song salvo beginning with Procol Harum's "Homburg," followed by a pair of Old Devils tunes, "Luxury" and "Getting Used to Uselessness."  For the final number of the night, Camarillo surrendered his seat to Mekons' drummer, Steve Goulding, and Langford and company barreled through "Memphis, Egypt" to cheers from the room.

I had two beers with Jon before the show, and you can listen to our conversation here.


Vacancy / Cocaine / Can't Carry Water / Left My Heart in Brooklyn (in the Rain) / I Don't Know Why* / Brooklyn's Most Wanted* / Sunshine Through the Rain

JON LANGFORD & SKULL ORCHARD - 04.04.14 - THE BELL HOUSE (1 hour, 47 minutes)

Summer Stars / Drone Operator / Mars / 1234ever / Haunted / Tubby Brothers / Pill Sailor / Sugar on Your Tongue / Lil' Ray o' Light / What Did You Do in the War? / Mr. Alcohol & Mrs. Marijuana / Streets of Your Town / I Am the Law / Are You an Entertainer? / X-Ray Style / Deep Sea Diver / Sentimental Marching Song

Homburg / Luxury / Getting Used to Uselessness / Memphis, Egypt

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