Capital Times – The Mekons Feature
Why are veteran British punk rockers The Mekons playing the Mineral Point Opera House?
July 09, 2015 8:00 am • JOSHUA M. MILLER | Special to the Cap Times
For nearly 40 years, British genre-hopping band The Mekons has been far from a conventional band. A group of art-school students with no musical experience, they began creating music their own way and, despite never really enjoying mainstream success, enjoyed a cult-like status among fans along their prolific run.
“The band has always been an interesting mix of primitive and refined,” said singer Sally Timms.
So maybe it’s appropriate (or at least not wildly inappropriate) that a band that rose along with The Clash and the Buzzcocks in the late ’70s British punk scene would be playing a show at the Mineral Point Opera House next Tuesday.
Opera House Managing Director Parrish Johnston said that since he took over management last June that he’s been trying to help diversify their programming. In particular, he wanted to get the Mekons on his stage. A mutual friend in Chicago connected Johnston with Timms.
“I had heard that Sally and a few other members were interested in coming to Mineral Point to take in the incredible ambiance and history of our town. I was put in touch with Sally and we talked about having a few members of the Mekons come to Mineral Point to perform,” said Johnston. “She liked this idea and after talking it over with other band members they decided to try to get the whole band (8 members) together for a small summer tour.”
So, you’re welcome, Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, Philadelphia and New York. Without Mineral Point, the Mekons likely wouldn’t be playing in your town this summer.
“There is a lot of excitement in town and the band has seemed very excited to have the opportunity to play at a wonderful, intimate venue in a historic town,” he says.
These days it’s a rare treat to see a full-band performance by the Mekons, with members living in different countries and having their own pursuits.
“It’s a question of getting everybody together,” said singer and multi-instrumentalist Rico Bell. “There’s four of us in the U.S.A. And there’s four people in the U.K. some of the time. So we get together as often as we can really. We really enjoy being together and playing music together and just hanging out generally. So it’s always good to see everybody.”
The Midwest has always been something of a second home for the band. They’ve been with Chicago-based alt-country label Bloodshot Records for many years, and credit Chicago country band The Sundowners with introducing them to traditional country music.
“They took the Mekons under their wing in terms of direction in the country music scene or understanding it,” Bell said. “We were listening to the traditional country music at the time before it went commercial nationally. Buck Owens, George Jones, Dolly Parton. Hank Williams. I like that the lyrics are about everyday life.”
The band’s enjoyed playing around Madison too.
“I’d say it was good every time,” Bell says. There was a club we used to play (O’Cayz Corral) that burned down. When it disappeared it was a shame, really.”
Johnston said he’s glad they haven’t let anything get in their way and can’t wait to have them at his venue.
“They have such an interesting 40+ year history with a interwoven tapestry of members coming and going,” he said. “They seem to have a great connection to the art world and Mineral Point has a very large art community.”