Kramer Fails To Kick Out The Jams In Philly

The man himself. Photo by Jay Blakesberg

: Following the recent release of Wayne Kramer's second solo

CD, Dangerous Madness, the question people are asking is, can he

play in

punk rock Peoria? The cards were stacked against the former guitarist for the

MC5 during his opening slot for Weston at Philadelphia's Trocadero on Friday

(March 1). First, he was forced to work within the limitations of a mere 35

minute set. Then he was stuck with trying to win over an audience of mostly

young kids who were there primarily to hear the punk pop of Weston and the

hardcore opening set by Lifetime. (And who had certainly never heard of the

MC5, let alone Kramer.)

Kramer's show got off to a spotty start when he and

his band, bassist Paul Ill and drummer Brock Avery, launched into "Dangerous

Madness." The crowd had thinned out some following Lifeline's set, and they

were unresponsive to Kramer's opening number­­these are not the best

conditions for stage diving. Unfortunately, one of the kids was hot to continue

the rampant diving that occurred while Lifeline played, and he went straight

down to the floor hard when he leapt of the stage.

One reason that no one

caught this guy is that much of the crowd was busy being befuddled by the

middle-aged man on stage who still played guitar solos. And play them Kramer

did, at least two or three in each song. Hardly talking between tunes, he

seemed content to let the music speak for itself, punctuated by his staccato,

jerky movements. In one of Kramer's few remarks, he said that the band would be

focusing on the new album, adding, "I believe in new songs," before playing

"Never Enough." That commitment wasn't good enough for some people in the

audience, one of whom apparently yelled, "Go home!" followed by a mocking

"Hendrix!" from someone else. The comments may have been what spurred Kramer to

rip into spirited, gut level rendition of "Edge of the Switchblade," the song

from his first solo album that tracks the history of the MC5. Whether or not

that was the impetus, the song seemed designed to show these young punks just

where their hardcore came from.

And then, two songs later, poof! The set

was over after a brief seven songs, all of which came from the hard rock file

on Kramer's recent albums. It was a shame that Kramer wasn't headlining, both

for the time it would have afforded him, and for the reception offered by an

audience specifically there to see him. Kramer has put out some exciting music

in the past year, and I would like to have seen him perform some of his spoken

word pieces, or a few of the more roots-oriented rock songs from Dangerous

Madness. I would have even appreciated some MC5 numbers. (He did play

"Poison" from High Time, but that was also a song he re-recorded last

year for The Hard Stuff.) A couple of years back, I saw Moe Tucker and

Sterling Morrison play together, and before their set was through, they offered

up beautiful readings of "Pale Blue Eyes" and "I'm Waiting for the Man." I'm

sure that Kramer could lend the same purposeful, sincere, respectful touches to

live renditions of songs from the Five's canon.

But worse than these

omissions was the fact that, opening for Weston at the Trocadero, Wayne Kramer

didn't have the chance to step out and fly. In a recent interview, he said, "I

try to make something happen every night...to step off the cliff and see what

happens. There's always that chance for that one moment where everything comes

together, where there are no barriers and we're all on that one beautiful

experience." Unfortunately, that "one beautiful experience" eluded both Kramer

and the audience during his set last night.