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I was undecided about attending Wilco’s Sept. 16 show on Ninth Street. I’d already seen them live. Why drop the $35 on a ticket?
Richman is often credited with influencing punk rock with his LP The Modern Lovers (it was recorded in ’71 and ’72 but didn’t see release until 1976). Borrowing the hyperactive chord progressions of The Velvet Underground and the sloppy spirit of Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Richman’s sound was the antithesis of the flower-power psychedelia that purveyed at the time.
Although Richman is tagged as “proto-punk,” his behavior, lyrics and personality were decidedly un-punk. He opposed drug use, wrote songs about how much he loved his parents, and literally cried on stage while performing sad songs like “Hospital.” It was his D.I.Y. motivations and the intensely personal content of his songs that influenced the punk of the late ’70s and the indie rock of the following decade.
Richman’s enjoyed a lengthy solo career after his days with The Modern Lovers, and most of his setlist on Sunday will draw from these solo albums. Musically, these songs are lighter—akin to children songs—and often funny. Solo favorites like “I Was Dancing in a Lesbian Bar” should cause as strong a reaction as classic songs such as “Roadrunner” and “Old World.”
As the headlining act, Wilco deserves the publicity; however, Jonathan Richman can’t be missed. He never made any mainstream impact, but the underground owes him a lot.
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