Mike Watt bringing new 'opera' to Turf Club

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At 53 years old, Mike Watt is more sought after now than ever.  The punk veteran and hugely influential bassist made his name in the early '80s as a member of the Minutemen, and he seemingly hasn't stopped touring since, lending his talents to a number of post-Minutemen projects like Dos (formed with ex-Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler), fIREHOSE, and a newly reformed Iggy & The Stooges. 

While that's enough to keep the man busy for the rest of his life, it's not quite for Watt.  His conceptual solo projects (he calls them "operas") are dense with dual meanings, tons of songs that run less than two minutes in length, and Watt's wonderfully gravel-throated croon. Before he heads back out on the road with the Stooges, Watt is wrapping up a short tour that focuses on his solo material, a journey that lands him at The Turf Club tonight.

If the idea of a veteran punk rocker has you immediately picturing leather-clad, beer-swilling anarchist types, think again.  It's true that Watt retains a penchant for radically short songs played with the intensity of a man half his age, but he still carries on under the motto of the late D. Boon, his friend and Minutemen co-founder: "Punk is whatever we made it to be."  Lately, that "whatever" has been a string of concept albums formed around unlikely threads of inspiration. Hyphenated-Man, Watt's latest, is a 30-song "opera" (totally free of stuffy Italian types) that sees the rocker coming to grips with his age and his life's work, and is based on a bizarre 1500s painting by Hieronymus Bosch (no, seriously).
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Watt has always been both a thoughtful and hardworking musician, and his hallmarks have remained a relentless touring schedule and a level of insight that goes above and beyond most of his peers.  Where others in his position have suffered from diminishing returns on their talents by pulling the same tricks over and over again, Watt's personal output has remained heady and experimental, his willingness to delve into unfamiliar territory with only a guitar strapped to his side becoming more inspirational as his career rolls along.  He's never stopped asking the tough questions, and you can see his responses take shape in (very brief) songs, spitting answers back at himself at a rapid clip.

How does he do it?  Watt's rambling, stream-of-consciousness writing (you can find some at his website) sheds a little light onto his methods, but you could chalk most of it up to a certain kind of madness, one that he displays with every new release.  If you're missed it on his previous trips through the Twin Cities, now's your chance to catch up with Watt and his particular brand of strange, introspective punk rock.

Mike Watt & The Missingmen w/ STNNNG @ The Turf Club.  21+. $12.  8pm.  1601 University Ave. 651-647-0486.

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