Music Hall of Williamsburg
Monday, May 18
When Frances McKee and Eugene Kelly took the stage to “Son of a Gun” on the last night of their reunion tour, I got choked up, to my surprise. I haven’t dug out my copy of The Way of the Vaselines: A Complete History (not yet upgraded to Sub Pop’s 2009 Enter the Vaselines) very often, but I have kicked out the Incesticide jams a bit in my life, something I’ve known for way longer, an artifact from my childhood and jumping on my bed with toy rubberband guitars. The feeling was some combination of nostalgia and displacement, but the Kurt albatross was what nearly drew tears–I felt like I was watching parents outlive their son. “Son of a Gun” was jangling, gorgeous, endless. All I could do was stare at McKee and think about Kurt naming his daughter after her. This is the girl.
Between the first and second song, those feelings disappeared fast. “I’m feeling a bit moist myself,” McKee winked in response to an awfully horny, awfully awkward crowd. Then they launched into “Monsterpussy.” The horny, awkward tunes may be an act, but nearly 20 years and a few bands later, the ex-couple were all too eager to play the act again. “Oral sex…have you learned how to do it yet?” McKee teased her flummoxed ex-lover before an even better “Molly’s Lips” than the one put to tape in 1989 (new harmonies, returned bicycle horn). Later, this sweet-appearing, diminutive Scottish girl in the pastoral green dress inquired about groupies for her ex (McKee: “He doesn’t like it when you’re too forward”; Kelly: “I like deaf-mutes”) and made a standing offer to let any crowd member drink her urine (“It’s good for sore throats!”). It didn’t take long to zap the soggy Kurt nostalgia and start wondering about McKee’s unsung place as a pre-Liz Phair sex talker in the alt-rock universe. Good pick, Kurt.
“We’re milking it, aren’t we?” she asked coyly, empty wine cups by her feet. They played a couple new ones I hope don’t go to waste. (“Hey we’ve got nothing to say/ but we’re saying it anyway,” went the catchier of the two.) Led by animated 1990s’ (natch) drummer Michael McGaughrin, the Vaselines’ backing band made their somewhat stiffly recorded tunes spring to life onstage; “Teenage Superstars” rightfully became the approximation of Richard and Linda Thompson covering “Beat on the Brat” it was always meant to be, and people moshed to “Dum Dum” and “Sex Sux (Amen).” Brilliantly, confidently, they dispatched the three Nirvana-covereds early in the set and along with them any notion that they were someone else’s greatest hits. The only thing they were milking was themselves: the encore was their own “Rory Rides Me Raw” and the sprawling feedback-disco “You Think You’re a Man.” You bet for that last one they reprised their 21-year-old orgasmic moans and sighs. Milking it, indeed.
In 140 characters or less: 20 years later, Nirvana’s godparents ride each other raw again, this time with watersports.