What does it mean when White Punks on Dope has become an oldie? Shit, I dunno. My big bro was introduced to them in college (Thanks Cormack!), and brought them home to baby brother. They were a band for rebellious teens to love and parents to hate. I had one of these stickers on my Bel Air.
The Tubes have never been a typical rock show. They are a theatrical experience, with props and costume changes that immerse you in the performance of a song in ways your ears alone never could. I ‘think’ I’ve only seen The Tubes once before (my memory sometimes fails me), no wait… definitely at least twice (mental images of different stage perspectives have confirmed). Whatever, it would have been in the early ’80s, following the release of their album The Completion Backwards Principle. I remember the concert with elaborate costumes used in the numbers for Sushi Girl, Sports Fans (with the Tubes Cheerleaders, including Cynthia Rhodes of Flashdance/Dirty Dancing fame), and Mondo Bondage. But the moment everyone in the audience was really waiting for was the appearance of Quay Lewd, a persona adopted by Tubes lead singer Fee Waybill, most typically when performing their most memorable anthem, White Punks on Dope.
I dragged my friend TJ to see The Tubes in DC at The Hamilton last night. He understood that for me the opportunity to see the Tubes again was a ‘must see’ concert, and also that among my friends he was most likely to be able to appreciate them. The Hamilton is a beautiful new DC restaurant and live music venue just a block from the White House. I was their once before for a free jazz show when they first opened, but this was my first time seeing an act I meant to see. The venue, food, drink and service are top notch. Go there. It did feel a bit odd to be sitting at a table for a show, rather than spending the whole time on your feet as is often typical. But somehow being seated seems to sap some energy. When the Tubes took the stage, it was to an uncomfortably quiet room, not able to manage the energy to maintain an anticipatory chant of ‘Tubes!’. But mine wasn’t the only balding head in the room, on the contrary, we were in the majority. And one nearby table had a fans walker propped against the table.
But a small crowd and aging act and audience didn’t diminish seeing The Tubes live again at all. Fee still dons a variety of costumes as expected for each song, and Roger still rocks his guitar with every bit as much energy as back in the day. My favorite Tubes album is 1979’s Remote Control, songs from which were notably absent from their setlist for the night. But there were many bonuses, not least of which was learning a little Virginia Music history when I looked into the background of the instrument ‘Rumble’ that they covered, and the opportunity to meet the band after the show.
I managed a couple of video snippets during the show, attempting to catch WPOD from the start. I ended up instead getting his intro, and then just the beginning of the song before my iPhone self-censored and shut down. It was the best I could do, but you had to be there.
Thanks Tubes! Hope I see you again.