ORIGINALLY POSTED ON STRAIGHT.COM, MARCH 17, 2005
By Steve Newton
Some rock bands think it’s cool to sell out hockey rinks and football stadiums, but if you ask Spike-lead singer for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes-he’ll claim that there’s no live setting quite like a bar mitzvah.
Of course, it helps if you’re blasting out punked-up versions of tunes by Zeppelin, Styx, and REO Speedwagon.
That’s precisely what the San Francisco-based quintet did on last year’s Ruin Jonny’s Bar Mitzvah, and they looked good doin’ it, sporting some of the finest baby-blue tuxedos around. But Spike can’t guarantee that he and his mates will be donning those funky suits when they play the sold-out Richard’s on Richards on Friday (March 18), with openers Chixdiggit.
“We’re not able to organize dry-cleaning frequently enough to wear ’em all the time,” explains the 34-year-old crooner from his Frisco home, “so we gotta go back to the old standby-Hawaiian shirts. They’re sturdy, and they breathe well.”
No matter what sharp-looking duds the musicians show up in, here’s hoping they pull off the raging version of the Carpenters’ “Superstar” that graced their destined-to-be-classic live release. Spike admits that he wasn’t the mastermind behind the awesome bar mitzvah set list, and that neither was bassist-bandleader Fat Mike, who is also frontman for NOFX and president of Fat Wreck Chords; Spike credits the dollar bin at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. But even with the stellar lineup of tunes, the band initially had to struggle to win over little Jonny Wixen’s friends and relatives.
“During [Blondie’s] ‘Heart of Glass’ the father of the guest of honour was heard to say: ‘I think I made a horrible mistake.’ ‘Cause that was the song that started and stopped and had to be restarted again, so it was really awkward. And then there was the fact that everybody was sittin’ down. I guess they thought they were being polite, but they were sitting down like a hundred feet away from us, by the back wall, just kinda staring and fidgeting. For quite a few songs they were doin’ that, and then it took the Billy Joel song [‘The Longest Time’], to get everybody up.”
Now that Spike-who also plays bass in Berkeley punk band the Swingin’ Utters-has gotten a taste of the special-event circuit, he’s hooked on playing weddings and bar mitzvahs. Typical gigs in bars have somehow lost their attraction.
“We don’t have anything lined up other than boring old rock shows,” he complains. “I mean, they can be fun, but what rock show has an ice-cream bar? And just imagine the way you get fed at weddings. The band got fed that way too; it wasn’t like ‘cover bands to the rear’ or anything. And every time we went up to go get a glass of wine, they gave us a mug. Then you compare that with goin’ upstairs at a club, and there’s, like, a fuckin’ garbage can with a couple of warm Gatorades and a Budweiser, you know what I mean? It’s pretty clear what kinda band you wanna be.”