“Right now it’s time to what?” shouted Wayne Kramer, a big grin on his face at Spaceland on Sunday, as the crowd shouted back, “Kick Out the Jams.” Launching into the signature song from the guitarist’s early-'70s proto-punk band the MC5 with furious backing from L.A.'s Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs, Kramer easily reconnected with a time when rock ‘n’ roll could be equally about revolution and fun. No one was more committed to both party policy and a party! policy than Detroit’s MC5.
Kramer was playing a full MC5 set for the first time in ages both to mark the release of a new anthology CD and to raise money for the band’s original mentor, political activist John Sinclair, whose New Orleans home recently suffered severe fire damage.
But Kramer hardly treated the songs as relics. Sure, he wasn’t quite able to incite anarchy in the U.S.A., and his partying is of a much cleaner variety today--with a dedication to such fallen comrades as MC5 singer Rob Tyner and guitarist Fred “Sonic” Smith. But he still sounded as if he means it, man, as much as he did a generation before Johnny was rotten.
The spirit built throughout the night’s multi-act bill, with the Cheetahs charging through their own blue-collar punk (including a nod to another Detroit role model with the Stooges’ “Fun House”). Current Sinclair protege Mike Younger detoured to quieter pastures, with easy yet effective turns of familiar phrases a la Kris Kristofferson. But by night’s end everyone’s jams had, indeed, been thoroughly kicked out.