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Mike Watt to release album of 1995 live gig featuring a backing band of Eddie Vedder, Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and others

Mike Watt in San Pedro.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Columbia-Legacy has announced the release of a crucial Southland document that captures a snapshot moment when bassist Mike Watt, co-founder of influential San Pedro band Minutemen, went on the road with members of Foo Fighters, Pearl Jam, the Germs and others in support of Watt’s first solo album, “Ball Hog or Tugboat?” 

Called “ring spiel tour ‘95,” the album captures a gig at Chicago’s Cabaret Metro that featured Watt and a backing band consisting of musicians from opening acts Foo Fighters and Hovercraft.

Specifically, playing with Watt were Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam, Hovercraft), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, Nirvana), Pat Smear (Foo Fighters, Germs) and William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate, Foo Fighters). For Grohl, the tour was his first since the suicide of Nirvana bandmate Kurt Cobain. 

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The forthcoming archival release will arrive on Nov. 11 as a double LP, CD or digital download.

For its part, the under-appreciated “Ball Hog or Tugboat?” features an eye-popping guest list. Among its 50-plus collaborators were future or current members of Bikini Kill, Beastie Boys, Nirvana, the Pixies, Swell Maps, Pearl Jam, Meat Puppets, Black Flag, Queens of the Stone Age, Wilco (guitarist Nels Cline) and Sonic Youth. 

The record’s birth is notable. In 1994, the San Pedro bassist Watt was still recovering from the loss of his longtime Minutemen compatriot D. Boon and had stopped performing with his post-Boon project Firehose.

Armed with a Rolodex, a host of remarkable friends and a newly minted record deal with Columbia, Watt started work on his first solo album, which came out in February 1995. Its title, “Ball Hog or Tug Boat?,” was a reference to what Watt submitted were two key bass-playing styles, one flashy and self-involved, the other powerful but unassuming, like a rudder that steers and pushes the rhythm.

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A video still showing bassist Mike Watt performing at Cabaret Metro in Chicago, 1995.
(Jerry Bryant and Mark Zurawiec )

The 1995 Metro gig featured Watt, Vedder, Grohl and others tackling work from that album, as well as covering songs by Madonna, Daniel Johnston, Blue Oyster Cult and Minutemen. As well, Pearl Jam fans will note the early performance of the band’s song “Habit.” 

In addition to vinyl, CD and digital download, the live record will also be available through all the major streaming services. 

There’s a lot of terrible music out there. For tips on the stuff that’s not, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter: @liledit

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