Bryan McPherson At Vacation Vinyl, Thursday July 9th 2015 Review
F…k Boardners, I almost never go to this place, but this is outrageous. Folk punk troubadour Bryan McPherson was supposed to play at Boardners on Thursday night, but the show was cancelled as he was told at the last minute it was a ‘pay to play’ policy… I have never heard of such insanity but McPherson didn’t agree at all, which I totally understand. Such controversy actually goes very well with his character, and this is not the first time it happens! McPherson was banned from playing the Anaheim House of Blues show during a 2014 tour with Dropkick Murphys, because his ‘anti-political police views and drug insinuation’ didn’t please Disney, and yes the venue belongs to the famous mouse! ‘Well I’m honored they actually listened to the words. I’m floored. What an honor!!!’ he added to his Facebook page. It’s certainly a proof that someone at Disney effectively had listened to his songs, and when you do that, it is really difficult to ignore his words!
McPherson rescheduled the show at Vacation Vinyl, the renegade place in Silverlake that doesn’t make his performers pay anything. Listening to him perform his songs with a rage in the bully and fierce determination, I was totally getting why he could cause such trouble, before I had even figured out all the words. Each song is a ferocious call for rioting, in the tradition of the greatest protest songs of the 60’s. He has Bob Dylan or Woody Guthrie’s harmonica and spirit but his fierce and passionate delivery could remind you that of a Joe Strummer. He sings right in your face, looking at people right in the eyes, screaming sentences like ‘There’s no freedom of speech in the land of the sheep’, ‘How can I go to heaven if I’m living in hell’ in the song ‘Days of Rage’, which basically has to be one of the most anti-system, anti-capitalist songs I have heard for a long time. Didn’t Neil Young say a few years ago that he couldn’t see anyone among the young generation doing this kind of stuff? Apparently he hadn’t met Bryan!
His latest album, ‘Wedgewood’ was inspired by his time in 2011 as part of the Occupy Oakland movement, which can explain his direct and full-volume tone, ‘The things I witnessed at Occupy Oakland hit me hard,’ said Bryan. ‘The experience ignited a fire and a furor in me that are reflected on the album.’ However, he had quieter and personal songs, showcasing his talent of storyteller with songs like ‘Born on a Highway’ or ‘Hearts in Boxcars’. All set-long, you could perceive all the emotions transpiring through his songs, as he seemed to live intensively through them, pushing his powerful voice making light tremolos at times, spitting his guts out, whatever he was talking about. There was rage and anger against the system, against the ‘fascist brigades’, and he even has a song on his new record about Kelly Thomas, the homeless man who was brutalized and killed by the police… Who does this kind of things these days? Who has the audacity to be this honest and authentic at the risk to sound ridiculous, who has this urgency in the voice? Last time I witnessed such passion and engagement,I was watching Tom Morello’s protégé, Brooklyn band Outernational! ‘He has been a hell of a journey, writing all these songs while nobody cares about shit’, he said while thanking everyone to be there. And it was impossible not to care.