Dr. Frank live in Aachen

Just three months after I had seen Dr. Frank in Baltimore, he came to Europe for a string of acoustic gigs. The last show of the tour took place at the Autonomes Zentrum in Aachen, a former bunker located beneath the train station. There were about 40 people, few enough to allow Kepi Ghoulie play the first couple of songs unplugged. His music combined classic Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones vibes with a vivid punk rock spirit. His performance was certainly entertaining and enjoyable.

I usually prefer artists who don’t stick to a static setlist during a tour. Now last night was very much a dynamic event. It helped that the concert felt a bit like a living room show due to its size. Consequently, Dr. Frank’s set was filled with surprises and requests. (I got to hear “Will You Still Love Me When I Don’t Love You?”!) All those great rocking songs from the Mr. T Experience worked very well in an acoustic setting. For once, you could hear all the lyrics perfectly. Did anyone ever award some prize to Dr. Frank for the most clever and wry punk rock lyrics? Why not? What do you mean, there’s no Nobel Punk Prize? Anyway, the show was great and the mood was relaxed. There were so many amazing songs! I feel compelled to list some titles, because they remind me of the fun I had during the gig: “You’re the Only One”, “Swiss Army Girlfriend”, “Jill”, “Sackcloth and Ashes”, “Swallow Everything”! The lack of recognition from mainstream music fans breaks my heart. And yet I’m totally happy that I got to experience this concert close up. The next time Dr. Frank comes to town (or as in my case to a town that’s a three-hour drive away) you better go see him!

Dr. Frank live in Aachen

  1. How’d the Date End
  2. I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll
  3. You Today
  4. My Name Is Morgan (But It Ain’t J.P.)
  5. More Than Toast
  6. Mr. Ramones
  7. You’re the Only One
  8. Swiss Army Girlfriend
  9. ???
  10. Fucked Up on Life
  11. Now That You Are Gone
  12. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
  13. Jill
  14. Will You Still Love Me When I Don’t Love You?
  15. Sackcloth and Ashes
  16. She Turned Out to Be Crazy
  17. Swallow Everything

Dr. Frank and Jutze

Dr. Frank live in Baltimore

It was Thursday, June 21st. I had arrived in Philadelphia coming from Zürich and drove south into the heat of Maryland (104° Fahrenheit). Not the most relaxing way to start one’s vacation but I didn’t want to miss the rare opportunity to see some one of the most underrated punk musicians coming out of retirement. After three hours of sleep in the hotel I got up and drove to the Ottobar. I got there half an hour before midnight local time. Mikey Erg was still on stage and sang some pop punk songs on his own with just an electric guitar (sounding excellent). His songs were pretty cool and he was obviously enjoying the gig. The audience – maybe 200 people – was in a good mood, too, albeit a bit exhausted, because the event (Insubordination Fest) was already rolling since 6 pm.

Mikey Erg live in Baltimore (June 21st, 2012)

Dr. Frank hit the stage after a really quick change over. His backing band that night were the Mixtapes, who delivered a powerful, passionate performance. Dr. Frank himself wasn’t completely sober and kept on drinking throughout the show. I guess a proper punk rock concert was a nice change for him compared to his usual book reading events that take place during the day and have young adult readers in the audience. I had no idea what kind of setlist to expect. Needless to say I was thrilled when “Sackcloth and Ashes” was played as opener. A barrage of MTX classics followed (“Here She Comes”! “Semi-OK”! “I Love You, but You’re Standing on My Foot”!). I loved every minute of it! The 30-second song “Told You Once” (off the “Short Music for Short People” compilation) was played three times in a row before the other musicians left Dr. Frank alone on stage for a couple of softer songs (mainly about alcohol and romance).

The mood during this part of the show was especially relaxed. It was cool to see several other artists standing by the side of the stage and singing along every word by heart. After a formidable version of “Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend”, the House Boat guys joined Dr. Frank for a couple of songs. Finally, two of the best songs (“Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba” and “Dumb Little Band”) from the best MTX album “Love Is Dead” concluded the set and the audience went wild one last time. There were stagedivers and happy faces and all was good despite the Baltimore heat at 1 am.

Dr. Frank (and the Mixtapes) live in Baltimore

I hesitate to lament the lack of public interest in the event. It was great to see this style of music played in such a small place. No way a stadium gig could feel as imminent. It all reminded me of the MTX concert I attended back in 2001 in Stuttgart, Germany. Maybe it’s even a good thing that shows like these have become scarce. We’re all getting older and punk rock nostalgia is one of the ugliest forms of nostalgia if you ask me. Still, on that sweaty Thursday night Love might have been dead, but Punk certainly wasn’t.

  1. Sackcloth and Ashes
  2. Last Time I Listened to You
  3. Danny Partridge Got Busted
  4. Here She Comes
  5. She’s No Rocket Scientist
  6. I Love You, but You’re Standing on My Foot
  7. Semi-OK
  8. I Wrote a Book About Rock and Roll
  9. Told You Once
  10. Told You Once
  11. Told You Once
  12. Now That You Are Gone
  13. She Runs Out When the Money Does
  14. Two Martinis From Now
  15. Even Hitler Had a Girlfriend
  16. Gilman Street
  17. More Than Toast
  18. Somebody Who Cares
  19. Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba
  20. Dumb Little Band
  21. How’d the Date End?

PS: I’ll leave you with the wise words of Ben Weasel, who wrote on February 1st, 2004: In the meantime it’s worth the price of admission and then some to see [the Mr. T Experience] play. Whatever one of those American Pie bands might be worth, the MTX is worth double, and I’m being kind to the AP bands. Buy their CDs. See them play. Be one of those few people who vote with their dollars for substance over posturing; for quality over marketing magic. Because twenty-five years from now, do you really wanna be the person who decided to see Journey when you could’ve seen AC/DC with Bon Scott? Of course you don’t.