Wayne Kramer Kicks Out the Jams Once More on 50th Anniversary of MC5's Seminal Debut

Wayne Kramer of MC5
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Wayne Kramer of MC5 performs onstage during the second annual Rock for Recovery benefit concert at The Fonda Theatre on Sept. 16, 2017 in Los Angeles.

History repeated itself on Tuesday night (Oct. 30) as the MC5's Wayne Kramer kicked out the jams once again -- albeit with a different group of players -- on the exact 50th anniversary of the recording of the group's seminal debut album Kick Out the Jams.   

Back on his home turf of Detroit, at Jack White's Third Man Records store in the city's Cass Corridor, Kramer led his all-star MC50 through a two-hour show that was recorded direct to acetate on the same self-proclaimed Zenta New Year that the MC5 recorded Kick Out the Jams at the legendary, and long-closed, Grande Ballroom in 1968. With proceeds going to the guitarist's non-profit Jail Guitar Doors prison music initiative, a crowd of 250, including retired baseball star Kirk Gibson, packed Third Man, creating a sense of small-venue occasion that helped fuel the group's high-octane performance.

"This is an exhilarating moment for me personally," Kramer said during one of several breaks while the acetate was flipped or changed. "Never in a million years did I think I'd be in Detroit 50 years later recording Kick Out the Jams live -- especially with a wonderful band like this."

During the last show of their North American tour, Kramer and company -- Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Soundgarden/Pearl Jam drummer Matt Cameron, Faith No More bassist Billy Gould, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty and Zen Guerilla vocalist Marcus Durant -- opened the show by running through Kick Out the Jams in its entirety, though not in its original sequence. The group filled out the 16-song set with selections from the MC5's other two albums, including its cover of Them's "I Can Only Give You Everything," a rendition of the rarely played "Future/Now" and a trio of songs -- "Sister Anne" and the soulful "Let Me Try" and "Skunk (Sonically Speaking)" -- with a three-piece horn section featuring Blue Note saxophonist David McMurray. Detroit artist Martin "Tino" Gross, Kramer's lead teaching artist for the local Jail Guitar Doors, guested on lead vocals during "Shakin' Street."

The new Kick Out the Jams will be a two-LP set slated for February to coincide with the original album's 50th anniversary. "My personal interest is to A-B them," Kramer, who paid tribute to the other original members of the MC5 -- three dead while drummer Dennis "Machine Gun" Thompson has declined to be part of MC50 -- during Tuesday's show. "I just want to see how the music, how my playing, how the band has evolved, what happens over 50 years. The idea of it, I thought, was intriguing."

Kramer has long been critical of the original Kick Out the Jams, especially since his guitar "went radically out of tune on the first note of the first song" and he never regained momentum. "I adore the (original) record," Kramer said. "It's a cherished artifact of what happened that night and of a time and a place and an era. I get all that and I love all that. But I retain my artistic rights to be dissatisfied."

After a short break MC50 returns to the road on Nov. 9 in Bristol, U.K., 19-date European tour. The MC5, meanwhile, is on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ballot for a fourth time, with voting currently under way. 


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