Rock Moment: A Rolling Stone goes Face to Face in Houston
If you’ve gone to more than a few rock shows, or if you like to see musicians playing in small clubs, you probably have heard of these once-in-a-lifetime shows, where somebody really famous unexpectedly jumps onstage in an unlikely spot. I always wondered if I’d ever experience one of these unique occasions – and five years ago it happened.
December 2005: The Rolling Stones are touring behind their latest album, A Bigger Bang, and tonight’s show is in Houston’s downtown Toyota Center. At almost the same moment as the “World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band” cranks up its show, another group of musicians are setting up a few miles away in the Continental Club. A small but devoted crowd of people are gathered at the Continental to see Ian McLagan and the Bump Band, from just down the highway in Austin. McLagan is, of course, the keyboard genius who powered the Small Faces and the Faces in the 1960s and 1970s. And his Bump Band this night consists of drummer Don Harvey, bass player Mark Andes and guitarist “Scrappy” Jud Newcomb – crack musicians all.
There’s a buzz going through the admittedly small crowd: will there be a mini-reunion of the two members of the Faces in town? Guitarist Ron Wood has been with the Rolling Stones since 1975 but before that he was McLagan’s bandmate in the good-timey Faces. The buzz gets louder as the Bump Band takes the stage and rip into “Little Girl,” from their first album. Seeing a music legend like McLagan up close, you can’t help but marvel at your good fortune – these guys play free happy hours most Thursdays in Austin’s Lucky Lounge and occasionally make the 165-mile trek to Houston to make even more people feel lucky.
McLagan sings through the set and each song is more brilliant than the one before it. He alternates between deep, soulful songs with healthy doses of B-3 organ and jaunty rockers with his signature piano style. He does “You’re So Rude,” the Faces classic written by himself and fallen hero Ronnie Lane. “Mac” toasts his lost friend before he takes a sip of Guinness. As midnight approaches, the Continental crowd starts to thicken; some are wearing t-shirts with a bright new lips-n-tongue logo, meaning the Stones show is done. A big, dark bus pulls up alongside the club and clubgoers peer out the window to see if anyone gets out.
We’re sitting toward the back of the club, and there are more than a few people standing behind us. The Continental isn’t a big place, it’s certainly longer than it is wide, and if you tossed a football from the front door you could make a touchdown on the stage maybe 15 yards away. Don’t ask me, I’ve had a few beers – but there’s no mistaking that interest has shifted from the stage to the rear of the club, where a knot of people seem to be drifting west, where McLagan launches into the Faces oldie “Mystifies Me.”
I swivel around on my chair to see what the hell’s going on back there, and suddenly Ron Wood bursts out of the small crowd. Both hands held aloft, he mock-sprints toward the stage, a bodyguard on either side. McLagan peers past the stage lights and yells, “You fucking cunt!” The band never misses a beat as Wood is boosted onstage, and a guitar is put into his hands. Wood sings the chorus of “Mystifies Me,” a song he wrote for the Faces so long ago … and McLagan beams at his old buddy. It was a magical moment, for sure.
Wood wants to do “Cindy Incidentally” but McLagan had already performed that one. So they settle into an old blues tune and Stones backup singers Bernard Fowler and Blondie Chaplin add their voices to the mix. A few shoulders away from me I recognize some more musicians from the Stones show, Chuck Leavell and Ivan Neville. I think of all the rock bands represented in that one building at that single moment:
Ian McLagan – Small Faces, the Faces
Ron Wood – Jeff Beck Group, the Faces, Rolling Stones
Mark Andes – Spirit, Jo Jo Gunne, Firefall, Heart
Blondie Chaplin -The Flames, Beach Boys
Chuck Leavell – Allman Brothers Band, Sea Level
Ivan Neville – Neville Brothers, Spin Doctors, Dumpstaphunk, X-pensive Winos
Not to mention all the backup work Bernard Fowler and many of the others have done … whew! My memory spins out of control at this point, and I can’t recall what other songs they did. McLagan and the Bumps did a version of the Small Faces’ “Get Yourself Together,” and the great feeling I had during that song stays with me to this day. What a great night.
I hope that one day you can experience a memorable rock and roll moment like this. The best way to get started would be to find a place where Ian McLagan and the Bump Band are playing, buy yourself a beer and rock out to some of the greatest music on the planet.
Listen: “Get Yourself Together” by the Small Faces