When the Velvet Underground’s contributions to rock and roll are tallied, drummer Maureen Tucker doesn’t usually get the credit she deserves. At a time when rock was slouching toward a dubious “more is more” aesthetic, she pioneered an egoless, minimalist percussion concept drawn from an adolescence spent drumming along to Bo Diddley records and her day job as a keypunch operator. Her artless vocal delivery also made her the perfect vessel for Reed’s “Afterhours,” a song his cynicism would have ruined. Underground rockers the Clean, Half Japanese, and MOTO have all cited her as an influence. After the Velvet Underground disbanded, she dropped out of music for more than a decade, then started releasing homemade records in the early 80s. She first emerged as a songwriter on 1989’s Life in Exile After Abdication, a tour de force recording that wedded noisy indie guitar textures to songs of blue-collar rage, fueled by her years as a divorced mother of five trying to support her family on a Wal-Mart paycheck. Her subsequent albums have continued in that vein, but they also acknowledge her affection for the innocent yearning embodied by the early girl groups, and nearly every album has a tribute to Bo Diddley–Moe certainly knows her Bo. Tucker rarely drums anymore; she finds it easier to lead her band on guitar. But one listen to the Velvet Underground’s reunion album, Live MCMXCIII, confirms that her drumming’s as great as ever–with any luck she’ll bring her trademark stand-up kit to this show for a few songs. Velvets guitarist Sterling Morrison is touring with Tucker on her first U.S. tour since 1989, which makes this as close as we’re likely to get to witnessing a Velvet Underground reunion. The opening acts are also worth checking out: Yum Yum is one of Chicago’s best new bands, wrapping appealing vocal harmonies around psychedelic drones; Wild Carnation is a trio fronted by ex-Feelies bassist Brenda Sauter; and D.C.’s Townies play low-key linear guitar jams that should satisfy Vulgar Boatmen fans. Friday, 9 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Ruth Leitman.