Twenty-two-year-old Nick Aguilar played the drums at Grog Shop on Sunday, Oct. 6, sandwiched between 61-year-old bassist Mike Watt and guitarist Tom Watson.
“I think about thirteen people asked how old I was,” Aguilar said, referencing Mike Watt + The Missingmen’s Sacramento show, on Sept. 20. “Mid-set, some drunk gig-goer even shouted, ‘Who invited the eight-year-old?’”
Despite his youth, this is Aguilar’s third and longest tour to date, 45 events in 45 days. Aguilar toured with the band Neighborhood Brats in the spring and summer of this year. He plays the drums in Neighborhood Brats and Slaughterhouse.
The Sunday concert was a stop on the dick watt tour 2019, named after Watt’s father who died in 1991 and the namesake of The Missingmen’s next album. The band features Watt, Watson and drummer Raul Morales.
Morales is notably absent from the tour. As explained in the meticulous tour diary provided on Watt’s website, “raul morales along [with] paloma brought on board new shipmate [and two-year-old] sofie…raul is now a pop!”
Aguilar is not a surprising replacement. He cites his father as a key musical influence and remembers trying out his neighbor’s drum set for the first time at age 10—“doing a simple quarter-note beat came really naturally.”
It would be another two years until he would discover punk rock and Minutemen, a band where Mike Watt was a vocalist and played bass. Pete Mazich, an organist in Mike Watt and the Secondmen, a band formed later by Watt, worked with Aguilar’s dad. When he found out Aguilar played the drums, he gave him a copy of “Double Nickels on the Dime,” Minutemen’s 1984 studio album.
Although Aguilar didn’t know the album, he was intrigued by the album cover, which features Watt driving into San Pedro, California, his hometown.
“It was stuff I’d never heard before. It was undoubtedly punk rock,” Aguilar said. “But it was almost like a classic rock record too. It was bluesy and jazzy … some of the song titles stood out to me: ‘The Glory of Man,’ ‘The Roar of the Masses Could Be Farts.’”
At 12, Aguilar learned the song “This Ain’t No Picnic,” by the Minutemen and performed it at one of Watt’s shows in Long Beach. Watt thought he was just doing a favor for a friend, but after the performance asked Aguilar if he wanted to learn more Minutemen songs.
Aguilar continued playing, usually as a special guest at Watt’s shows, until he was 16, stepping back when he thought it stopped being “cute.” Three years later, when Morales and Secondmen drummer Jerry Trebotic were injured, he stepped in, demonstrating he was capable of playing full sets.
Aguilar guesses that he’ll have 110 concerts under his belt in 2019 alone, by the end of this tour.
This tour has not come without problems, though. Aguilar suffers from minor digestive flare-ups that can affect his ability to perform. Still, the issues did not show in the show.
The trio has a contradictory mix of constant intensity and an almost comedic laid-backness. Much of the music was fast and dramatic, yet the members never came off as taking themselves too seriously.
There was also a sense of equality onstage. Whereas most drummers perform behind the lead singer, Aguilar was positioned front and center.
“[Watt] likes to say ‘no man should be left behind,’” said Aguilar.
The band members looked like they were having fun and were very interactive, moving around, smiling and shouting directions to each other when not on the mic.
There was a cool juxtaposition of Watson’s noisy guitar playing with Aguilar’s precision. It was a synergy of strong musical personalities, contributing to a cohesive whole.
The crowd loved it. There were pleads for an encore, with the audience lingering long after the last song, waiting to catch a glimpse of Watt and Watson to interject their thanks. Some even followed Aguilar out as he loaded the band van.
Aguilar showed me the numerous gifts he’s received on the road as well, from a book on how to deal with digestive issues to several vinyl.
The dick watt tour 2019 continues into November with stops in New York City, Washington D.C., Nashville and Atlanta.