Strange Breed. All photos except the Pointed Sticks by Allan MacInnis
Ha! That was a very fun show, though suffused for some with a certain level of anxiety.
For instance, I spent a good part of the way there worried I would miss Strange Breed altogether. I felt there was an imperative to see them, though I did not like the half-of-one song of theirs I heard on their website, which was (it turns out) not at all representative of what they do. I am most happy that I liked them live a hundred times more than I liked that half-of-one song, which didn't seem particularly garagey or punky or at all what their self-description seemed to promise; it seemed, in fact, like an attempt to appeal to people for whom garage rock and punk are not draws, which further seemed an odd thing for a punky garage band to do. I wanted to be reassured that they were in fact cool, since they sure sounded like they would be.
Good news: they were and are!
I also wondered, in terms of keeping up with language change, at their describing themselves as four "queer females;" having been around people who happily described themselves as lesbians - I met Rachel Melas, once, and observed the Animal Slaves sitting around a kitchen table in a house in East Van spontaneously making up Seussian rhymes around the theme of "I like dykes;" I've interviewed Annie Sprinkle and her partner, who used the term middle-aged lesbians to refer to themselves; etc - I have begun to sense that the word "lesbian" may be entering a time of slight political disfavour, like, say, the word "homosexual." I generally only hear it these days implied in the form of the L in LGBTQ+ formulations, or in The L-World.
In any event, the band's using two words ("queer females") where one ("lesbians") once would have sufficed caught my notice and made me think I might be onto something, there. Maybe I'll put the question to Strange Breed someday?
By the way, apropos of my Toiling Midgets article, yes, "midget" is actually an offensive word in the dwarf community. The FAQ on the Little People of America website points out that in addition to terms that are not considered offensive - like the rather Leprechaunish "little people" or the Tolkienesque "dwarf," "most people would rather be referred to by their name than by a label." This is true and worth saying (said the fat, bald white guy on the cusp of getting old, though, you know, I am sure somewhere I have been thus described as a landmark in someone's directions: "No, she's the one standing by the fat, bald white guy on the cusp of getting old." It is fine with me if that is so. I find it, in fact, less annoying than being mistaken for other fat men, apparently based on our fatness alone. And for the record, once again, I do not own or work at Audiopile Records, though people ask me that at least once every couple of years. That guy is Geoff Barton, and we really don't look much alike: he has mostly a moustache while I favour a 'stacheless goatee; he wears glasses and I do not; his hair is naturally lightish, while mine is dark; our patterns of hair loss are dissimilar; and he has more soulful eyes than I do, while I am a tad taller. I am also not, while we are at it, Ty Stranglehold, though Ty and I once had a conversation about Chris Walter mistaking me for him to my face, with Ty remarking - as we stood in line for some show or other - on how we look nothing alike "save for being white and large." Which was pretty entertaining, actually, so thanks, Chris!).
Anyhow, good news! In contrast to the one song I heard on their website, the description of Strange Breed as a garage rock band was accurate, though they were definitely on the punk/ riot grrrl end of the spectrum. Like, fans of L7 and Bikini Kill should be checking them out. It wasn't just me, either. I forget who said it, but I recall a vintage Vancouver punk or two voicing the opinion that they were pretty awesome. Mike Armstrong of East Van Halen said it, maybe? (He who pogo'd drunkenly up, down, and off my back, later in the evening, when the Modernettes kicked into "Barbra?") Or was it Gord McCaw? Or both of them? Or was it John Werner? Or Ed Hurrell?
There were lots of old punks around, as you might guess, so I'm not sure.
In any event, like I was saying, there was a low level of anxiety throughout the night, and not just from me. Turns out when I reached in my wallet to hand John Armstrong $20 for the Modernettes t-shirt I bought off him (custom-ordered at 3XL, with an Rd Cane photo on the front that looks just great), I unwittingly handed him a five instead. I had mostly $20's, and thought I checked, but, I dunno, with the dim light, beer, and CBD caplets - my kidney stones are acting up - I must have fucked up! He then, apparently, spent the next half hour or so too worried to mention it - "embarrassed," was the word he used - in case I had paid in advance or something and he'd forgotten it, or so he explained later. I in turn - when he finally pointed out my mistake - spent the next while worried that maybe he thought I had tried to rip him off, or perhaps overweeningly presumed to get a hefty discount based on my article. Conversely, you know, I did also entertain the thought that maybe he had successfully ripped ME off! I mean, it's vastly more likely that I just handed him the wrong bill, but, whatever; no doubt he entertained the possibility of my malfeasance, too, and for fairly good cause!
Anyhow, we got it all sorted.
Eddy Dutchman and Bob Petterson
After that, it was my turn to stress out: I spent a good part of Eddy D and the Sex Bombs' very fun set worrying if I might not have misspelled Eddy's name (as "Eddie") in my Modernettes article. I am afraid to look; I think I might have. Still, I shot some video and made a mental note that I actually like this band. Erika particularly loved the vibe off bassist Bob Petterson ("cool to the bone," I believe she said), and his sideburns, too, which information I later relayed to Bob; I believe he made, by way of comment, some remark about contemplating growing them out, to have "a full on chinchilla like Trevor Bolder." (Bolder makes a surprise appearance in that Toiling Midgets article btw, presumably when he was touring Ziggy Stardust with Bowie). There was a song about being "too tight" that particularly merits further investigation: I got the impression that the band playfully riffed off several different variants of that phrase, from not being able to fit into one's clothing to encountering someone cheap to, who knows, maybe having trouble with anal sex? (There is also the "tight" that comes from a well-oiled band's performance, and "Too Tight," if that's what it was called, was one of the tightest songs of the night). EddyD & the Sex Bombs don't seem to have a bandcamp or website I can find, besides what's on Youtube or Facebook, but I do think they have at least one album to their name. Very sexy, playful, fun rock'n'roll, kinda a 70's punk cabaret...
All the while that Eddy D. and his crew were onstage, John Armstrong must have been worrying about his voice. He'd posted on Facebook about having rehearsed so much his throat was sore, and later, in his stage patter, cracked a joke about the Chloraseptic he was using. He needn't have worried. I have seen (and enjoyed!) much, much rougher vocal performances, including a couple of heroes of mine (Chris D., when the Flesh Eaters played here; or Rob Wright, who, at one of three Nomeansno shows I caught in Ontario, went so raw in the throat during some of his roars that it sounded like he might start coughing blood... though he made a full recovery by the next night at the Horseshoe, somehow. Plus I've seen Ozzy Osbourne in recent years. John had nothing to worry about; he sounded fine).
I also wondered if having a giant article focusing entirely on him, given that he hasn't played live in awhile, might have put a certain pressure on him to deliver (as no doubt the packed house filled with his peers did)?
The vocals weren't the high point of his set, mind you: the high point was Armstrong's guitar soloing and interchanges with Adam Sabla, which reminded me a little of seeing Lou Reed and Mike Rathke in Tokyo, years ago, on the Ecstasy tour. They engaged with and complemented each other in very similar ways (though Reed and Rathke went into things at greater length, riffing around and into each other like some sort of New York version of Neil Young and Crazy Horse).
There was a pleasing sampling of some of Buck's best older work in the set, including "I Can Only Give You Everything," "The Rebel Kind," "Suicide Club," "Red Nails," "Teen City," and others - plus a few rude cries from the audience of "play the old stuff" when John digressed into songs only a few people know. (I know Doug Smith and Noize to Go's Dale Wiese, in the house, knew "Sal Mineo," and obviously any people who worked on the song, like most of the Pointed Sticks, but I am not sure how many people overall had heard it before, either live or in studio; I would guess not many). The melancholy debauched romanticism of "Party Girl" made the set, too, as well as an awesome song that I didn't expect he would do, the Crazy-Horse-ish anthem "Hold Tight." I shot video of a song I've chosen to render as "Sorry When I'm Dead," though I don't know the formal final title - the one with the great couplet, "Chinese heroin and Mexican beer/ who do I fuck to get out of here?" I think everyone in the audience was very satisfied, including me - and they didn't even do my favourite of their new songs! ("Delivery Boy").
(And that was the song I devoted the most print to, even).
The stresses weren't all internal, note. There was a wee drum mishap and a snare had to be traded out, when duct tape was not enough to solve whatever issue manifested itself. That Mr. Fixit moment preceded "Barbra" (I do not know who the other guy was who got moshy, but Mike Armstrong sure had a good time during that tune). Then came the evening's final song, which I am stunned to discover I cannot now call to mind (was it a cover? It was a song I knew, but now can't find on Get It Straight! Once again I blame the beer and CBD).
Finally, the Pointed Sticks took the stage. Erika and I ended up leaving a bit earlyish to escort Bev Davies out of the 'hood (she has been heard to remark that she can't believe she ever lived in that neighbourhood; she, like Erika and myself, has gotten accustomed to a less intense level of streetlife out here in the 'burbs.) I was delighted that the Sticks opened with "Put a Little English On It," my favourite Polly song and a fine tribute to its author, the late Paul Leahy. I knew that it has been in their set from catching them at the Smilin' Buddha (the last I show I ever saw at SBC was the Sticks and Gerry Hannah); this time I was ready and caught it on video. (Polly's version live here). David M., of Leahy's previous band, NO FUN (playing the first of several Christmas shows on Monday, by the way) commented on Facebook that the Sticks' cover was "pretty good stuff," which is like a rave review coming from him (he has understandably high standards where such things are concerned).
I do not know if the Pointed Sticks themselves had anything to worry about last night, mind you. They always seem pretty at ease onstage. Certainly they didn't need to worry about attendance: the Rickshaw was as full as I've seen for a local show in years. Maybe I helped in some small way with that? (I heard tell of at least one person who wasn't going to come, then read my article, and came, so...).
(I hope that person enjoyed himself!)
Video aside, I didn't actually get any worthy photos of the Pointed Sticks, so here's a couple by bev davies. Check out the green pants on Nick (loudest pants of the night, and that's sayin' somethin').
Pointed Sticks by bev davies, not to be reused iwthout permission
All in all, a great night out. Sadly, I'm going to miss the month's other must-see at the Rickshaw, Keithmas, but I hope those of you who go enjoy it. If someone could capture a clip of Bison covering the Rolling Stones, I'm really curious as to what that might look like!