Sunday, February 20, 2005

Vancouver Complication

Ah, what a night. I have no stunning insights into the music, so you'll have to make do with mere description... In case you weren't there.

Gary Bourgeois, whom I used to know (tho' not well) through a mutual friend and some shared recreational proclivities, opened the night as "e," since it was as "e" he appeared on the Complication compilation. I had the "e" album for awhile, as I recall. It never had a big following -- as an index of which, in the used record business, where people are paying up to $500 Cdn for rare Subhumans singles, people rarely bother to stock the "e" album and don't, to my knowledge, get a lot of money for it when they do -- at least not in Vancouver. Gary is better known for his association with the Payolas, for whom he played bass under the moniker Gary Middleclass; he also is the guitarist behind a local prog-rock revival attempt awhile back, Mind Gallery -- you can usually find The Lemmings were Pushed in local used CD shops. He's a nice guy, and makes interesting music, tho' I'm not personally a progrock fan myself. I enjoyed his set, though, one number of which in particular was fun, where he interacted on his guitar with a program that produced tones based on randomly generated phone numbers. It was more interesting than hearing him to a Payolas song would have been -- a local musician playing us stuff he's interested in now, since he didn't really have hits to play. And tho' there were elements of 1975 in some of what he played, there were definitely current things too. Not exactly punk -- it was art rock. But an agreeable way to open the show.

It did get me thinking (I was a bit high) about progrock. Is it valid that I have some interest in Japanese progrock, that I own some Ruins stuff, say, but have very little time for or interest in historical progrock or progrock as it survives in North America? Why should the Japanized version be more acceptible? (Short answer: because it takes punk into account). Anyhow, I stood up front, listening to "e" and edging ever closer to the stage. For most of thenight, the friend I went with and I were huddled up at the front, inches from the monitors...

After Gary got off, everyone gathered on stage for a group photo op, before things got too out of hand, and Joe Keithley did his MC shtick, joking about how with the age of some of the people on stage they should have a defibrulator handy, getting the audience to cheer them as being a "pretty good lookin' bunch" for their age. I wondered who one guy with long blonde hair was; he looked familiar -- I didn't clue in that it was Randy Rampage until later, when he joined DOA on stage, looking pretty much unchanged for all the years.

Next up came No Fun. It sure would be nice if No Fun had a CD for sale -- it kinda sucks that the only way you can hear "Work, Drink, Fuck, Die" is by seeing them live. Maybe that's why they don't sell CDs, tho' -- they figure that people won't come to their gigs... For "Be Like Us," David M. held up little flashcards with the lyrics, in the mode o' Dylan, with a few offensive new lines -- instructing the audience to jump into the ocean and cause a tsunami, for instance. Shithead had said earlier that Tony Baloney (sp?) got the vote for the best dressed man in the house, but I vote for David M., because he dresses more like I do. I hear one of these guys has a job at Chapters now... ah, dayjobs. It was neat to hear "Mindless Aggression" played live -- I bet it doesn't make their regular live show.

Next came the Dishrags, on stage together for the first time in 25 years. Sad to say, but I confirmed with Jade Blade, the lead guitarist/vocalist after the show, that this is a one-off thing for them; there are no plans to reform the Dishrags, tour, do new material, etc. It's unfortunate, but it makes seeing them play last night all the more a privilige, something to be grateful for. In the world o' girl groups, they're ten times edgier than Shonen Knife, have more genuine brass and intelligence than any ten riot grrrls, and they looked and sounded damned good on stage. (Plus they're a fuckin' great punk band, in any gender). Shithead ushered them on with jokes about promoting a gig that DOA did with them in an Esquimalt high school. The band opened with "Bullshit," did a song I didn't recognize, then the bassist, Dale Powers (also sharply dressed -- a great-looking orange top, very smart-looking, as were the rest of the band) stepped up to the mike for a cover of the Ramones' "I don't wanna walk around with you;" the short set ended with a kickass take on "I Don't Love You." People began to mosh a bit, but conservatively.

My friend and I joked between sets about whether anyone would get laid as a result of the show. We hoped so.

Next band: the Shades. Chris Arnette gave what I think was the most authentically punk rock performance of the evening. Throughout the set, and I don't know why, exactly, he had constant difficulty with his guitar, his amp, his cord, everything. Things came unplugged, things made weird explosive bursts of noise, and he didn't really seem to know which knobs on his guitar would do what -- or else just didn't know how to get his difficult equipment to stop doing the unwanted things. All these problems happened during and throughout the songs, too. A non-punk would have run off the stage in mortified embarrassment, but Chris just PLOWED FORWARD with enthusiasm and drive and an appearance of unrattled conviction in himself and what he was doing. It made for a helluva fun set, actually -- with music so noisy and fucked up as to be worthy of Flipper or Jandek, at times, but what the heck, I like Flipper, I like Jandek. It loosened us all up, it was good.

After a short break, much peeing and beer drinking on the part of the audience, and some equipment shuffling, DOA took the stage. At first they had their current bassist, who I guess was Dan Yaremko, doing duties, including a couple of old songs like "World War III;" the band were enthusiastic, tight, and played like people who get a lot of practice playing live, which fits, since of all the bands on the roster they were the only ones who regularly do gig. Things did get wilder after Randy replaced Dan, tho'. The moshing got enthusiastic enough that I ended up having to shelter my smaller female friend from flying elbows and other body parts (and some grope attempts, she reported), but I guess it counts as exercise. Not moshing for one can be difficult for a guy to handle; not moshing for two is a genuine challenge. Who'da thought so many old farts could mosh so enthusiastically? (Tho' there were kids in the pit, too).

I was surprised just how much I enjoyed hearing DOA play. "2+2," "Woke Up Screaming," "I Don't Give a Shit," "Rich Bitch" -- it was a great little set. Things continued to be high energy for the so-called Subhumans show that followed. Really, the Subhumans were Brian and some under-20 kids, including the estimable "Mike from White Rock" on guitar; I heard shouts of "Where's Gerry?" from the audience, but Brian did make the disclaimer that he had TRIED to get in touch with everyone. It was a fun set anyhow. "Slave to My Dick," "Fuck You," "Urban Guerillas," "Death to the Sickoids" -- it was too bad they didn't do "Firing Squad," but one can't have everything. People moshed with great energy and passion. It warmed my heart, even as I tried to keep them from colliding into us.

The night, alas, went slightly downhill from there. Brian remained on stage, Tony Baloney returned, and Rude Norton were reborn. Trouble is, Rude Norton have exactly one song, that I know of, that they actually contributed as a punk original to the scene, the fun "Tits on the Beach," later covered by DOA on a BYO compilation, Something to Believe In. Everything else was covers, and the sort of covers that teenagers in 1978 would be doing; and alas, the band, for reasons unfathomable to me, chose to eschew "Tits" for the covers! So we got to listen to the "Gilligan's Island" theme. "Green Acres." "Put a Little Love in Your Heart" (made a little bit credible as a punk-related song by the Circle Jerks cover of it, but not really). "Sea Cruise." The songs just weren't as good, weren't punk enough, and by the end of the Rude Norton set, there was almost no moshing to be seen; it was a bit of a strategical mistake, to follow DOA and the Subhumans up with Rude Norton; earlier in the evening, they would have gotten a warmer reception, I'm sure.

Three members of the Pointed Sticks came up next, with the Dishrags joining them onstage for backup vocals, and did "The Marching Song." A bit more enthusiasm for that one, from the crowd, but it was just one song; after which things began to really get loose, but in a non-bad way. Zippy Pinhead was present and smiling like he was on every good drug known to man -- one of a rotating pool of drummers. Tony Baloney's cute, 16-year-oldish daughter got on stage with a guitar and led a haphazardly assembled band through a couple of songs, Including, finally, a well-chosen cover, of "I Wanna Be Your Dog." Then there was an all star jam, and I got to stare up into Rampage's crotch as he leaned over the audience and gave an enthusiastic reading of the Stooges other great punk-cred-anthem, "No Fun." It brought the level of energy up, made for a good closing, but there was one great, great mistake: there should have been one more song. Given the last few years, with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and -- well, you know -- Joey really was SUPPOSED to step up to the mike and end the night on an enthusiastic rendition of "War." It was kind of obligatory, and the audience all knew it; but it wasn't to be had. We stood around for awhile, and there were some halfhearted attempts to get an encore going, but people were pooped from the earlier moshing and the night was quite late, as it was. Joey took the microphone, told us to give ourselves a big hand, because "we are the scene," and then told us to go home.

There was some joke he told about how even tho' we we're trash, we should resist the urge to throw ourselves in the dumpster on the way out... It was a bit of an anticlimax, but it was, all in all, a great night.

And now the bandmembers, like myself, can all return to their respective dayjobs and keep on grindin'.

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