Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Times I saw the Rebel Spell

Posting this a day late for Todd Serious' birthday, but what the heck, I feel like thinking back.

The first time I saw the Rebel Spell was in 2007, when they opened for the Furies and DOA at Richards on Richards, on February 10th of that year. I was blown away, hadn't heard about them before that. I fell in love, might have bought their CDs then and there; back then, they had only released Expression in Layman's Terms and Days of Rage, and they sold them for $5 each. I was impressed that they sold them so cheaply.

I saw them at the Cobalt, under wendythirteen, at least two or three times after that. I think for sure I caught them on August 11th, 2007, because the Vicious Cycles were on the bill, and I remember that gig. Sometime in there, I did my first interview with them at a house they were, I assume, sharing in East Van. I vaguely remember walking there that evening. Todd, Erin, and Chris Rebel were all present, Stepha wasn't; my recorder was behaving weirdly, so we taped it on a machine that Todd provided, all of us sitting around the living room. Some of Todd's quotes got mutated into a later piece I did to promote their Dutch tour, since they were still relevant, but the full magazine piece is not online in any way, as far as I know. Chris Walter, who might have been selling books at a table the first time I saw them at the Cobalt, and whom I was just getting to know - I had only read East Van at that point, and remember him selling me Welfare Wednesday - hooked me up with photos of the band, courtesy of his partner Jennifer Dodds. I was probably working with Femke van Delft around that time, too, and some of her pics probably made it into Razorcake, as well. I can't really remember (magazines I've been in are boxed up in storage somewhere, so I can't easily check).

Todd Serious by Jennifer Dodds, not to be reused without permission

But people who don't have Razorcake should note, that the original interview - which ran in 2008, a few months after I talked to the band - was really funny and fun to do, and there's a lot that hasn't appeared anywhere else in print, with Todd and Chris teasing Erin about growing up with Angus and Slash as early guitar heroes and Chris and Todd nearly getting into a fight about some conspiracy theory (I think) that Todd wouldn't even let Chris mention, totally shutting him down when he tried to bring it up (I assumed at the time that it had to do with 9/11 but I don't really know). In any event, they were quarrelsome, poking fun at each other, and a bit at me; but they were all obviously also tight with each other. You can still buy back issues (#42) of that magazine from the Razorcake website, it looks like, for a mere $3 plus shipping. There are a few irritating typos (not my fault - there's an editorial comment I made about Gerry Hannah, addressing some other mistake, that ends up IN THE ARTICLE, because the editors there just aren't that attentive, or have other things on their mind; it was kinda part and parcel of dealing with them, which is part of why I no longer do). Still, there's also a Chris Walter feature on the Tranzmitors, who get the cover, so it's not a bad issue to have, if you're a fan of local music.

Besides Cobalt gigs, one of the next times I saw the band was at Under the Volcano, August 12th 2007 (the day after I saw them at the Cobalt the first time? Maybe!). I think Four Songs About Freedom had just come out at that point, because I remember all these kids - they were performing to an open air moshpit - getting frenzied to "I Am a Rifle," as well as jokes about how strange it was to see punks moshing in the sunlight. Femke took great photos of that day. I don't feel comfortable using her photos anymore, since we don't really have a working relationship, but there's one here, one here, one here, and one here.  Chris Rebel was camera shy at that point - "the government is watchin'"-type paranoia, I think - so I avoided posting shots with him in them, at the band's request. He had sunglasses and a hat on, anyhow, as I recall. As you see, Todd is wearing a "homes not games" t-shirt, apropos of the upcoming Olympics; Stepha is on drums, and if you look in the background, that's bev davies leaning against a tree, with her then friend Carola of JEM Gallery, now defunct as far as I know. That was how I met both women. I reviewed the show for the Nerve Magazine, but there was a bit of a feud between the Nerve and the Rebel Spell at that time, and their passage got cut, which bummed me out a bit, because I'd intended it as a gesture of reconciliation. I have no access to that passage at present or I'd print it here...

Not sure what the next time I saw the band was, but I was at the July 26 2008 Seylynn Hall gig with the Subhumans, again with Femke. I remember Brian Goble wearing a curly wig, and that half the kids who had come for the Rebel Spell didn't stick around for the headliners. Plus I remember Femke standing on a chair beside an unruly moshpit to get pics.

 I was probably at the May 22nd 2009 Cobalt book release for Chris Walter's Wrong. In fact, I know I was, because I think that that was the gig when Chris Walter got me confused with Ty Stranglehold and had to cross out an inscription in the novel that he was selling me, but addressing to Ty (Ty would later laugh with me about it that about the only thing he and I have in common is that we're both "white and large," but it was enough for Chris to confuse us).

A few months after that, in late summer, my Mom had a stroke, and then, in November, my father died. I was back in Maple Ridge at that point, so gigs came fewer and further between for me. I missed the band's shows with Propagandhi and Bad Religion, but I think I was at the July 9th 2010 gig at Funky's. I'm not sure, though. I might not have been, may have only seen them at Funky's once.

But who needs to go to the Rebel Spell when the Rebel Spell will come to you? On July 11th, 2010, I saw the Rebel Spell at the Hammond United Church Hall, on the outskirts of Maple Ridge (most gig posters for events there omit the word "Church," rendering the word "United" somewhat confusing, making it sound like the room belongs to a football team or something). It was a dark room that night, but Femke and bev both came out, at my invite, and did some Maple Ridge tourism with me. I took pictures that I guess are now lost, Femke took pics that I think I have never seen, and bev took this photo - that's Erin, the only visible member of the band. Like I say - dark!
Photo by bev davies, not to be reused without permission

The room was so bare - a church hall that doubled as a gym - that Todd quipped, at some point, that you could just tell that nothing fun was ever supposed to happen in it. (More shots of that odd little venue here.)  The band had an interim bassist, at that point; I believe I ran into Todd and Erin at a Nomeansno gig in a Vancouver rental hall around that time, and he told me that they were between bassists and "balls deep" in recording a new album, which would prove to be It's a Beautiful Future. About the only other thing I remember from the Hammond gig was buying my hard copy of Four Songs About Freedom there.

I didn't really like Four Songs About Freedom, to be honest. "They Know" has grown on me, especially after having seen it live a few times, but I always thought that EP was their weakest release, song-wise. There, I said it.

April 23rd, 2011, I saw the band open for the Dreadnoughts at the Rickshaw and left before the Dreadnoughts came on, probably to get a bus back to Maple Ridge. December 9th, 2011, I had written about the Rebel Spell's gig in support of A Better Life Dog Rescue, who were in legal hot water, and had a very interesting night showing a Danish filmmaker friend the town, drinking beer with him - more than I usually drink, in fact, since he wasn't comfortable with pot - and talking with Todd and Erin about animal rescue, anti-fascism, and other topics. I had a copy of Werner Herzog's Cerro Torre/ Scream of Stone - a rock climbing film - for Todd and a copy of Ox Fanzine for them, a German mag that I'd helped get them on a CD sampler for ("All We Want"). That was the night I fucked the Steam Clock: photos here.

No, no: I didn't really fuck the steam clock, it was figurative. I slept in the scummy jamspace that night, the one Todd thought it was "pretty punk rock of me" to sleep in, when I ran into him at that SNFU show that I mentioned, a couple of posts ago.

I don't think I saw the Rebel Spell at all in 2012, but it doesn't look like they played many shows locally, that year. I think I only went to one of the two "DOA Farewell gigs" at the Rickshaw where they opened - the one on January 18th, 2013. Here's a pic from bev from those shows that I don't think has seen print anywhere:
Todd Serious by bev davies, not to be reused without permission

Also there's this one of Elliot from one of those shows, again by bev, again not to be reused without her permission:

When I caught them May 24th 2013, for Todd's 40th birthday at the Russian Hall, I remember being in a bad mood and leaving early; I felt like an outsider to the punk scene at that point, had had a cranky exchange with someone from Not Yer Buddy at the door, but mostly I just wasn't much in the mood for a concert. Early bus home, again. I think it's the only time where I left a concert by the Rebel Spell before the band had finished playing; the crowd was loving it, but I felt totally apart from the spirit of the evening.

Somewhere in there - April 2014 - I wrote this thing on the veggie oil bus for the Straight, and had an interesting experience. (This was my "lost Todd tape" where he talked about writing a song with Jeff Andrew, so this article may be all that's left of it). I had scavenged a bit from Razorcake about it being hard for Todd to stay vegan on the road. I let him know I was using it - I was actually checking to see if he still downgraded from "vegan" to "vegetarian" on the road - and he replied, by email:
"It's funny you ask actually that interview haunts me. By that time that made it to print I had gone totally vegan and have never looked back. I really like that interview it's funny and intelligent and overall probably the best written thing ever published about us but I regret saying that. It takes a little knowhow to find decent food in places like Saskatchewan but once you get past that learning curve it's no problem."
I promised to fix the quote, but on consideration, I addressed the issue not by omitting it, but by appending something about how Todd had corrected himself totally, since then, even using his words about never looking back. I thought it was revealing and interesting to do it that way, but it also wasn't so easy to address the problem by just snipping the quote entirely, because it set up the whole veggie oil bus issue (he'd also said, in the same quote, that being in a band was why he owned a vehicle, which I guess in 2008 was still burning fossil fuel). Anyhow, the piece ended up online, and it got back to Todd, and the day it was published (or maybe one day later) he called me - I was walking to a bus loop in Coquitlam at the time, on the commute home - to ask what was going on. He was worried, I think, that I had kinda fucked him over, said I would do something and then didn't, or did it in a half-assed way. We talked for about fifteen minutes about it, during which time it came to light that he hadn't actually read the piece - he was calling based on someone's report of it, said he found it kind of trying or embarrassing or such to read articles written about him. I assured him that I wasn't trying to mess with him at all, argued that I thought I'd "fixed" it in a totally appropriate way, showing that maybe in 2008, he wasn't wholly vegan, but by 2014, he was, had corrected himself where he once had made excuses for falling short of his ideals. I mean, it's not like you were born perfect, you're human, and subject to learning and growing, like any of the rest of us, I argued (I am paraphrasing, here, who knows what words I actually used but that was the jist). It makes you more approachable, more someone people can identify with, rather than this perfect figure. I offered, as I recall, to amend the piece further if need be, but that I'd like him to at least read it first, to make sure he felt it necessary; I didn't know that he would.  The conversation was conciliatory, and he seemed all right with me/ the article by the end of it; maybe he wasn't, but he never asked me to do anything further about it, if not.

I didn't see the Rebel Spell again until I had the band, Gerry Hannah and his wife Michelle over for a vegan dinner in Maple Ridge, on the date of Adstock, July 6th, 2014. Erika and I made about five dishes, on an Indian theme, including yellow lentils, green beans, a salad, and a couple of main-course curries that I forget the exact contents of, but it was a bit of a feast. Mostly Todd and Gerry talked outdoors stuff that day, then Gerry and Michelle joined us to see the band play. I shot video, took pics. Another sunny, open air gig, only there the pit wasn't on grass, like Under the Volcano, but concrete, which is why Todd introduces that clip with "last chance to hurt yourself!" No one did. The "circle pit around the gazebo" is probably the funniest thing I've seen at a gig (see the photos). I remember getting a kick out of Todd trying to pay respect to the "no profanity" rule, too; it was like he'd forgotten which of the Rebel Spell's songs had the word "fuck" in them until just before the word came up, so he had to fake his way through. He was still recovering from a back injury from a rock climbing accident at that point - which we also talk about, I think, on that lost tape - and I remember being worried that someone who was grabbing at him from the pit was going to cause him further pain.

By the by, Adstock 2016 will happen on July 10th this year - it's free, it's fun, and it looks like Ninjaspy are headlining. I don't think the full lineup has been announced yet.

Then I did the article for the Straight, promoting Last Run, the full transcript of which I put up after Todd died. In fact, it wasn't full, though; there were a couple of things I didn't transcribe, because they were irrelevant/ distracting/ etc. One of them was Todd digging out what he thought was my first article on the band - the one he calls "funny and intelligent and overall the best written thing ever published about us" - and it was THE WRONG FUCKIN' MAGAZINE, an article by a different person, with glossy pics (I don't recall which mag it was but Razorcake only did B&W). He'd told me he liked the Razorcake piece before - that it was "us," if embarrassing at times, since I had forced my editor to leave in some of that aforementioned in-fighting - but it kinda called the whole thing into question, like maybe he'd been thinking of a different article all along!

Ah, well. Anyhow, I saw the band October 11th, 2014, at 333 for the album release of Last Run. Pics here, video here. I missed their next Vancouver show, the last one with Todd, at the WISE Hall.

After that, you know about, it's recent history, though note that I skipped the gig at 1739 Venables, because I had spent the day cleaning out Mom's apartment and just wanted to relax with my girl. But what a fantastic band. May Vancouver see another as good, someday.

...Now, what was it that I was supposed to be getting accomplished today?

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