Sunday, December 03, 2017
Slow by bev davies, at the Thunderbird Arena in 1986; not to be re-used without permission
Slow in 2017 is better than Slow in 1986.
I am serious. Slow in 1986 were inspired as hell, a great debut, a ferocious burst of youthful energy and a force to be reckoned with, keeping the spirit of punk alive when the best of the first-gen punk survivors were faltering with the possibility of getting on the radio or getting signed to a major label ("if we just make it slightly more approachable..."). I bought their first (and only) single when it first came out, off Grant at Collectors' RPM, and loved it. Against the Glass - which came out just a year after DOA's terminally overproduced record, Let's Wreck the Party, if you want a study in contrasts - was also in my collection from the week of its release, and I maybe have even in owned it in two versions (because, as I recall, there was a slightly different mastering job on the second pressing). I am very glad to have seen them live: it was one of my first-ever punk concerts, Slow opening for the Cramps at the Thunderbird Arena, on a rare blessed night, where, as a non-driving teen from Maple Ridge, years before there was even BAD bus service back to the 'burbs, I actually managed to get a ride into the city and a place to sleep, with a bunch of anarchists, lesbians, and members of the Animal Slaves at a house off Victoria (I got to meet Rachel Melas and admire her hairy legs while they all sat around a kitchen table making Seussian jokes with rhymes like "I like dykes." I never got to see the Animal Slaves perform but it was pretty fun eavesdropping on that conversation). There were kittens, too, who licked the sweat off me as I tried to sleep on the couch afterwards, which was memorable in a different way.
And I saw someone attempt to pierce her own nose, badly, that night. And saw my only UFO, later on, lying on the grass at the UBC bus loop, watching a meandering dot among the stars that no one else could be made to see (but it was there!). It's the ephiphenomenon around that night that I remember most clearly. Some of you have heard the story about a big-haired Goth girl who came up to us before the show to chat, and my big-haired Goth female friend commented, "You're so pale, it's disgusting!" - then failed to notice as this newcomer's face fell and she struggled with hurt and distress, until I, seeing this all and understanding, reassured her: "she means she's jealous."
She was so relieved!
Tom Anselmi came up to talk to us somewhere before the show, too, asking us, in the parking lot, if we had seen a guy with a silver (or golden?) beard around, who he had to talk to. I had no idea at the time that he was my age then. but jeez he looked young.At 18, Tom Anselmi was WAYYYY cooler than I was. I was kinda in awe. I didn't say anything to him, though. (He was probably more interested in the girls I was with, anyhow).
For those curious about my first five punk shows, they were: #1: Dead Kennedys with Jim Cummins, House of Commons and the Bill of Rights, at the New York Theatre in 198...5? I think. The Fall of Canada tour, the night the Crucifucks DIDN'T play. Neil S. Emery keeps posting photos of the show, that include audience shots, and there is one guy whose back of the head might actually be mine, except I don't really remember what I looked like back when I had hair. Jim - who I saw take a beer bottle or can to the head and keep playing without, as I recall it, missing a chord - was at the show last night, too.
#2 was some mix-and-match festival of local punk bands where I am pretty sure I saw the Spores and Death Sentence, and definitely saw the Haters, whom I hated, and who now - in their black hoods, with their power tools, making an ungodly noise on the stage - are the only band who stands out even vaguely in my memory. (Danny of the Spores was at the show last night, too, quipping, "I don't even like Slow!" at first, then later recanting). Then there was the Cut-the-Crap-Clash with Phil Smith and Corsage opening (little did I know the backup singers were the Dishrags!), which I think was the first ever show I was at where bev davies was also present and taking photos. I was up in the nosebleeds, though, among those being mocked by Joe from the stage: he said we didn't understand, were mere spectators for not being willing to come down and join the party on the floor, but I had a rare DOA EP with me, my first-ever Triumph of the Ignoroids, with the uncensored cover, which I had scored FOR A MERE TEN BUCKS at D&G Collectors' Records before the show, and was in no way willing to take down into the mosh pit, no matter how much Joe exhorted us. I remembered the mosh pit from the DK's show all too well (I lost my shoe in it and had to retrieve it).
I am not sure if any of the members of the Dishrags or Corsage were at the show on Friday, but I wouldn't be surprised.
And then there was Slow opening for the Cramps, in their bloody nurses' uniforms, with (again, unbeknownst to me) Mary of the Modernettes doing some backup vocals, leggy and sexy and kinda shy off to the side of the stage, with another gal or two, too). I barely remember the Cramps' set, gather that they were in a bad mood, with Lux pissed off by some pig's blood that got onto their equipment, maybe annoyed that the audience was chanting "STRIP!" at him (his previous striptease in Vancouver had been mentioned on the radio earlier that day). I recall reading in Discorder that after the show he smashed some hapless journalist's tape recorder when a question aggravated him. The Cramps who I had THOUGHT I was going to see - the madman-fronted unit I had seen in Urgh! A Music War - were nowhere present that night, and Slow totally upstaged the headliners, doing their classics, plus a cover of "Gimme Shelter," and a song that for years I thought was an ode to masturbation called "Beat the Creature" that Tom now tells me, some thirty years later, was actually "Meet the Preacher," and written about Ken Lester (!). I loved it all, and was more impressed by their anarchy and energy than I was BY THE CRAMPS', which says something -
- but holy fuck, it was a mess! It was one of the first and biggest lessons that I ever got taught that a band live MAY NOT SOUND LIKE THEY DO ON RECORD. Slow live in 1986 (or was it 1985?) sounded kinda like... well, wait a sec, have you heard their live cover of Nazareth's "Hair of the Dog?" It's hilarious, it WORKS, it is REAL ROCK AND ROLL, by all means ("and Hamm says..."), but it - what's that line from Dylan - "fall[s] apart all over the place?"
Slow, opening for the Cramps, fell apart all over the place. I don't know if they were stoned or drunk, but they were definitely teenagers and relatively new to music. It was real fun, and they deserve every bit of their legendary status, but... 31 years later, these guys are a BAND. These guys can PLAY. These guys have the discipline and confidence and chops that they lacked back then. They may have been legendary in 1986, but they're GREAT in 2017. And if what I heard of their new material on Friday night was any indication, they've also developed and evolved as songwriters over the years, because -
- hold on. I must not disparage Against the Glass (or "I Broke the Circle"). (Though I will ignore "The Night Before"). The problem, though, with those original Slow compositions is that they've been all the Slow the world has HAD, these past thirty years. Even if Slow haven't done them to death - even if they might actually still be fresh and fun for the band to play, which is what it seemed like on Friday - for those of us who have had no other Slow to listen to for 30 years, you know, we kinda KNOW these songs already, eh? They're great - especially "Lookin' for Something Clean" and "Against the Glass" and "Bad Man" and "I Broke the Circle" and... well, I could rank them in order, and all the way down to "Out of the Cold" (the song above "The Night Before") they're all great... but there's still only so long you can listen to even great songs before you have to put away the album before you kill your ability to enjoy it. I don't spin X's More Fun in the New World very much. I don't spin the Clash' London Calling very much, or the Stooges' Fun House. And I don't spin Slow's Against the Glass very much, either (at least it's in good company). Because I don't ever want to find myself going, "yeah, yeah, you have not been the same. We get it."You have to eventually stop listening to an album before you ruin it for yourself, you know?
But hey, what's this "Asphalt Plane" thing about?
Slow Dec 1 2017, by bev davies, not to be reused without permission.
The new Slow songs were AMAZING. Both "Nothing to Use" and "Polaroid Queen" - uploaded to Youtube with great audio, unlike my clips - reminded me more of Copyright's classic "Circle C" album that got kinda shitcanned by Geffen - an album EVERYONE SHOULD BUY IF THEY SEE IT, one of greatest rock albums to come out of Vancouver ever. "Asphalt Plane" sounded a bit darker and more menacing, a bit more like Copyright's The Hidden World, also an unsung local gem, that even some Copyright fans can be heard to disparage occasionally (I never knew why; while there are some weaker tunes on the album, mebbe, like the single "Into the Light," there are also some fuckin' EPIC MONSTER ROCKERS, like the sexy/ horny, and brilliantly anthemic "Mother Nature" - which, I'm just sayin' - could easily be incorporated into a Slow set). Tom, Hamm, and the boys can't help but have learned and grown from their decades in rock. There might still have been some LOOSENESS to what they did on Friday, some CHAOS - and, I mean, who wants to see covers of "No Fun" and "Pills" and "Chinese Rocks" and covers-of-covers like "Brand New Cadillac" and "Somethin' Else" WITHOUT them being loose and chaotic? Loose and chaotic is the whole POINT of those songs. But the looseness and chaos of a seasoned skilled player is still of a different order than the looseness and chaos of an 18 year old dude with his hormones exploding out of his nurse's uniform.
Slow in 2017 is BETTER than Slow in 1986. I cannot WAIT to hear their new album, or new EP, or whatever it may be. I had such a good time at the show that I completely forgave them for starting at 12:30, even though it meant I only got less than four and a half hours sleep before my first day of work at a new job (I got home after 2:30 and was up at 7am). It was great to be standing next to Bev and sharing notes, talking about call-out culture, confessing my own occasional "fuck and run" period to her, having her tell me her own "me, too" story, and debating what to do about artists who have misbehaved. Bev, like me, is a big Roman Polanski fan, and gave what I think is the most intelligent and provocative summation of the whole sorry situation: "Would you rather see a really shitty movie made by a really nice person, or a great movie made by a shitty person?"
Anyhoo, besides Bev, it was nice to see a whole bunch of people I knew, some of whom I said hi to, starting with Jim Cummins, who didn't know that he was on the cover of the new and, I believe, final issue of BC Musician magazine until I gave him a copy (there was a stack of them inside the door). Then there was Danny of the Spores, who had some cool news re: his career as a cinematographer, and whose Lon Chaney Sr. tattoo is apparently all finished (it is super fucking cool and you should ask to see it if you run into him - I'd post a pic but all I have is the unfinished version). There was Al Mader, who wouldn't have been there if I hadn't told him that it was starting late and tickets were available, who could be seen dancin' to the right of the stage (and who you see in his hat in one of my pics below, with Kevin James "Sipreano" Howes - whom I briefly forgot knew me, and almost walked by!). Sipreano did an insipred deejay set just before Slow took the stage, which morphed at one point from the Nihilist Spasm Band's "No Canada" to Willie Dunn and Jerry Saddleback's "Peruvian Dream," and included the Painted Ship's "She Said Yes" - which Bev didn't recognize, even though she had LIVED with the Painted Ship for a time when she'd just arrived in Vancouver (!). The previous DJ (DJ Paisley EVA?) had done a great job of providing a grrrls' only opening set, with lots of songs I didn't know ("Is this Kathleen Hannah?") and plenty I did (stuff by Nina Hagen or Kim Gordon). Nardwuar was there but I leave Nardwuar alone, since I figure he must surely prefer that. Doug Smith was there. At least one dude from the Tranzmitors was there. I didn't see Dave Bowes, or Adrian Mack, or Mike Usinger, but I gather they were there, some with their wives. Ed Hurrell was there and said hi to me... Gerry Jenn Wilson was there and said hi to Bev, but she doesn't know me... Lotta people out, in any case. There was even a guy with a chihuahua or something.
Who brings chihuahuas to punk shows?
The Orange Kyte had the single most entertaining fan, a young (drunk?) girl who kept shouting variants on "I think you guys are an awesome band!" - which led to the singer responding "I think you're an awesome audience member," at one point. But so much vocal praise seemed a bit uncomfortable for them, since she wouldn't let up. I liked them, tho'. They kinda made me think of what the Jolts would have sounded like if they had been influenced by the Kinks instead of the Ramones.
I miss the Jolts.
Then there was the Prettys, who suffered a little bit from "waiting for Slow to take the stage" fatigue, on my part; they delivered - with three different vocalists, including a charismatic little Lester Bangs-type on lead guitar who jumped around onstage a ton while soloing. I had enjoyed them the last time I saw'm a bit MORE, to be honest, when they cooked up the Smilin' Buddha ahead of the Furies a year or two ago, in a slightly different lineup, but it was gettin' late and I was ready for Slow.
Then Slow came on. Tom had expressive hands, reaching out into the audience in a way that reminded me of that fucking AMAZING Nick Cave show a few years ago at the Vogue. His lower lip curled troublingly downwards as he sang - a lip filled with menace and disdain - but he managed to roar just fine (one slight voicebreak at the start of "Lookin' for Something Clean" aside - I mean, he really does ROAR on that EP, in a way he never did with Copyright, but he's still got it in him, turns out). Christian was staid and stoic and the best dressed; Ziggy brought the most chaos; Hamm, as always, seemed to be having the most fun, and Terry Russell - whom I don't think I've seen onstage SINCE that 1980's Slow concert, unlike most of the rest of the band - apparently hasn't lost a beat, so to speak (HAS he been drumming all this while? Wasn't he doing podcasts with Hamm for a bit, there? Erika and I won a Dehli-to-Dublin ticket off him once...).
Tom mostly was self-affacing when he gave the odd between-song comment, saying he never knows what to say at such times, but he did comment, "Where were you in 1986?" at one point to the cheering, packed house.
For the record, that was me who shouted "Thunderbird Arena!"
I'll let the photos speak for me for the rest. Though I should add that while the most entertaining rendition of "No Fun" I ever saw in my life was a DOA-led all star jam at the Vancouver Complication gig, with Randy Rampage on lead vocals, Slow do an AMAZING "No Fun" themselves, and both versions were wayyy more entertaining than watching Iggy and the Stooges do the song in Seattle (!), somewhat to my surprise.
All photos above by bev davies; all photos below by Allan MacInnis. Slow goes on at the Fox at 4:30 this afternoon, if you missed them. It's not too late. I am half tempted to go again myself...!