Thursday, May 23, 2019

Death live last night

Glad for y'all who went to the Specials, but I was happy to see a decent and enthusiastic turnout for the Death show last night. Not many observations, but:

1. I haven't seen any band lately have quite as much fun onstage as Death. They played like they were living out their wildest dreams of arena success - which was just slightly incongruous in a venue the size of the Rickshaw, but really enjoyable to see. You can tell these guys are still digging their late career turnaround - this was play, not work, I suspect (though they probably have to work pretty hard to be able to play this way).

2. They did their Beatles ripoff! Erika and I speculated at some length about how much Drag City mighta had to pay to get away with releasing that.

3. While it is great that they did (I believe) every song off ...For the Whole World to See, they could have played more stuff off N.E.W. (that I noticed, they only did "Playtime," which Bobby dedicated to skateboarders. I can see it as a skating tune!)

4. I haven't seen a drum solo live in awhile - can't remember the last one, actually. Dannis still has the chops.

5. Bobbie Duncan did great work filling in for David, but "Politicians in My Eyes" really benefits from having an added guitar part, absent onstage.

6. Bobby Hackney wore some pretty revealing tights. Not sure he realizes the full effect of that! It's odd how eye-grabbing that was... I didn't WANT to look, but...

7. The moshpit was more enthusiastic than I anticipated! I kept getting slammed into the front barrier, almost getting winded, so I eventually moved back. Moshing didn't exist, I don't think, when Death formed, but their music suits it very well, turns out. (Some evidence on video here).

8. It was nice that they gave a nod to the 4th Movement, playing a lick of "Revelation's Eve," but I would have taken the whole song! It segued into something I didn't know at all. I was happy to buy the vinyl at the end of the night.

9. They had two new 7 inches. The gun control one ("Cease Fire") had a kind of reggae influence, a slower tempo, and lyrics that seemed a bit on-the-nose; I liked the second one - I think about global warming - better, but I didn't get the title.

10. Death was really generous with their fans and hung out signing things at the merch table for quite awhile, it seemed (I gave them the New Creation CDs I'd brought - I did drag Chris Towers to the show - and left, but they were still signing and chatting).

Oh, and WarBaby was a lot of fun, too, playing an Infra-Man movie behind them on a screen as they performed. Monster fights and WarBaby go together really well! My wife remarked on how enthusiastic Kirby seemed on the kit, and I was pleased to get to introduce them afterwards...

Anyhow, thanks to Mo Tarmohamed for putting on such stellar shows. (By the way, someone thought I was dissing Mo for selecting WarBaby as the opener in my Straight piece with them, but I wasn't - I thought it was a totally inspired move).

Monday, May 20, 2019

Right, so... hiatus

I have a massive Stephen DePace interview to transcribe, apropos of Flipper coming to town June 7th. It is actually a bit more than I needed or anticipated; I encouraged him to go deep, and he went DEEP... but there are fucking GEMS in his stories, and it's going to be a great piece. I mean, the band's been around 40 years, so he has stories...

You all know Flipper's Generic, right? Start there. It is also called Album, or sometimes Generic Album. The "hit" on it is called "Sex Bomb," and the only lyric besides screaming is "she's a sex bomb my baby yeah." For roughly eight minutes. Only other song that makes such maximal use of a single line of lyric is Neil Young's "T-Bone," which is also fun, but not as fun as "Sex Bomb.")  And you know David Yow is going to be the singer? Of Jesus Lizard? I am very, very interested, but would go even just to check out Ted Falconi playing live; I would like to see what he's doing with my own eyes. (I will transcribe Stephen's description of it, which is fascinating, but meantime, read about him in this interview.) There are some spelling errors, but it's very interesting, especially if you're into noise/ avant-garde stuff.

More to come on that. And I'll be seeing WarBaby and Death this Wednesday, and maybe Sunday Morning at the Fox Theatre on, I think, May 25th? No doubt other good stuff is out there, but I don't have the time to pay attention.

...oh, and then there's the Blue Oyster Cult at Ambleside. I did it, bought a ticket. The Romantics? David Wilcox? Quiet Riot? ...It probably won't be that hard to be amused, to be honest, but I will bring a book just in case. I will do this for the Blue Oyster Cult.

Otherwise, I am on hiatus, I think.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

WarBaby to open for Death, plus Beth Harrington and Petunia at the Rio, and Heather Haley

Kirby of WarBaby, by bev davies

With WarBaby opening for Death at the Rickshaw, I did a Straight piece to talk to them about the opening slot at their new EP, Coma Kid (make sure you check out the deeply messed-up rock video they've done for the title track, linked in the Straight article). 

It's one of four Straight pieces I have online this week. There's Death, of course (with expansive outtakes and Sharon Steele photographs here). Another is on Petunia and Beth Harrington, who will be at the Rio Theatre this Sunday to launch the series Petunia is acting in, The Musicianer, complete with a full concert from Petunia and the Vipers. Finally, there's a piece on Heather Haley, who is recovering from a broken arm. It was a busy week! Nothing much else for a little while - I might do something on the Sunday Morning show on May 25th, featuring Bruce Wilson and Stephen Hamm of Tankhog. The rest of my energies are going to be devoted to doing something on Flipper, who will be at the Astoria on June 7th, with David Yow fronting. I'm totally keen for that.

Otherwise, I might focus some of my energies on things other than writing. I've put a lot of energy into this blog (and the Straight website) the last couple months - it's been fun, but I think I need to actually make some money.

Oh: I have a big bev davies feature in the upcoming Big Takeover, with Bob Mould on the cover. I believe it's going to run as a two-parter. Check it out...! 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Death: Hard Drivin' Detroit Rock and Roll (an interview with Bobby Hackney Sr, with photos from Sharon Steele)

Bobby Hackney Sr, of Death, at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, Not to be reused without permission

Preamble: If somehow you have missed the story of Detroit proto-punk band Death, you still have a few days to catch up! They play the Rickshaw on Wednesday, May 22nd. Start with ...For the Whole World to Seeif you haven't heard it yet. If it seems like a throwback to the glory days of the MC5 and the Stooges - it is. And it's a pretty unlikely thing that the band made a comeback at all. See the documentary about them, listen to the album, and if you like, read what follows. It's a remarkable story - but also, it's remarkable music that they make, and we're very lucky to be hearing it. 

Bobby Hackney, Sr., the bassist, lyricist, and main vocalist for Death, is a born storyteller, but he’s also an excellent interview subject. He’s very generous with his answers, and has a pretty good understanding of how music writing works: he’ll tell a story, then pause, to give the journalist a chance to interject shape the conversation, because he  understands that the writer has his or her own angle or direction, and may even have begun to write the piece in question, even if only internally, before the interview actually takes place.  

Sometimes in shaping a piece, however, a writer might choose an angle that plays up a particular aspect of a story more than is accurate. The interactive nature of the interview process means that the writer actually influences the subject a bit, which can in turn bend things a bit; if the writer has a particular point of view, and the subject is obliging and willing to go along with it, you might get a distorted picture of the band. 

Take the article on Death I just did for the Straight    – the quotes in it are from Bobby Hackney (and borrowed from a clip of Wayne Kramer, online, which is actually an outtake from the doc, not included in the film proper). Hackney does say that the band never called themselves a punk band – “we just called it hard-drivin’ Detroit rock’n’roll,” he said, in a line that ended up cut from the final print version. But the whole quibble with the idea of labeling them a punk band – “punk before there was punk” – is not coming from Hackney: it’s coming from me (and my editors, who actually were the ones who came up with the title, amplifying the quibble further).

Which I hope is understandable: it adds to the conversation about Death, builds on what's already been said, and maybe draws a few readers to the article. And calling them punk rock before there was punk was itself an angle created by journalists to call attention to this remarkable band. 

In the end, though, it really, really doesn’t matter that much. If you call the MC5 a proto-punk band, you can call Death one, too, if you like. It just needs to be acknowledged somewhere that the music of Death is definitely much more complicated than the cruder forms punk often takes.  There are traces of Hendrix (especially in “Keep On Knocking”), and traces of funk and math rock (especially in the dizzyingly intense “Politicians in My Eyes"). While the Ramones get cited in the documentary, even compared to Death, what the Ramones did is much more Spartan, simple, and repetitive than those early Death songs – and I’m here citing the two that actually did get released back in the 1970’s, and heard by a few people, that could actually have HAD an influence...

In any event, whatever you call them – “hard drivin’ Detroit rock’n’roll” sounds pretty good, to me – the point is, this is a great band. Vancouver audiences have a chance to see them on the 22nd at the Rickshaw, with a great local band, WarBaby – whom I have previously interviewed for the WestEnder, and have a Straight piece online about here – opening.

Bobby Hackney Sr and Bobbie Duncan, of Death, at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, Not to be reused without permission

What follows are outtakes from my Straight conversation with Bobby Duncan Sr. Thanks to Mo, Sue, and Michael for helping facilitate this, to Mike Usinger and John Lucas and the other people working behind the scenes at the Straight, and thanks to the great Sharon Steele (here making her Alienated debut!) for digging up some Death photos to run with this article, from the last time Death played Vancouver.

Allan: I’ve been listening to Death’s most recent album, N.E.W., and comparing it to …For the Whole World to See. The contrasts are striking. The new stuff seems a lot more positive, even comparing a song like “Rock and Roll Victim” to “Relief,” say. The first album seems actually kind of paranoid!

Bobby: Well, it was rock’n’roll in the 70’s, man. Everybody was paranoid! We didn’t want to get drafted, y’know. We unequivocally were afraid of Washington and Nixon, the whole thing. And it was the 70’s – it was post the Woodstock movement. I think John Lennon summed it up best when he said the 60’s was great and then the 70’s was this big drag. We thought the war would be over, we thought that civil rights would take on a whole new plateau in our society, we thought that women would have rights, we thought… y’know, all these things that all these great bands preached about in the 60’s, that was a real hopeful time, but the 70’s was kinda a wake-up call from the ‘60’s: ‘hey, we gotta still fight!’”

Were you around for the Detroit riots of 1967?

Of course. Of course, at the time, I was only eleven years old, dude, when that riot broke out. But you know, my brother David, he was 16, and Dannis, he was a little bit younger than David, but they were more street-savvy than I was, or should I say, than I was allowed to be…

So was there a political vibe in your family, were you guys interested in Black Power stuff at the time, or…

Well, our parents – like most working parents in Detroit – they were Kennedy Democrats, and, you know, they were right on the heels of the Civil Rights movement and the March on Washington. So, I mean, yeah, like most parents in our neighbourhood, probably like most people in Detroit, my Dad was UAW – he worked in the automobile factory as an electrician. So, I mean, around our dinner table, it wasn’t uncommon to hear Martin Luther King, John Kennedy, and Jimmy Hoffa in the same sentence.

The line in “Where Do We Go from Here” about “treasonous liars” – was that in reference to Watergate?

You know what, that definitely was a reference to what was happening in Washington at the time, because Watergate was going on, and pre-Watergate, it was almost like the way the White House is now. It was a revolving door: people was comin’ in, and people was gettin’ fired, left and right. That was an inspiration for that – I mean, ‘have you heard the news lately, leaders steppin’ down greatly,’ and ‘shock has come to pass:’ I mean, it was shocking for our society. You think about, our parents were right out of the Eisenhower era, that led to the Kennedy era, and those things didn’t happen in government, during that time, and along comes Nixon and the ‘60’s, and it was like the two movements were kinda made for each other, you know?

Dannis Hackney of Death, at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, Not to be reused without permission

Okay. So, an aspect of the 60’s that isn’t brought up much in the documentary is drugs. Some of the songs – “Freakin’ Out,” obviously, with it's lyrics about being on the moon with a green sky – seem like they’re inspired by LSD. If you don't mind my asking, was that something the band was into?

There’s a great story behind that song, which is true. My two older brothers, they were basically hippies, you know, and just like everybody else was, they were experimenting with drugs left and right. Drugs were cheap, and nobody thought that they were sinister, as they are today, so you know, they’d get a sheet of blotter acid, Mickey Mouse acid or whatever… and my mother made me breakfast – I was still in school – and those guys, my two brothers, snuck a hit of acid into my orange juice. And I went to school, man, and it was funny, because that whole song is based upon the experience I had that day. I didn’t know what was happening!

Were you pissed off at them?

I was kind of angry at them for not telling me, but to be honest with you, it was quite a wild experience. I have to admit – it was kinda a fun ride, that day!

Bobby Hackney Sr, of Death, at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, Not to be reused without permission

Ha. I bet! Okay, so: there’s a pretty trippy moment in the film, where your brother Earl, I think, plays a tape of David, about how he doesn’t want worldly success, that he wants to “play in front of the throne of Almighty God.” It’s probably the most chilling moment in the film, since that’s kind of what ended up happening. What was the origin of that tape?

Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, he was doing – David did some kinda self-memoirs, you know. He would write a little bit, but David was always a big fan of cassette tape recorders. He would just put in the cassette and talk into it. And it was funny: when the filmmakers went to Detroit and visited our family, and kinda spent some time with them, they got that tape from my brother Earl, and Earl had had it, and when we listened to it, it sent chills down our spines, because David used to always talk about those things. His songwriting was always orchestral, and he would think of the heavenly orchestra, and imagine what kind of instruments would be in the afterlife, and in heaven. And he said, when you read the Bible, you read about angels with harps, and you hear drums, and he said it was music that ushered in great events. So he was always totally convinced that God was a big music fan.

Bobby, Dannis, and David Hackney in the 1970s

Were your parents also an influence on your musical development?

Oh definitely. The thing about it was, they wasn’t musical people, per se, on instruments, but they did love music. We had 45’s in the 50’s from the Chess Records label, and we had blues, all the Memphis stuff that my Mom and Dad used to buy. Of course, my Mom was heavily into Mahalia Jackson, Dinah Washington, and of course Aretha came along just a little bit later. And then there was, of course, Dionne Warwick. My Mom loved all that stuff. They loved Patsy Cline, and they liked Johnny Cash. They really taught us. We’re basically a black family living on the East Side of Detroit – which was a very mixed community at the time we were living in it – but they encouraged us to listen to everything. And then of course, my brother Earl, who was around 12 years old, in the early 60’s, he brought the first Motown album into the house. Well – the first Motown 45. It was around 1960, maybe 1961, but that just changed everything that we as young people were listening to. It was either that blue Motown label or that burgundy Gordy label, that was all the records we were buying – on up until something happened in 1964.

Do you remember what the song was?
“Oh Baby Baby” by the Miracles. That was the first Motown record that came into the house!

[Note – there’s a hole here. I was holding onto the “What was the first Motown single you heard, and didn’t pick up on Bobby mentioning that “something happened in 1964.” I have no idea what that was. I’ll ask him, if I remember to, when the band plays the Rickshaw]

There’s also no mention of live shows in the documentary. I know you’ve said that the focus for a young musician in Detroit at the time was on getting out records, not playing live, but I also heard you mention online that you played garage and cabaret shows?

The only people that really saw Death when we were young and kickin’ it with this music, us three brothers, you know – we’d just go into our Mom’s garage, we’d open up the big door, and we’d just play. People would gather around, there would be people coming from downtown in their cars from work, that would stop on (Warner street?). For awhile, it almost became a weekly ritual, and then it got to the point to where the cops were showing up, so we had to move everything up into our rooms. Fortunately, when we were doing the garage shows, that was before we landed all the big Marshall stacks and the big acoustic bass amps, and Dannis got [word indecipherable] on the drums. We really had beginner’s  equipment when the garage thing was happening, so it was loud, but it wasn’t loud like it was when we was in that room, you know? (Laughs). And any other shows, we just got rejected, because of the name Death. When David named the band Death – man, we would call up Harpo’s, which was a big club in Detroit, and we would call up all the rock clubs that we used to hear on the radio stations, that was advertising, and some of them would actually hang up on us because they thought we were playing a prank. They’d say to David, what’s the name of the band, and David would say, “Death,” and they’d just hang up, because they thought we were pulling some prank. We couldn’t get any shows. 

David Hackney

So David decided to book us at a cabaret, which was at Warren Avenue in Detroit, right down the street from the Chrysler plant where all the factory workers came. These cabarets were, like, bring-your-own-bottle, you pay one price, bring your own bottle, bring in your girlfriend or your wife, you sit at the table, and usually there would be either a blues band or a rhythm and blues band, and so they decided – David was one of the guys who organized the music there, and he convinced them to let us perform a show there. And man, I gotta tell you – I’d like to tell you they gave us standing ovations and they screamed out “rock’n’roll,” but it was quite the contrary. This was an all black audience of factory workers, who loved the blues, and here we are, playing all these songs, like “Keep On Knocking,” “Politicians in My Eyes,” and all that stuff, and right after we ended a song with this rock and roll crescendo – we were up there workin’ hard, but you could just hear a pin drop. They were just looking at us like “What the heck is this?” Finally, after three or four songs, one older gentleman just kinda walked up to us, walked up to me and said, “You’re too loud!” And went back and sat down. So you imagine that – a whole packed house of people, and not one person is clapping. You know, we learned some things that night, but we tried our best.

Death at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, not to be reused without permission

I do have to say, there was one club that gave us a shot, and that was in Iggy’s town, in Ann Arbor.  And it was Uncle Sam’s – it was the biggest rock club in Michigan – and it was because he had heard the record. W4 (WWWW, a popular Detroit radio station), I mean, we were trying to get them to play the record like crazy. We were bugging them so much, til they got annoyed with us, and they did play it once or twice after midnight. I think one of the people at Uncle Sam’s actually heard the record, but he still didn’t like the name. So he said, I’ll give you guys a Monday. Here we are on a Monday night, with about three people, four people there, and we’re playing our brains out. I’ll never forget that show, because I’ll never forget there were just two couples – an older couple and a younger couple – and they were dancing to our music, you know? And they had a great time. But that’s the most we could really get at that time, that was all we could really get, because everybody was so terrified of the name Death. A lot of people think it was because we were an all black band, but that really wasn’t the case. It was our name. For some reason, we just got all kinds of scuff for that, man.

How about seeing live shows? The documentary mostly focuses on the Who and Alice Cooper, for good reason – but what about other bands, like, say, the MC5 or Iggy and the Stooges?

We had the privilege – see, our Mom’s boyfriend was a security guard and he worked all of the arenas, the Olympic Arena, the KOBO arena, Kobo Hall, Michigan Palace, Ford Auditorium, and there were some concerts we saw that were just totally amazing, like seeing Mick Jagger and the Stones with Stevie Wonder opening up, for $8, you know – or like seeing the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges at Michican Palace. That was the congregation place for the rock’n’rollers, you know? KISS would play there on a regular basis. And we wasn’t really much into that scene, but I do remember, going to the KISS shows, you never could tell the band from the fans, because all the fans would dress up like KISS, you know? That was a lot of fun. We saw the Who, we saw, of course, Iggy, we saw – I mean, Bob Seger was our favourite, we grew up with Bob Seger. We used to see Bob Seger as a local band, who would play the Detroit Auto show, that was his yearly gig. Him and the Rationals and – of course, Grand Funk Railroad was the three piece band of Detroit, of Michigan. Those guys were our poster guys.

That’s how we learned – we just watched and learned and immersed ourselves in everything, from Grand Funk to the James Gang to everything. Todd Rundgren, everything – anything and everything rock’n’roll, we would get the albums and we’d dissect the sounds and read the liner notes while smokin’ a good joint, you know (laughs). That kind of thing – that’s what it was.

And then you guys were big Who fans, right? I love the Who, but to tell the truth, I’ve been listening to Death more than the Who, lately…

Aw, thank you man – that just means so much to us, because if we had idols, those guys were our idols. When Quadrophenia came out, David was just so excited about that album: ‘this is the album where rock has arrived. It’s finally met the orchestration of classical music.’ Quadrophenia was just his favourite, favourite album, and he had so much respect for the Who for just being able to put that whole package together. I don’t think there’s a day that went by in our room where we didn’t hear at least one of them songs from that album!

 Bobbie Duncan of Death at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, not to be reused without permission

Kind of a different question, here, but how do you feel about – you know, a white guy like Eminem might get criticized for appropriating rap, or you see videos online where white people are getting heat for wearing dreadlocks – the whole cultural appropriation thing. But you guys were influenced by white rock bands, who themselves were influenced by black R&B – the Who used to call themselves “maximum R&B,” if I recall. So do you think that there’s “white music” and “black music,” or do  you think there’s just good music?

Well, it’s good music, and what Eminem and all those guys are going through is the same thing we went through, when we decided to play rock’n’roll. The crazy thing about it is, I can bet – I can’t be sure of this, but this is what we went through – is that most of the criticism that he is probably getting is from his own culture, his own race of people. Like we did! We got, “Man, you guys don’t need to be playing this stuff, you need to be playing Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown, Isley Brothers, man – give me some Isley Brothers, give me some Kool and the Gang!” What my oldest brother said in the film was 100% true, that’s what they used to call us, “white boy music.” And I’m sure those guys probably get the same thing. Most of the guys I know who are black LOVE Eminem. But I’ll betcha that a good percentage of his criticism is coming from his own race.

Could be, could be. So… you obviously have interacted with Wayne Kramer and Alice Cooper, since they’re in the film. How about Iggy?

We haven’t connected with Iggy yet, but the amazing thing is, Iggy gave us a shout out when he received his recognition at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but we haven’t connected with him as of yet on a personal basis. But some of the rockers – one of the Rationals came out to a show that we was doing in Ann Arbor, about maybe three years ago, and that blew my mind. We was talkin’ about how “we used to see you guys on Robin Seymour’s Swingin’ Time.” When we said Robin Seymour’s Swingin’ Time, he just lit up, because the Rationals were kinda like a mainstay on there. They would always be on that show.

I don’t know them well.

You might want to look them up. They don’t get talked about as much as a lot of the Detroit bands do, but yeah, they were a killer band. They were actually one of David’s favourite bands. And of course, Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes – I mean, everybody loved Ted Nugent. “Journey to the Centre of the Mind” was just classic, and everybody wanted to play it. And, you know, it was just great. When Alice Cooper came there from Arizona, and the Who set up a kind of mini-residence at the Grande Ballroom, I mean – it was just a great, great town for rock’n’roll, man.

Bobby Hackney Sr, of Death, at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, Not to be reused without permission

Has anyone shared stories of similar bands to Death?

Oh yeah, yeah, there’s a few bands. We’ve even met bands that have said, “Hey, wait a minute, we thought we were the first black punk band!” We’ve met a couple bands like that, but according to the historians, 1975, none of them could pre-date 1975, you know.

The story I'm pretty curious whether you've heard - the one closest to the story of Death - is a Baptist rock band called the New Creation. They recorded one album in 1970, did a small private pressing just like you did with the single, and they mailed it to churches and Christian radio stations, hoping someone would notice. No one did. Then thirty years later a local record dealer found it, thought it sounded interesting, and suddenly, it was reissued on CD and became a bit of a hit. 


I'm just curious if anyone has mentioned them to you? 

You know, I think I've heard that name before, but we never even had a conversation... I sure would like to hear that music. I'll bet it's incredible!

Oh yeah! I'd love to hear that. 

I'll try to bring Chris Towers, the guy from the band, to the show...

Awesome - if he's got one of those reissues hangin' around, tell him to bring it to the show, I'll trade him. 

I think that you guys, having had a Baptist upbringing, might like it. Speaking of Christian rock, though - has the 4th Movement (the Hackney brothers 1980 Christian rock record) gotten a reissue, too?

Yes, it has, on Drag City Records - you can tell all the people in your piece. That was one of those awesome things that has also been preserved. I'm just so glad we preserved all that stuff, because I think that's some of David's best guitar playing, is on that first 4th Movement album. 

Any high points from the last ten years? How does it feel, looking back?

The great thing of it is, myself, my brother Dannis, and [current guitarist] Bobbie Duncan all just happened to be still playing music when this Death discovery took place, man. We had been playing reggae music [in Lambsbread] for 20 years. And in the back of our minds, what we did in Detroit always stuck, you know. But we just thought that was something that was passed, and especially with the passing of our brother David, we said, ‘okay, that kind of closes the door on it’ – and we’ll just keep goin’ on. And little did we know, years later, that this thing would come out and explode like this. It was just totally amazing.

A lot of people ask me, how did this happen, and the only thing I can say is, it was like a suitcase that’s sitting over there, with all the ingredients, all the elements in it, except our brother David. But everything that David left in it was there, and it was just sittin’ in the corner for 40 years. And we just grabbed that suitcase, dusted it off, looked inside, and said – like everybody else in the world – ‘wow, we actually did this.’”

Thank you so much for doing this, Bobby. Looking forward to seeing you!

 Bobby Hackney Sr, of Death,at the Venue, 2015.  Photographs by Sharon Steele, Not to be reused without permission

The documentary, A Band Called Death, plays the Rickshaw on May 21st. Tickets are $5 at the door, and can be used towards admission to the concert the next night - because Death plays live, May 22nd, at the Rickshaw, with WarBaby opening. Details here! Also check out the Drag City website for the 4th Movement/ Death bundle, featuring all of Drag City's Death and 4th Movement reissues. 

bev davies, Art Perry, and a few other people!

I already spoke to Bev and Art about some of the photos in this show here, apropos of an early show they shared. The opening is this Saturday, just before the Lemonheads take the stage at the Rickshaw, a few blocks away. Sounds like it would be a fun thing to check in on. I have a big Bev thing coming up in the new Big Takeover (with Bob Mould on the cover), including some photos people haven't seen. She'll be there for the opening! Check it out!

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A few things I don't write about

I would like to briefly apologize for and explain what might be perceived as negligence on my blog, when it comes to taking position on a few issues. 

First up, I am not writing about the United States rollback on women's rights, in this case, Georgia's recent, disturbing anti-abortion laws. I am glad I live in a country that has better sense and will use my vote when allowed to help maintain women's reproductive freedom (Scheer frightens me, and Trudeau's disappointing track record makes me worried a bit for this next election, but rest assured, I will vote, and it won't be for the Conservatives). Women have the right to choose whether it is a good time to carry a baby to term, and they should be allowed to make that choice without interference from meddling do-gooders who should have no say in it - including the government, but also these idiots who stand occasionally outside Skytrain stations with placards of aborted foetuses. I am not writing about this issue not because I don't see it as being important, but because I cannot see anything I do or say here having the slightest effect on what is going on in the United States right now, and because I have nothing much new to add to the conversation. Know that I am definitely pro-choice on the matter and that should it EVER come to having to fight for women's freedom here in Canada, I'll speak up.

Hey, was any of The Handmaid's Tale shot in Georgia?

I am also not writing about Israel excesses in Gaza, despite being sternly reminded about them time and again on Facebook by Gerry Hannah, Mark Bignell, and others. It does seem like Israel is an apartheid state with a very heavy hand and that Palestinians suffer unduly from this; and that there is a histrionic tendency to accuse critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic, which seems a pretty cheap deflection (particularly since Palestinians themselves are Semitic people). On the other hand, the willingness of Palestinians to support organizations that advocate terrorism as an antidote to the problem doesn't much impress me, either, or strike me as a very productive way of bringing about redress. While I have not read How to Win Friends and Influence People, I am pretty sure there is no chapter in it on suicide bombing. In some ways I regard the whole issue as a quagmire I'd rather just stay out of, but that is not the main reason I remain silent: it's that I cannot imagine my opinions on these matters having the slightest effect on the situation in the Middle East, and because, again, I have nothing much new to add to the conversation. I agree with Gerry and Mark (and a lot of other people) that there's an ongoing injustice in Gaza. Palestinian land seems, to Israeli settlers, not much different from how "Indian land" was regarded to white settlers in North America. Don't know what can be done to solve this long-standing, seemingly intractable problem - I just know that it won't be me that does it.

I also do not write much about the struggles of the transgendered. I am not a particular fan of Jordan Peterson, especially on this issue (where he's just wrong), and am more inclined to watch a Contrapoints video about him than one of his own. (Have you seen Contrapoints on pronouns?). I am personally irritated as a writer and language teacher with the idea of using plural pronoun forms ("they") to refer to a single person, because it can create ambiguity, and because it is unfair to people struggling to learn English, who often find our pronouns difficult enough; I would support, instead, the adoption of a gender-neutral SINGULAR third person pronoun, which I think makes good sense and is preferable to the re-purposing of "they," if only there were a consensus as to which one variant to use. In point of fact, I HAVE written about this, after a bit of a clusterfuck around my Alien Boys article where I was told after the article was published that the singer prefered a gender-neutral pronoun - when it was too late for me to make the changes myself, thus forcing me to ask my editors to rewrite the article for me (I can't change an article myself once it has been published). There's more to it than that - and note that Mike Usinger, who ended up doing the rewrite, was very understanding and uncomplaining in tackling it. But in any event, I have elected not to keep my rant on pronouns to myself, because it would seem like I am aligning myself with a side in an argument that I do not feel myself to be on. Trans people have enough troubles without some irate language teacher quibbling with their pronouns; I kinda feel that it's best if I just get over it. Besides, you know, I'll render bev davies name in lowercase, because she likes it that way, or write wendythirteen with no spaces, or track down rock and roll umlauts to stick over random letters in band names, even though the umlauts are  non-functional, so OF COURSE I'll accommodate people's pronoun choices as a writer.

Plus, hey, you know, no one is ASKING my opinion on these matters. 

There are other things, including important issues, that I mostly ignore, places where I feel like my weighing in will be meaningless. I would rather focus my energies in directions where I feel like I can do some actual good: mostly on promoting and enthusing about musicians, filmmakers, writers, and other creative types whose work I enjoy or consider thought-provoking - especially if they happen to be local. It may seem trivial, but it is a way I feel like I can meaningfully benefit my community and help enrichen and support it. It's not that I don't think there's value in speaking out about more important issues - it's just that I don't feel like my opinions matter very much, on some of them. I am content to do small good things, when doing large ones seems out of my grasp.

That said, I might do some blogging in support of Jagmeet Singh, when the Federal Election approaches. That might do some actual good in the world. I hope people in my riding are considering voting for him (it's the first time I can recall where I actually live in a riding where a Federal party leader will be on the ballot!).

Saturday, May 11, 2019

In which I lose my temper in a thrift store

There's a thrift store I go to, that I may have just ceased to frequent. I really, really wish I hadn't tried to do them a good deed, just now.

Here's the story, in dramatic present tense:

I am looking, as I usually do when thrifting, at books. I have looked carefully at their shelves, even done a little tidying of them as I browse. I have a basket of books that I am going to take to the counter, when I see what appears to be a homeless guy shuffle into the section. He looks like he hasn't bathed or done laundry for quite awhile, and has the visual signifiers of being a heavy drinker: he has that quality to his skin, like a deeply tanned, dirty leather, that you associate with the sour smell of old alcohol and body odour, when someone in his condition sits next to you on the bus. I have no problem with him - I hope he finds a book he wants, and am not without charitable feelings - but I also don't want to inhale whatever smell might be coming off him, you know? Charity or no, I really, really do not care for the smell of weeks of accumulated body odour - maybe with an undercurrent of feces or urine or tobacco or booze, or sometimes all of them at once. I can find it stomach-churning, gag-inducing, really upsetting to breathe in, especially when I start to think about how smell is particulate and how this means it's actually bits of his filth that are going inside me. Does this seem offensive to anyone? Is it politically insensitive to not want to inhale the aroma of dirty people? 

So - even without actually getting any sort of whiff off him - I step, pre-emptively, away: I'll go look at the CDs and give him space.

The CDs are the usual. Every now and then someone donates fun things at this store; though the vinyl and movies are generally useless, the CD section will occasionally throw me a gem, from Heart's Dreamboat Annie to the Replacements Let It Be. But today, it's all karaoke and Susan Boyle and Nickelback, real digital detritus, of the sort that gets washed up at every thrift store. I quickly count the books in my basket - because they have a buy four get one free deal - and see that I need three more books to make five. I often take a closer look, to see what I might have missed, when that's the case. Call me cheap, but I hate to let go of a deal.

When I turn back to the book area, maybe five minutes have passed. I see that the bum is completely gone, and that an entire row of books - the whole length of one shelf on the bookshelf - is emptied. It's an easy guess what happened: the homeless guy must have had a bag with him, whipped it out, packed it with books, and took off, without the staff noticing. 

Or maybe he just stuffed his jacket. He was very thorough, in any case.

Okay, well: 

a) the staff might want to know about this

b) I don't want them to think it was me. 

...So I go to the front counter. I tell the volunteer: "I think someone just swiped a whole bunch of books off you. Is anyone clearing books from the section right now?" (They do periodically purge books that haven't sold).

"I don't think so."

"Well, in that case..." I explain what I have already explained to you, above. 

She wants to see the section. I show her. She brings another staff member, and I tell them what I've seen; another helpful customer nearby pitches in that she did see someone just now taking a lot of books off the shelf. They nod and thank me and go away.

Report filed - good dead done - I turn back to my browsing. Do I want to have a copy of William Gibson's Neuromancer for 75 cents? Hm, maybe I do. 

"Excuse me?" I hear behind me. I turn. It's one of the staff, who, for whatever reason, has brought her manager to talk to me, a stout older woman whom I believe might fit the description of "battleaxe." (Is this term offensive? She looks like the sort of grandma who chops her own firewood - in short, not someone I want to get in a conflict with, but also not someone who is likely to be careful enough in her language to not give offense. I do not recall her manner being particularly charming on past visits to this store. I am already regretting having said anything, I should have just inwardly wished the bum luck and kept my mouth shut).  

But here she is, so I explain for the third time - I think they just had a bunch of books stolen. 

"Did he have a backpack?" she asks.

"I don't know - I wasn't watching him closely. I had gone over there to give him space." (And protect my sense of smell, but I don't mention that. I mean, it's kinda assholish of me, I know - when my first thought of the poor is not one of compassion, but fear of breathing their odour. But what can I say, as a Vancouver transit user, I've smelled some really smelly people in my day). 

"Well, if he had a backpack, that's the first problem. We have a sign over there that says no backpacks allowed. So could you please take your backpack off and bring it to the front?"

Ah, for fucksake. I hate having this conversation at thrift stores, regardless of context. I am one of those people who does not care to be asked to leave their backpack at the counter of any store, but particularly not a store filled mostly with other people's junk. Plus as a transit user, and as a purseless male, I almost always have a backpack with me. It comes in handy for shopping, for carrying my headphones, and so forth. 

And of course, I have never stolen from, nor would I ever steal from, a thrift store. I don't steal, period, actually, but were I to steal, I would probably choose to steal things that actually cost more money than I can afford. I mean, hell, I feel a bit self-conscious to shop in certain thrift stores at all; in the dirtier ones, I sometimes feel kind of embarrassed to be in them in the first place. If it feels like it's beneath me to even shop in them, it's that much further beneath me to steal from them, you know? Stealing from a thrift store is almost as low as robbing the homeless themselves, or boosting charity boxes from churches, or something like that. Wouldn't do it. Am offended at the implication that I might, just because I have a backpack...

...And here she's chosen, without thanking me for my helpful information in any way, to go straight from learning of someone else's theft - someone who might not have had a backpack at all when he came in, of course, who could easily have done what he did without one - to suggesting I check my bag: something I have never been asked to do in years of shopping at this store.

I think she expects me to comply, but instead I get irritated. "Don't turn this around on me! I'm telling you out of consideration for your store that someone just stole from you, and you're spinning this around, taking it out on ME, and telling me to check my backpack?"

"No, no - but we have a sign! It's policy!"

"Well, we've got a problem, then. I have a hundred dollar pair of headphones in my bag and I don't want to leave them with your staff, thank you, because" - I gesture at the entire empty shelf - "I don't think they're paying very close attention. So no, I am not going to leave my backpack in their trust. Instead of putting up a sign, why don't you try training your staff to be aware of dodgy-looking customers who come into the store?" 

My voice grew fairly loud as I said this. (I am not proud of this; it's been awhile since I last lost my temper, but I do have one). It went on a bit longer - I capture the spirit of our interaction, if not the exact words. But she finally relented and apologized and thanked me for my information. I pointed out that she maybe should have LED with that, instead of leaping to telling me to check my bag. She countered by saying she had. I pointed out that she had gone straight from asking if the thief had a backpack to telling me to check mine, without a pause in between, let alone a thank you. It went back and forth a few times like that. We finally made it to a conciliatory note, and in that spirit, I admitted that I had gotten a bit touchy - and then, after we almost had arrived at peace, she returned to, "...but we have a sign."

At the moment, I can think of no deeper signifier of everyday human stupidity than trying to excuse yourself for offending someone with the words, "...but we have a sign." I left still angry, declaiming, "ah yes: you have a sign."

Human stupidity will be my undoing. I may not go back to this store. Grr.

Iron Road Re-Ruin underway: final night

One more night, five more bands. (Sunday was cancelled). Shot footage of the Strugglers last night. But my favourite act was the SLIP~ons. Cover (for those of you who didn't buy wristbands) is $15.

Lineup tonight:

8:45: Shockload

9:30: Wett Stilettos

10:15 -Real Problems

11:00 - Car 87

11:45 - Piggy

There is also mention of Motorama on the Facebook page, but I'm not sure how they're going to fit onto the bill... in any case, there's some great rock'n'roll in this town... come check it out...

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Filthy Friends to play the Rickshaw: a quickie with Kurt Bloch

Thrifting in Coquitlam, last weekend, I was in the process of nabbing CD copies of REM’s Life’s Rich Pageant and Fables of the Reconstruction (or, if you prefer, Reconstruction of the Fables) when one of the volunteers behind the counter began to hum “Superman” (left off the track listings for Life’s Rich Pageant, but on the album), telling me as she took my toonies that anyone who bought REM CDs was all right with her.

“You know Peter Buck is in town this week, right?” I asked her.

She did not. She also hadn’t heard of Filthy Friends, the new supergroup made up of Buck – the guitarist for REM – as well as vocalist Corin Tucker, of Sleater/ Kinney; Scott McCaughey and Kurt Bloch of the Young Fresh Fellows (and the Minus Five, and other projects); and drummer Linda Pitmon, who has played in the Baseball Project with McCaughey and drummed with Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate (among, again, other projects). The unit has a new album, Emerald Valley – their second full-length, following 2017’s “Invitation” – and a show May 10th at the Rickshaw.
Kurt Bloch – who was also in the Fastbacks – was already a Facebook friend from the days when I was begging the Young Fresh Fellows to play my wedding (just like they did Paul Westerberg’s! Note: it never happened). He responded quickly to a few questions (people seeking more info on the band should check out Alex Varty's interview with Corin Tucker in the Straight).

AM: I listened to the one song I can find off the new album, "Last Chance County," and it seems quite a bit different from the material off the previous album - seems a bit quirkier, even punkier. Is there a different approach to songwriting, this time out? (Are there any people in the band who dominate, or... how do you approach songwriting?).

KB: Actually Peter and Corin write all the songs together - they’re a SONGWRITING TROUPE, and we just take what they bring in, and try to make them EVEN MORE of what they already are. With “Last Chance County,” well you can tell where we wanted to take that one!

So with members from so many cool bands, you must get tons of requests, but the setlists I looked at didn't reveal any Fellows, Minus 5, or REM songs that I recognized. Do you ever cover Sleater-Kinney stuff live, or is it all originals?

Actually we play pretty much 100% Filthy Friends tunes. Of course, I’d be up for the challenge of any of our other bands’ tunes, and driving around the world in a van, you can come up with list after list of killer other songs that’d be fun to play and learn, but so far other than an occasional Bowie tune or two, we stick to the script.

Is Scott fully recovered from his 2017 stroke? Did it impact his singing, or just his speaking, or…?

I reckon you got some info from Scott? [I did not!] He DID just finish a record called Stroke Manor, which is a multifaceted brain-scan of an album - probably as good of a prognosis as we’ll get!

Speaking as a big fan of the YFF - are chances improving of a Vancouver show? (I missed Scott's solo set last year but saw the setlist and it was kinda painful how many songs he played that I would have LOVED to hear live).

Could be possible? We just did three shows a week-ish ago: Seattle, Tacoma, Portland… anything is possible!

What is playing alongside Peter Buck like? Did that start, for you, with the Minus 5, or...?

I started out “playing one song” at a show in Seattle. It turned out well, so I never left the stage… that was five years ago?

Any particular plans for the May 10th Vancouver show, or things you like to do while you're in Vancouver?

Nawwww… I wish we had some time for a quality Vancouver hang - so many buddies here, so much history but we’re coming from Seattle and then following nite in Portland, so I’m guessing a lightning trip this time.

Will you have the new Filthy Friends album at the Rickshaw? Anything you want to say about it? What is "Last Chance County" about?

There’ll be some at the show LP and CD - I reckon “Last Chance County” is a snapshot of Corin’s younger days in Eugene (I think?), maybe a blurry snapshot at that… and a pretty dismal outlook!

I gotta just ask this - since I had hopes to have the YFF do a concert for my wedding, and since you played Paul Westerberg's wedding - what was that like? Any stories you can tell?

That’s gotta be from Scott - before my tenure as a YFF! I didn’t get to be there yet!

Filthy Friends plays the Rickshaw, Friday May 10th. Event page here.

Iron Road Re-Ruin part 4: Piggy (with Ron Reyes) and the Wett Stilettos (Saturday)

The following is about the Saturday evening "chapter" of the Iron Road Re-Ruin Festerval, featuring Car 87, Real Problems, Motorama, Shockload, the Wett Stilettos and Piggy. The Facebook event page is here, and see below for three other pieces remembering Iron Road Studios. Note: the Sunday evening of the fest has been cancelled!

Also  note: an early version of this mis-identified Lisafurr Lloyd as Gerry-Jenn Wilson. My bad! Sorry!

Part One: Ron Reyes

Photo courtesy Ron Reyes, not to be re-used without permission

Ron Reyes of Piggy (and formerly, a famed California punk band) was present at the recent Chip Kinman / Dils/ Three O'Clock Train event, last month at the Rickshaw, and was, in fact, the first person I spoke to about possibly covering the Iron Road Re-Ruin (Orchard Pinkish, also in the house as a performer that night, was the sec

ond). I had previously spoken to Ron for the Straight about his decision to retire Piggy, back in 2016, and - other than a few one offs, guesting with other bands -  he's kept good on that for three years... so he was slightly conspiratorial (or was it sheepish?) as he told to me that he was so enjoying the experience of having assembled a new, revitalized Piggy that he was considering keeping it going.

I will let Ron tell his own Iron Road story, below, but Piggy were very much a visible presence (at least in terms of banners) at Iron Road Studios the one time I went, as the photo below demonstrates. 

(Photo by Erika Lax)

He's also got his own photographic evidence of the time - all photos taken from the actual performance space at Iron Road. I think I'm seeing Izzy Gibson, Lisafurr Lloyd, and Craig McKimm in the band... (Ron is not sure who took the pictures below but if anyone wants attribution, just let me know!).. 

Photos courtesy Ron Reyes, not to be re-used without permission; at least one by Mike Chow!

Those of you who have read the previous piece about Iron Road, focusing on the Iron Road Re-Ruin night one, know the questions being asked. I did tweak them a little for Ron's sake, asking about who Piggy's new singer was, but otherwise... here's a mini-interview with Ron Reyes... 

What was your old relationship with Iron Road (and/or Dave…)? How invested in the space were you?

I'm not sure where I first met Dave it may have been when he was playing bass with Duvallstar. But Piggy started rehearsing there when we were too loud for jamming at the old Dental Lab. We first shared a room with Little Guitar Army and other bands and eventually had our own room down the hall.

How were you affected by its closure?

We had to move, and our new space got broken in soon after we moved in. Most of our stuff got stolen and then some of it eventually got returned but that meant getting a new jam space which was shut down soon after we moved in. I think we were too loud for that place as well. SO Iron Road was crazy and wild and our doors were often left open by the likes of Pat Kreep and all but never so much as a guitar pick went missing while we were there.

How was the space different from other spaces you’ve played in? (…because I can’t think of another venue or jamspace that has had its own tribute show…).

For me Iron Road was more than just a jam space. It was more like community. There were always people hanging out in the shared areas. It was like its own scene. And with its own live space as well as its own recording studio it was like a dysfunctional rock n roll campus school of mayhem and debauchery. On any given night Motley Crue would have looked like nice little catholic boys.

What is a favourite memory you have of it? (Of a gig you played or a gig you watched or, if you like, both!).

The gigs were what set that place apart. I cant remember them all but yeah they were special. The live room was a great room to play and to see bands. And you had to have some stamina or a little extra in ya to make it to the next day, where gigs would not let out till 8:00 am the next day if that.

What will you be doing at Pats? Is there anything special you’ll be whipping out to honour the occasion?

We wanted to do this with Izzy Gibson and or Pat Kreep cause they were the main singers at the time we rehearsed there. Pat is livin' in the States so he was not available and Izzy really is the singer associated with what i call the Classic Piggy Line up. Unfortunately right before our first rehearsal Izzy fell ill and could no longer commit to the show. That was a great blow, cause I really love Izzy and was really looking forward to playing with all the guys again. While I have tried to kill off this band several times, I really love these guys and enjoy being in the same room with them more than any other band ive ever been in. So Craig McKimm, Lisafur Lloyd and I decided to press on if we could do something different. SO we tore a page out of Little Guitar Army’s playbook and hooked up with two singers, Jack Havok and Brandon Crawford. There were others that could have been involved but I wanted this to be easy and true to the Iron Road Piggy era.

Which night of the re-ruin are you keenest to go to, other than your own, and why? 

We are playing on the 11th. That's Saturday night. I'll probably make it to Friday night and ill see whats left of me for Sunday.

Any other relevant stories you want to tell? 

Honestly, I have always been a little bit of an outsider. There were plenty of Punk Houses and Scenes that I have passed through in my years, but I've always kept a little distance. I've never done drugs nor was I ever driven by random sexual conquests. I mean all that stuff was always available but I always come for the music and only the music. So most of the “exciting” stories probably happened while I was at home.

Still there were some great people and bands that came out of that building and that is worth celebrating.

Thanks, Ron!

Part Two: Wett Stilettos

Wett Stilettos, pic by Jack's Camera, Graphics By Z.Miremadi

Did you all read my big Wett Stilettos feature from a few years back? RC Guns looks a bit different in those photos than she does these days - tho' I wouldn't know how she dresses onstage lately - I have only seen her at other people's gigs, dressed in civvies! I've been a bad Wett Stilettos fan of late, actually - I don't even have their second album, and RC tells me they're working on their third...

The following questions were answered by Pinto Stiletto...

What was your old relationship with Iron Road (and/or Dave…)? How invested in the space were you?

Iron Road was the birthplace of Wett Stilettos, It played quite a significant role in the band's conception. I knew Dave from before that of course. I have a history of getting Dave's opinion on the projects i'm working on or involved in. Sometimes he's kind, sometimes cruel. But always honest. Love Dave. Sort of. No, I do!! Fucking love Dave. LOL
How were you affected by its closure?

It was beyond sad. To me Iron Road closing represented The End to an Era of Innocence In Debauchery, where you could and would party for days, hang out for weeks, play music and hear music for years, make new friends and see old ones in a safe environment where nothing bad ever happened as far as I know. It was the shit!

How was the space different from other spaces you’ve played in? (…because I can’t think of another venue or jamspace that has had its own tribute show…).

Bands don't hang out and socialize at other spots like we did Iron Road. It really created a strong community of artists and art lovers. A sense of unity. It was the full package, the full cycle from the creation stages to the consumption conclusion. (Though I must say the Blue Haus is now the new hope and spot with a similar spirit.)

What is a favourite memory you have of it? (Of a gig you played or a gig you watched or, if you like, both!).

One of my Fave gigs was when our set STARTED at 4 am!!! and the place was packed!! and people were just fuckin' givin'er!! Pure magic!!! The kind of thing you'd only imagine happening in NY or some place like that. LOL It was 4 fucking am for Christ sake! lol

What will you be doing at Pats? Is there anything special you’ll be whipping out to honour the occasion?

Yes. We decided to play tunes off the first album.The songs that came together and were heavily influenced by the energy and aura of I.R. Songs like "Douchebag," "Scumbag," "Crotch Detonator," "Sister Fister," LOL. We'll sneak in a few brand new, unrecorded ones as well ;)

Who's in the lineup?
It's the original Trio: Nadz, R.C and myself plus the talented and amazing Zig Zigler who joined us post IR days.

Which night of the re-ruin are you keenest to go to, other than your own, and why? 

I'm going to all Three. Why? Cause a huge part of the IR charm was hanging out with all the different bands that practiced, performed and recorded there. Can't wait to see all their sweaty crotches and faces. It will be like a fucking Rock and Roll High School Reunion.

Any other relevant stories you want to tell? Albums or gigs coming up?

We are in pre-production for our new album, You-Die-Monia. Hoping to get recording this summer.Check our new website for updates. I hope my band mates will chime in here for some additional stories and comments and anything I may have missed...! 

Thanks, Pinto! Comments (from other Wett Stilettos or musicians playing the Iron Road Re-Ruin or anyone else) are welcome... People with their own Iron Road stories are welcome to reach out... For more information see the Iron Road Re-Ruin Facebook page

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Iron Road Re-Ruin Part 3: the SLIP~ons and the Strugglers, playing this coming Friday!

The following is in regard night one of the Iron Road Re-Ruin, this Friday at Pat's Pub. See below for more (I have previous posts with Iron Road proprietor Dave Bowes and an illustrated reminiscence of the Little Guitar Army, which, of course, Bert of the Strugglers was a part of). Note: the third date of the Re-Ruin, on Sunday, has been cancelled.

Part One: The Strugglers

I have seen, in my day, many different bands perform the Dead Boys' (or, technically, Rocket From the Tombs') "Sonic Reducer." Randy Rampage, say. Chris Arnett with Duvallstar. If movie bands count, Hard Core Logo. Hell, I've even seen Rocket From the Tombs do it live - complete with the man who wrote the lyrics, David Thomas (later of Pere Ubu) and Cheetah Chrome (later of the Dead Boys, which is how the song ended up in the Dead Boys' repertoire). But my favourite-ever live version of the song - even including the original authors! - was the Strugglers at Funkys, at a Chris Walter booklaunch, I think for his SNFU band bio. I remember Bert Man's dinosaur (or dragon?) onesie vividly. I actually ended up owning a similar onesie, when going to a Celtic-themed wedding; people were encouraged to go in costume, so I wore mine, figuring that every good medieval-themed wedding needed a dragon. Bert wore it better.

Anyhow - if there's ever been a better live rendition of "Sonic Reducer," a) it was probably by the Dead Boys and b) I haven't seen it. I'm delighted that you all can click the link and watch Bert strip out of that onesie, and puzzled that the clip has only 100 views. Every band who ever presumes to cover "Sonic Reducer" should watch that Strugglers video first, and try to at least come up to that level of energy and commitment. If they can't, they should just leave it alone.

The Strugglers and the SLIP~ons both play the Friday night installment of the Iron-Road Re-Ruin. My old interview with Bert - "Bert Man is a Crummy Struggler," taking in two of his band names - is online at the Straight. My interview with Orchard Pinkish, also of the Strugglers, is on my blog. (I must have been annoyed with the Straight that week - someone probably changed one of my pronouns). Here's a quick catchup with Bert about the Iron Road Re-Ruin.

Note that, if I understand Bert Man's answers to my questions correctly, the Iron Road Re-Ruin Friday night gig marks the end of the Strugglers. This creates practically a moral imperative to get out and see the show.

What was your old relationship with Iron Road (and/or Dave…)? How invested in the space were you?

I spent a giant chunk of three lost years there. Some serious debauchery. I mounted a rearview mirror on the monitor to do rips off of. I had no investment at all besides trying to have a seriously good time every time I was there. My days at Iron Road were key to finally quitting drinking and powders for good simply because it was so fucking crazy there, always.

How were you affected by its closure?

I had to find another jam space. The rock must roll.

How was the space different from other spaces you’ve played in? (…because I can’t think of another venue or jamspace that has had its own tribute show…).

I've never been anywhere where you could do whatever the fuck you wanted 24/7.

What is a favourite memory you have of it? (Of a gig you played or a gig you watched or, if you like, both!).

Really hard to pick one. The things that stand out the most are just happy laughing moments of shenanigans more than actual shows (though there was plenty of those as well.)
What will you be doing at Pats? Is there anything special you’ll be whipping out to honour the occasion?

I think we want to honor the memory and send the Strugs off in a
suitably spectacular fashion.

Who is in the lineup of the band you’re playing the Re-Ruin with?

Orchard Pinkish, Steve Wire, Corporal Ninny, Briton Liakakos and myself.

Which night of the re-ruin are you keenest to go to, other than your own, and why?

Saturday. Lots of great friends are playing that night.

Any other relevant stories you want to tell? A new album? Merch? Comments on your bill-mates? Future plans?

Nothing to report regarding the Strugglers. Crummy has an EP coming out and we are going to Japan in October.

Thanks, Bert! 

Part Two: The SLIP~ons

The SLIP~ons at the Media Club in 2017, photo by Snapshot

Speaking of covers, another band that can kick the living shit out of a cover tune is the mighty SLIP~ons. I've seen dozens of bands do dozens of covers in the last few years, but by far the most exciting, fresh, and fun cover I can recall in that time was the SLIP~ons at Keithmas, doing the Stones' "Tumblin' Dice." (I shot video of other songs in their set  that night but not that one, sadly). They walked the perfect line of tension between falling apart (contained in the original sprawl of the song) and being tight as fuck - which is probably not an easy thing to master, but is kind of essential to the rock experience. Too much polish and professionalism kills rock; it's why I came away from seeing Iggy and the Stooges in Seattle (with both Ashetons still alive and playing!) really not having entered the experience, because it was all just too perfectly orchestrated, too "professional;" even Iggy's stage dives felt like the stage dives of someone who has stage dived so many times that there was no danger, risk, freshness or excitement in it for him - for all I know, he stage dived at exactly the same point of the songs every night (I gather a few years after that he broke a rib or such in a stage dive and has since discontinued the practice, so I'm glad to have been there, but I really didn't feel it that night; maybe it's just me).The SLIP~ons, you trust, will absolutely never ever be polished enough for you to ever doubt that their hearts are fully in it. Fast and Loose, like Eddie Felson: that's the SLIP~ons.  

Of course, they're not just a cover band, and I plan to be giving them some press about an upcoming 7" - presumably of two originals - sometime soon. But they can do a cover very, very well: the New York Dolls, the Undertones, the Replacements - they always bring the same excitement to the songs they do.

Here's Brock Pytel (of the SLIP~ons, but formerly of the Doughboys!) answering exactly the same questions I put to Bert Man. Brock didn't answer all of them. That's allowed.

What was your old relationship with Iron Road (and/or Dave…)? How invested in the space were you?

Iron Road was kind of a late night hang out place for me back then. I wasn’t super invested in the space, and Dave and I were more acquaintances from the same era than the good friends we are now.

How was the space different from other spaces you’ve played in? (…because I can’t think of another venue or jamspace that has had its own tribute show…).

Iron Road was pretty typical of the kinds of venues I used to play on tour with the Doughboys early on. It wasn’t exactly a VFW Hall, but back then it was very common that a good amount of your weekday gigs would be put on just about anywhere the local promoter could find. That local promoter would sometimes be a teenager and the venue would sometimes be a pizza restaurant or more commonly, an empty warehouse or someone’s basement. The Descendents even traveled with extra 4x12 cabs that became the PA system on those days. Sadly, this kind of show seems to happen less for us now.

What is a favourite memory you have of it? (Of a gig you played or a gig you watched or, if you like, both!).

We only played Iron Road one time, and it was one of SLIP~ons very first gigs. Dave was probably one of the only people in Vancouver that had any idea of my previous music “career” so we were grateful to have a chance to play, even if it did mean going on at like 2am. Our drummer was Adam Fink (Actors, Gang Signs, etc) back then so it would be a fond memory for that reason alone. It was also without a doubt the single worst set we have ever played in public, and unfortunately was recorded live to multitrack. I will pay a bounty to whoever still has those masters to destroy them. I’m looking at you, Brian Else.

What will you be doing at Pats? Is there anything special you’ll be whipping out to honour the occasion?

I think we will probably just try our best to sound a little bit better than that night. I never know what Shockk is going to whip out during the pause in “Cork & Kandy Glass” (the B side of our upcoming 7”) but that Replacements version of “Fox on the Run” on the LP you sold me was sure inspiring…

Who is in the lineup of the band you’re playing the Re-Ruin with?

The lineup is the usual SLIPs one, Brian Minato on bass, Shane Wilson on drums, and myself & Shockk guitaring.

Which night of the re-ruin are you keenest to go to, other than your own, and why?

I think I’m probably looking most forward to seeing Ron Reyes’s thing.

Thanks, Brock! 

Mind you, I don't actually think Ron Reyes will be showing us his "thing" on Saturday, but he's certainly the next in line for these mini-interviews. He mentioned at the Chip and Tony Kinman event, blogged about below, that Piggy had a new singer and was really excited about the gig. Pretty hard not to be. More to come on that!

Here ends Friday's press, but you can read more about the bands performing (as written, presumably, by Dave Bowes), and even find out about set times, on the event page. I have no clue who Sexy Decoy is, I've never listened to (old-school California punk band) the Authorities, and I don't know To the End, but I guess I'm going to expand my horizons.