Some guy with Zander Schloss. Photo by Rob Frith, I think!
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Yesterday was great. Socially great, musically great, everything great. Even the $10 burger I got at the Commodore was great (I was pretty hungry). Can't remember a better day of concertgoing since - well, June 14th, at least, but I think this trumped that, even.
Outside Neptoon L-to-R: Chris Towers of the New Creation, Don Xaliman of the Melodic Energy Commission, Enrico Renz of Red Herring, Zander Schloss (Circle Jerks/ Joe Strummer), Dave Bowes, and some guy, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission (unless you are in it, but please credit Bob Hanham and mention who everyone is!)
First off - sorry, but if you didn't come to Neptoon in the afternoon, prior to the Circle Jerks show, you missed out. Zander Schloss' s in-store was fantastic, a rich musical treat, and the best of all appetizers for the Circle Jerks show later in the evening. It started with a cover of "Straight to Hell" - the Clash's most melancholy tune, as he described it, done on the same 12 string that you see him play in the video. (Also check out Zander playing lead guitar with Joe Strummer in 1988, doing that very song). It was the only instrument he'd brought, but also what he played "Dead Friend Letter" on, which he followed with (if you haven't seen it, his mini-movie for that can be found online here). He waxed wry about the expectation that he tell stories about the songs in-between performing them, since the songs themselves were stories, which meant the patter would have been "stories about stories," so I do admit to missing hearing "Song About Songs" - not just because I love the song, but it would have been especially fun to hear a story about a story about a song about songs. But that one is done on a bouzouki, and he hadn't packed it, so...
Zander Schloss by Allan MacInnis
He seemed quite pleased that the event drew a decent house, maybe of about forty people, including at least a half dozen folks I'd be comfortable calling friends, not counting Rob and Ben Frith, who had facilitated the gig (to be clear, I count them as friends of mine, too, but not part of the "audience," since it was their event). We got to hear seven songs from him, I think (one an instrumental), also including "I Have Loved the Story of My Life" (great video for that here) and "The Road" off Song About Songs, and three off what's going to be his next album. He was a bit fussy about sound and frequently asked Ben to make adjustments - please bear that in mind when watching the live "Straight to Hell" clip, which was the first song he did - it was prior to any adjustments and may not be quite up to his standard, soundwise; but in honesty, it all sounded great to me (I'm usually pretty easy to please, but more on that later). I did notice that the bass got a bit too deep for one song, and was kinda gratified that Zander asked Ben to "turn down the bass a bit" on the next one, because it meant that it wasn't all just in my head (as a non-musician, I seldom trust my ears, and end up second-guessing things).
Zander, Ben, and Rob, by Allan MacInnis
Zander was funny, too, in a self-deprecating way, describing himself to those who lingered as a "d-list celebrity" recognizable to one in 10,000 people, recounting the story when Bob Dylan (in conversation with Joe Strummer, I think, but I wasn't taking notes) once said his name, and telling a story about being a fly on the wall during the taking of the Henry Rollins/ Rick Rubin/ Joe Strummer/ Johnny Cash photo... he described himself as "the Forrest Gump of rock." He was reluctant to sign things proffered by people who hadn't bought his record - which pissed off one person I know who probably WOULDA got their Repo Man swag signed if they'd just hung out and kept trying, because it seemed if you stuck it out, even if he said no at first, he eventually did sign whatever you asked him to (I have evidence of this; see below). Ya gotta understand that not everyone likes to be best remembered for a bit part they did in the early '80s, when there's so much else to their music, career, and aspirations... so much more that they've done....
Dave Bowes gets swag signed! Photo: me.
There was a bunch of vinyl of Zander's new record left at Neptoon, some of which I presume is for sale, some of which may also be signed - not quite sure. Zander signed some posters, too, tho' again, not quite sure which of those Rob had plans for. One of my favourite things about the night was a photo Bob Hanham took, out front, where Zander, just arriving, was in a row with myself, Dave Bowes, Enrico Renz, Don Xaliman, and Chris Towers, as you can see up at the top. If Zander thinks he's a d-list celebrity, I'd be curious what letters he'd ascribe to them!
Keith Morris would later crack a joke about why the band played Herb Alpert before their set at the Commodore, telling a story about how the Circle Jerks almost got signed to A&M records. During that anecdote, he referred to his band as f-list celebrities by comparison to some of the other A&M talent, like Joe Cocker and Peter Frampton, but I cannot do it justice, I'm afraid. Not sure if he was aware of Zander's own description of himself, but he was funny that he put his own band two notches further down the alphabet than Zander placed himself.
A few people were introduced to me that I couldn't keep straight, including Melody of a local radio show (on CJSW, but I don't have the name, yet) that had played Zander the night before. I pointed out my Stereo Embers interview with him, which she was unaware of, and which is on the way to getting a follow-up. She also hung out with Zander, who was generous with his conversation; I believe it was them who talked about the charcoal drawing on the album cover, but it was hard to eavesdrop with so many distractions.
Anyhow, after the in-store, Bob and I made it by bus and foot to the Commodore, Bob in flip-flops because of a foot injury; hope he survived the pit without getting his toes trod on. Entry and coat check were uneventful: things ran like clockwork, and once we were inside - Bob's first Commodore gig since COVID began, and I think only my second, after LA Witch/ Black Angels - we went straight to the long lineup at the left of the room for merch, which ran the length of the venue, but again, proceeded efficiently. (I'm trying to put in a few positives about how well-run the night was because once I get to the sound...).
There was no merch I wanted to spend money on, beside Zander's solo album, which I'd already grabbed. It was fun to see Skank Man action figures (or toys or figurines or whatever you call'em - I don't think the limbs moved, which I guess is what puts the action in the action figure, though you could still bounce them up and down on the tabletop, I guess, to the tune of "Wild in the Streets"). Cute, but I wasn't gonna pay $20 for one. There was Circle Jerks vinyl, but only things I have in one format or another already, those being the 40th anniversary editions of Group Sex, which - as Keith pointed out - they'd started out celebrating, and Wild in the Streets, two years later, which was what they ended up the tour celebrating, thanks to COVID. Both had bonus cuts, which were at least a little compelling, but... I'd hoped to get a 7 Seconds album that local punk scribe Chris Walter had pointed out to me (Leave a Light On - I was happy for him that they did the title track and glad to get to say hello to him, and Jason Flower, and Sass LaRock and a few ohter people). Alas, all they had in the 7 Seconds area was shirts. I'd also hoped to buy Keith Morris' book, My Damage, but it was not there, either. I'm pretty sure that I saw Shit Talkers panties on sale, the first time I visited the tables, but a) I'm a boxer briefs guy, myself; b) they weren't my wife's size and c) by the time I made my second trip, they'd sold out. I don't think Erika would have wanted Shit Talkers panties, anyhow. There's something strange about having the word "shit" on your underwear, you know?
Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission
I did think about buying a Circle Jerks shirt - especially the hockey-themed one; I'm not a hockey fan, but I do share a name with a hockey celeb - such that Joe Keithley routinely asks me how my slapshot is - and it was pleasantly Canadian (and it was the last Canadian gig on the tour! Dead merch! Dead merch!). But after the Zander in-store, I only had $40 to spend and had not eaten, a chunk of special cookie aside, since breakfast; it was either buy a shirt or buy dinner and have some money left over. There were other cool shirts - local punk Adam Kates, in the crowd last night, snagged a great 7 Seconds tee and it did look good - but I was pretty hungry, so...
Kevin Seconds by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission
The bands followed set times pretty closely, with the Shit Talkers starting very soon after 8, 7 Seconds at 9, Circle Jerks at 10. The Shit Talkers went on shortly after I sat to scarf down a pretty good $10 chicken sandwich, bought from the former Commodore merch area, which was more of a fried chicken burger, kind of a Downlow-type sando, and not the chicken salad sandwich that I was expecting. Harder to eat than I realized it would be but it was yummy, so whatever. Being able to have a totally satisfying dinner for $10 was actually a pretty unexpected perk of the night. I treated myself to a real Coke, too, since I can't have beer, they didn't have Coke Zero, and Diet Coke just doesn't taste right to me.
Sadly, I don't think I've heard worse sound at a Commodore show, at least for the first two acts: had some real struggles finding places in the room from which the Shit Talkers and 7 Seconds sounded even listenable (a Facebook friend remarked on FB that the sound is usually not as good for opening acts - something I've also noticed at other shows - but added that it was really noticeable this time out; very true!). I ended up moving around to try to find a better place to hear the Shit Talkers from, because from the left side, where I had started, they were lost in this echoey bass roar, like the moans of a dying elephant with terminal flatulence, trapped in a wind tunnel during a hurricane (note: this is not a comment on the band's performance in any way!). The sound vastly improved when I threw away my burger wrapper and moved up for a front-and-center POV.
I think I'm gonna have to check out the Shit Talkers in a smaller venue at some point, because they seem like a game band, very sincere and expressive, but between my not really knowing their catalogue and not liking the sound in the room, I don't feel like I did them justice. Liz, sporting a Real McKenzie's shirt apropos of the recent Hands in the Air festival, had a kinda unusual strumming style, playing much higher up the neck than one is used to seeing; she also a confident, seasoned stage-presence and commanding voice, seeming like the real deal, punk-wise. It was fun seeing "East Van" live (I've bought their album off Bandcamp - also see here - but haven't done it justice yet, so that's still the only song of theirs I know, off an old Not Yer Buddy comp...). While the lineup no longer appears to be all-girl, it was nice that a band that had some female presence played, keeping the evening from being an all-out sausage fest.
Staking out a spot up front for 7 Seconds, some guy next to me in his 40s asked me how old I was and gave me a little spiel about how he wasn't gonna stop going up front regardless of how old he got; I told him that I like it better up front, too, but that I was probably going to move back after a few songs - because improved sound is great, but being collided into is not! (I mean, understand - I wake up feeling sore, some days. No idea how either 7 Seconds or the Circle Jerks do it). Sadly, from my initial vantage point, slightly to the left of center, 7 Seconds were completely dominated by the vocals - which I like, but I also did want to hear some guitar. Maybe I was just standing too close to Kevin's monitor? I ended up moving off to the right of the venue and weirdly, though the left side had sounded lousy, the right side sounded pretty great - the guitar was much better. (Bev Davies, responding to my beefs later, remarked that she doesn't care so much about the sound as long as the light is good; she'll put in earplugs to better concentrate on taking photos, while I, on the other hand, will often close my eyes to listen... tho', uh, not so much at hardcore shows).
7 Seconds by bev davies, not to be reused without permission
Kevin Seconds has the vibe of a genuinely nice guy. 7 Seconds gave a fullsome set, (nearly?) as long as the Circle Jerks, covering all aspects of their history, with Adam - who was more there for them than the CJs - remarking that we would probably never again see shows like this... he may be right. COVID certainly has people appreciating a night out. While Kevin did hit some political talking points, including the recent Supreme Court decisions to overturn Roe vs. Wade, mostly he focused on the importance of community and about people coming together for something positive (he gave a nice shout out to DOA in so doing; 7 Seconds, of course, were on the bill at Hardcore 81, a legendary two-day gig that shared a name with one of DOA's best-known albums...
Kevin seemed as happy to be onstage as we were happy to hear him, even if it got kinda hard, sound not being perfect, to tell all the songs apart (to be honest, I have that problem with all uber-fast hardcore these days, anyhow). I sang along a little, joining in on chanted choruses for "Not Just Boys Fun," speaking of the need to have a female-fronted band on the bill. I wanted to show him the photo Bev took of him and Chi back in 2015, but I didn't get a chance, so here it is again. (The original blogpost with that pic is here, also including shots of the Circle Jerks that Bev shot back in 1981!). Kevin has a very sincere smile. He has much longer hair now, which he's now wearing in ponytails almost as long as Keith's dreads...
Mr. Chi Pig and Kevin Seconds by Bev Davies, 2015, not to be reused without permission
I tend to prefer 7 Seconds more tuneful, mid-tempo songs - "We're Gonna Fight" was the high point for me, though I enjoyed seeing "99 Red Balloons," too. (My fave 7 Seconds album so far is Walk Together, Rock Together, which has both those songs on it). Since I couldn't find it on the merch table, I'm gonna order Leave a Light On by some other means, since I think Chris is probably onto something with that - the title track was another standout in the set - and sometimes you just love an album's cover, you know? I love this album cover:
Incidentally, my German editor at Ox Fanzine informs me that Nena has fallen out of favour with a lot of Germans over having taken an anti-vax stance, but I still utterly love that 7 Seconds cover this song. I mean, it's not like I actually want to listen to the Nena version of it...
Circle Jerks next. I hope that "Deny Everything" (which clocks in at about 25 seconds) didn't count as one of the first three songs that the photographers got to shoot! Keith explained that the band's strategy was to do blocks of songs with a bit of a breather between each block. He was chatty and witty and seemed to be enjoying himself much much more than the last time I saw the Circle Jerks, where you could kinda tell that the band wasn't in a great place ("we hated each other," I think is how Keith put it). That show - what was it, in 2007 - was not only the last time I ever moshed, even briefly, but also kinda left a bad taste in my mouth. The band had much better chemistry last night.
The Circle Jerks by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission
At one point during one of those breaks he mentioned the lyric in "Wild in the Streets" about Miss America. "Is there a Miss Canada?" He speculated as to who that might be - Pamela Anderson in a Maple Leaf costume blowing the goalie for the Montreal Canadiennes? Something like that. It was better than I could come up with. And of course the Circle Jerks sounded great, though having found a place n the room where I liked the sound, I mostly stuck to the right side of the room, so it might have been where I was standing.
Keith Morris of the Circle Jerks by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. Bev thinks Keith's shirt reads, "Listen to the Germs"
I have nothing intelligent to say about the Circle Jerks but it was fun hearing Keith, during his engaging between-song spiels, pay kudos to Chris D. (and Slash magazine) and (Plugz/ Cruzados/ Tito and Tarantula frontman) Tito Larriva, who wrote "I and I," a song that surprised me the last time I saw the band at the Commodore and surprised me again last night (it's a great song and they are the only people performing it, so I don't know why I never expect to hear it). Greg Hetson looks exactly like I remember him lookin' last time I saw them, kind of ageless in his energy; he must have either a super-fast metabolism or a hella workout routine, because everyone else I know has put on a few pounds, at least, since COVID hit. Joey Castillo's drumming was a real pleasure to hear, too. They've got a good'un - even "When the Shit Hits the Fan," which I kinda hated the drums on in the original - way too busy! - sounded great in his hands.
Greg Hetson by Bob Hanham, July 3, 2022, not to be reused without permission
The moshpit looked a bit less insane than it had for the Dayglos at the Rickshaw, and security guards were very visibly active getting crowd surfers down safely - I hope they were just putting them back into the pit afterwards and not escorting them out or anything. No stage diving, of course - though I did see a security guard himself do a sort of stage dive to intercede in some ugliness in the moshpit, which I could not see, though I craned my neck. I stayed well out of the pit - like I have said in a lyric, I am officially now too old to mosh. But the spirit still moved me a bit during "Parade of the Horribles," which got me dancing in place for a bit, sort of a spasmic jittering like you might expect to see at a snake handling revival. No rattlesnakes were passed round, however. Okay by me.
Zander Schloss with the Circle Jerks with bev davies looking on, photo by Bob Hanham, not to be reused without permission
Ran out of steam shortly before "World Up My Ass" - very near the end of the Circle Jerks hour-plus set - and negotiated coatcheck and left, accidentally stealing Bob's umbrella, which he'd placed in my bag for safekeeping (I mean, it IS safe, still, here in my apartment). The band was still playing - maybe #30 of 33 songs - so I was bemusedly walking up Granville Street to the tune of "Operation," ringing through the streets. Put me in mind of listening to the music coming through the walls while shopping at the Granville Book Company, on late nights when a Commodore gig was going on, if any of y'all remember that experience, except the whole of Granville Street was the bookstore, this time out.
Crowd watching Circle Jerks by bev davies ("starring Chris Walter"), not to be reused without permission
Ben Frith confirms by phone that Neptoon Records does indeed still have copies of Song About Songs; they're the only people stocking the album in Vancouver, so if you want it, you'd better get there soon; otherwise, you're left with the mailorder option.
Circle Jerks have a few days off then are off to New York. Godspeed, guys. Thanks for the great night.
PS - Bob's foot did, indeed, survive the night without further injury! It's a miracle!