Saturday, January 28, 2017

This evening's violence, plus a surprise guest at the Rickshaw, and, yes, RIP Paul Leahy, John Hurt, and HMV

Walking from the car along Main Street with Erika, I could hear someone raving and roaring, like he was begging for a fight. I was carrying two empty cups of coffee, since we'd just stopped at Tim Horton's. There was a garbage can ahead and I ducked across the street to tuck the cups into it; I could see there was a blonde man, about 50, short and tough-looking, walking towards me, but it looked like there was plenty of room for both of us to pass each other unharmed. Suddenly I realized that the short blonde man was the one who had been raving and roaring; and before I knew what had happened, he sidechecked me in the right shoulder, with great force, sending me careening into a tree planted at roadside, or something (I would later notice that, whatever it was, I cut my arm on it, just a tiny scrape really but it drew blood).

Stunned, I didn't understand immediately that he had done this deliberately. My first, automatic reaction was confusion and apology, as tends to be my go-to place when I unintentionally bump into a stranger: "Sorry!"

He rounded on me, bellowing, a small crowd around us taking notice, including my girlfriend. I didn't register most of what he said but "DO YOU WANT TO DIE?" was in there. "Sorry," I repeated. 

He moved closer to me, screaming something along the lines of "What did you say?!" Like maybe he'd get a fight out of me. 

Understand: I don't back down from confrontation, when I'm motivated, invested in it; but here, I wasn't. I was a mess of conflicting impulses, in fact. "Be polite to the person you accidentally bumped into" was still lingering, except it was coming clear that this guy had rammed into me deliberately, so that wasn't in fact appropriate (thinking fast is not always my strong suit). "Feel sorry for the street psycho" was also on the menu - a reaction which once led to my getting a long story about the troubles of ANOTHER guy, this one on Robson Street, who introduced himself to me by saying, "I am going to kill you," though in no means as hostile a manner as this fellow. (Turns out, after I asked him why, that he thought I worked for the TV station that was using government mind control technology on him and his mother; I commisserated, and assured him that I didn't work in the TV industry. I've run into this dude more than once, in fact, and both times his opener was "I am going to kill you," said in a neutral way; it's his version of "nice weather today," apparently). 

Trouble was, with this guy tonight, the violent one, I didn't think I was going to be able to console him, no matter what I said. It was far more likely I was going to set him off, that anything I might say would be an excuse for him to swing. Plus somewhere in there was "avoid violence/ avoid exposing my girl to violence," and also, of course, "get to the Rickshaw for the Paul Leahy Super Duper show," because, to paraphrase Elliot Gould in Little Murders, I want to do what I want to do, not what this psycho wants me to do. 

Nowhere in there could I begin to feel anger: there was just nothing to take personally. So lamely, flinching a little, as he screamed "WHAT DID YOU SAY?" at me, I tried again, a bit uncertain: "Uh, sorry?" ...Like it might be the wrong answer, but it was all I had. 

He stormed off in disgust. 

That done - and my heart pounding a little in my chest - my girl and I proceeded quickly to the Rickshaw, where we had already missed Finn Leahy doing David Bowie's "Kooks" and China Syndrome's whole set. Swank were taking the stage, with two members of Big Top, Scott and Gordon; they introduced their hybrid as Swank Top. The event was, of course, in honour of Paul Leahy - who, David M. had informed me earlier in the day, had died peacefully at the hospice the night before, around 10pm. I was glad my girl was getting to see Swank, and they were great as ever - though it sure sounded like they introduced their opener, Paul's "Uptight and Anxious," as coming off NO FUN's box set, Swivel. Later, when I told David M. about it, he referred to the band as Snank.

He is a fast thinker.

Anyhow, Swank (or Swank Top, or, if you like, Snank) did great readings of everything they touched, tho', uh, I think they made an error or two in the lyrics for "Dead Flowers," too, later on (a song I have video'd David doing with Pete Campbell, incidentally). It was easier on the Slip Ons, who filled in forgotten lyrics with Johnny Thunders-esque solos and did an all-round fantastic job of their short, delightfully sloppy American-glampunk set (no Replacements covers were in it, by the by. I know they've done whole evenings of Replacements covers, but a bandmember I complemented after me told me they just do that for fun, and have, in fact, an album of original material they're working on, which I'm excited to hear; they were great, ripping it up tonight in particular to one of my favourite New York Dolls tunes, "Pills.")

I visited the merch table and bought the Polly Package and said hi to Kristina Mameli, who was manning it (womaning it?). Somewhere in there, I ran into event organizer Richard Chapman, who I'd spoken to for my Straight feature, and was told, by he and Nick Jones, that indeed, NO FUN's David M. - who performed with Paul for something like 30 years - was around and might be doing something, after all. David had reached out to Richard shortly after I'd interviewed the man.

This was delightful news. I've been telling M. he should do something for quite some time, but he had reluctances. I'm glad they fell away: he offered a moving, short set that kicked off with an interpretation of what I took to be a mod on a Paul McCartney tune - I video'd it, and received a comment from Mr. M as to who actually wrote it and when - to fit the event; plus "Dangerous Business" and "Winter Holiday," the first (I believe) from Ishtar, and sung by Paul on the CD Baby Paul-centric NO FUN comp, and the second a Paul original (from The New Switcheroo, I think, but, modfied from its original form as "Summer Holiday;" M. tells me there are several seasonal variants)  Then David did two really potent takes on Bowie's "Fantastic Voyage" and "Boys," which he has pointed out in his Bowie salute are in fact the same song.

Oh, he also did "Work Drink Fuck Die" ("WDFD 2016") to the tune of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," which I suspect most people didn't get, since 1894 is not exactly in heavy rotation anywhere these days. And he wanted to do one more song, but couldn't. In any event, he was sort of doing a next-level set, in terms of potency and intimacy, and I think most people in the Rickshaw could SEE that. But the night had to progress - the MC, from the Vampire Bats, declined his request to do one last thing; plus he had to get to work, and rather than stay, Erika and I elected to give David a ride, back to his apartment to drop off the guitar, and then to his jobsite. 

We exited the building to a police scene - the first Vancouver murder of 2017, apparently, at least in Vancouver proper. The whole front of the Rickshaw was a mess of cop cars, lights, yellow tape, and heavily armed cops, two of whom were fitting gas masks over their heads. Some big guns were present, too. Apparently there had been a fatal shooting at the Savoy next door; we didn't stick around, were being hustled out the tape by a uniformed officer, though a giant "what the fuck is going on" flashed in neon over the whole scene. I ended up writing Charlie Smith about it, though apparently no further details have emerged than what was in the CBC article (which does have a few photos, though they don't capture how startling it was). 

Fuck me, that was quite the night. 

Anyhow, we are okay, David is okay, and I'm glad he got to perform to more than an audience of ten-to-twenty regulars for a change, which is usually what seems to happen. He's an amazingly talented guy whose unwillingness to pander or modify his act can exclude outsiders a bit (he still advertises a lime candy, NO FUN's ironic corporate sponsor, that went out of production sometime in the 1980's, say, though his set for Paul's event was 100% Gorgo-free).

I had bought The Polly Package mostly just to donate the money to the cause - I have two of the three albums in it already - so I asked David if he had it, and he didn't, so I gave him mine.

(a donation by I, Braineater, Jim Cummins, for silent auction at the gig)

I am sad that Paul is gone. Not many musicians have exited thus from the Vancouver scene, it occurs to me. I mean, sure, there's Lenore Herb, but mostly musicians in Vancouver tend to die of overdoses, sudden heart attacks, overdoses reported as sudden heart attacks, or - well, Elizabeth Fischer went off to Switzerland for assisted suicide. The whole hospice-and-diminishment thing is relatively unusual here, and really, kind of a painful way to go, by comparison - though it was really great to see so many people wringing so much positivity and joy out of the evening. And just as Elizabeth Fischer's pointy boots overlooked the Red Herring show we went to last New Year's, Paul's hat stood on a microphone stand on the stage thoughout the evening (except when one guy from Swank tried it on). It's in both of the stage shots above, to the right. 

Also sad to note the death of John Hurt, who was one of my favourite actors. And I'm quite surprised that HMV Canada is going entirely out of business. They don't do much to compete with the "real" music stores in Vancouver, but they do do a pretty good job of bringing in interesting movies, and are much, much more conveniently located for me than Videomatica (with locations a short walk from both my apartment and my dayjob, and another en route to Maple Ridge, where I still find myself now and again). 

At least when HMV dies, they'll have a big sale. (Though they won't have a huge party/ rock concert in their honour, and no one will be donating money to help them out of receivership. You can still donate money to the Paul Leahy SuperDuperStar GoFundMe here - I have not, but I bought the Polly Package, did press for free, and both Erika and I paid to get in to the gig last night, so I hope that counts as something).

As I say below, contact David M. after you donate and you will receive a free 1986 digitization of a Vancouver cover-song comp, Van-Cover

All in all it was an eventful night, which I'm glad has given me something to write about, as I sit here at 5am, unable to stop coughing, delaying going back to bed so my girl can get some sleep. Apologies to the Pointed Sticks: I've missed another of your shows, and this one I was actually in the room for a short time. (Also apologies for any typos I haven't caught, but I'm in rough shape).

Finally, of course, my condolences and regards to all who knew and loved Paul. Rest in peace, Mr. Leahy.  

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