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Pouzza Fest 7

Pouzza Fest 7

Live in Montreal (May 19-21, 2017)

Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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Monday, May 22nd.

I was tired, sore and happy to be home after a long flight across the country from Montreal to Vancouver. It had been three nights of partying, hanging with friends, and listening to more bands than I could count (that’s a lie, I saw 39 bands); and I finally crawled into bed. Opening my phone for one last email check, I saw the news of the Manchester bombing at the Ariana Grande concert that killed 22 concert goers and injured countless others.

The news hit me harder than I expected. Harder than the Paris attack at Eagles of Death Metal a year and a half ago, harder than the Dark Knight Rises movie theatre shooting in 2012.  It was a mixture of sadness and shock as the past three days spent in downtown Montreal at Pouzza Fest 7 reminded me exactly what makes the music community so important and pure. To see that place of joy, euphoria and excitement destroyed in such an horrific act was soul crushing.

Pouzza FestI, like many others, wrote mindless platitudes that night. Mine was: Live music is powerful. No matter the style, genre or venue. Like In Paris, music will find a way to break through the hate.

The fact of the matter was that my weekend in Montreal for Pouzza was important. After a year of somewhat lackluster concerts, Pouzza came out of left field and rekindled my love for live music, for the punk rock community and even the city of Montreal.

It was a perfect three days and it all just made sense.  As festivals, especially punk rock ones, are starting to become the norm – it can be hard to decide which ones to visit. Do you go the holy grail of The Fest in Gainesville, camp in Montebello for Rockfest or Indiana for Plan-It X Fest? Do you mingle among the lights and sounds of Las Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling or head out east for its counterpart in New Jersey? Maybe you put it all on the Jawbreaker reunion and hit up Chicago for Riot Fest or head overseas for Punk Rock Holiday in Slovenia or Belgium’s Groezrock.

There’s so many options, but the beautiful city of Montreal is unparalleled – making the 7th edition of Pouzza Fest the winning choice. And let’s be honest, Montreal plays a huge part in the festival. With the sun barrelling down, you walk across the cobblestone streets between Foufones Electronics and Katacombs, drudging up hills surrounded on either side by a mixture of new development and buildings passing three hundred years in age.

Unlike The Fest where every single person you pass is there for the Festival, most Montrealers walking the street have no idea what’s happening. So they stood in awe as Jason Guy Smiley and Rich Chris played to a patio full of dirty punks, dressed all in black and drinking out of pineapples on Saturday morning at Katacombs. The streets were shut down, not for the festival, but for a marionette parade. There were activities everywhere, Pouzza just being one of them.

Hugo Mudie and the rest of the organizers of the festival seemed to understand that – and welcomed everyone into our little punk rock community through the Main Stage beer gardens. The outdoor park located at the corner of Maisonneuve & Clark played host to the weekend’s main attractions: Mustard Plug playing Evildoers Beware, Lagwagon, Pup, Slackers pulling out Redlight front to back, Iron Chic and The Flatliners among others. Rather than forcing everyone to drop fifty bucks a ticket – anyone could come and enjoy the main stage for free.

Yes, free.

And yes, everyone.

Pouzza Fest - PupSaturday morning saw the venue play host to Pouzza Bambino, a three hour event created specifically for kids – with bouncy castles and acoustic guitars. Throughout the day you’d see parents dancing with the kids, bringing them straight into the pit and introducing them to the beauty of live music through the likes of Great Apes or Morgan.

This helped foster the sense of community that Pouzza Fest lives off of. Everywhere you went there were high fives and reconnections happenings, new friends and relationships being built with each sing along and a sense of excitement followed each encounter.

Throughout the weekend you’d see guest appearances during sets, Rvivr sang background vocals for Iron Chic, The Old Wives took over percussion duties for Worst Days Down for a song, Jon Creedon joined The Ghostwrite for the acoustic Sunday morning set and local Montrealers Morgan helped Cirrhose et Cendrier for their final track of the night.

More than just music, there was a baseball tournament and backyard barbecue – all of which worked to get people mingling and talking to one another. Be it between sets at Foufones, or sitting on a fountain at 5 in the morning, the crowd was excited to meet new friends and listen to their favourite music.

This helped cement of a sense of positivity unlike most events. Even Al Nolan of The Almight Trigger Happy commented on the fact, saying how all the bands were just so nice, so friendly, so smiley. It made it impossible to be an angry asshole, you couldn’t help but be nice in return.

That sense of “niceness” may not be the rough and tumble world of punk rock that many grew up with, but it’s more of the current state of the punk rock scene. You’re here to celebrate music and camaraderie, not run away from skinheads and cops.

In a way, punk rock won. It’s now normal to be surrounded in a sea of tattoos and black shirts. You grab a beer, your cheers, and you sit down for a chat. It’s a safe place, a friendly place, a happy place for punk fans.

You may be thinking I’ve been talking for so long and barely mentioned any of the actual music – what was the music like? Well, the music was awesome.

Ryan Young of Off With Their Heads played his downtrodden melodies acoustically, introducing each song with a sarcastic comedy punch line. Paul McKenzie of The Real McKenzies lifted up his kilt and showed the entire audience his cock during the final set of the weekend.  Tim Barry got visibly emotional singing Dog Bumped. Direct Hit!‘s Nick Woods flipped me off during the final song of Saturday night, mere hours after joyfully giving me a high five in line for the porta potty at Pup (who absolutely slayed it by the way).

Pouzza Fest - Direct Hit Nick WoodsBong Mountain became the most talked about set amongst my friends, The Right Here was the greatest new discovery and Barons made three unwitting crowd members chug bottles of ranch dressing to win prizes.

Pop-punk was alive and well with The Great Cynics, Broadway Calls and the ten-year reunion of Daggermouth while Red City Radio and The Penske File put on the type of show you’ve come to expect from these punk rock festival veterans.

At the end of the three days my ears were ringing, my joints were sore, and I was a little hungover; yet I was happy. Pouzza Fest reminded me of exactly what it is that makes punk rock so special. More than that, it reminded me of what made music so special. It was three days of joyful bliss with friends from all over the globe and I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

So yes, when I saw the news that a terrorist struck at the Ariana Grande concert after music made me feel so alive for three days straight, I was sad. Sad that someone could destroy something so sacred. Sad that someone would attack people going out to enjoy the simplicity of live music. Sad that they went for the young and fragile; and sad that some people may be too afraid to go to a concert now.

Yet I knew deep down that they would not win. Music will preserve. We will battle on so that we can sing along; because in a world that is sometimes so messed up – you need things like Pouzza Fest to remind you of what’s truly important in the world.

   
Flogging Molly - May 7

Flogging Molly

Live in Vancouver (05/07/17)

Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
By

 
 

 

 

Despite their close proximity to the Canadian border, Los Angeles’ Celtic-punk mainstays Flogging Molly rarely traverse the border to play the Great White North. This keeps their shows few and far between. In the fourteen plus years of going to concerts, Flogging Molly have done a grand total of ONE Cross-Canada tour and that was in 2009. Sporadically there was a Warped Tour stretch or the odd Montreal/Toronto pop-over, but to say they overplay Canadian cities would be a falsehood.

So while their stop at the Commodore Ballroom last night was one of those rare one-stop pop-overs and not a full blown tour, the Vancouverites eagerly ate it all up; and the band revelled in all the energy and excitement.

The band stuck to the basics, never going above and beyond but delivering what you’d come to expect from a touring band that has been going for two decades. They handed out Guinness’s to the crowd, they clapped their hands and stomped their feet while Dave King led them through their setlist.

Dressed to the nines, the seven-piece band played through all their hits – What’s Left Of The Flag, Swagger, Selfish Man, Devil’s Dance Floor, Float and The Seven Deadly Sins among many others. Surprised appearances of Laura, If I Ever Leave The World Alive and The Worst Day Since Yesterday slowed it down and added the emotional punch to the show only to reenergize the crowd with Rebels of the Sacred Heart and Requiem for a Dying Song.

In anticipation of their forthcoming album, the band trickled out a few new numbers that the iTunes savvy crowd already knew including Reptiles and The Hand of John L Sullivan.

No matter what they were playing, the band stayed the course. Dave King spoke when he needed to, dedicating songs to NOFX and Commodore Ballroom stage manager Nemo, retelling words of his advice his mother gave him and thanking everyone for coming out.

Other than that, it was pretty much all part of the course from what you’d expect from a long running Celtic punk band. There weren’t a ton of bells and whistles, no standing in awe moment. Instead it was just an hour and a half of Guinness soaked revelry.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Interviews: Pouzza Fest 7 with Direct Hit, The Old Wives and Fire in the Radio

Pouzza FestOn May 19th, dirty punks will make their annual pilgrimage to downtown Montreal for the 7th annual Pouzza Fest. Three days of fatty foods, cheap beers, friends, adventures and music spread across numerous venues – the festival is not to be missed.

Last week we caught up with The Real McKenzies and Worst Days Down to discuss the upcoming festivities and we continue our coverage for the festival by chatting with three more bands playing this year.

Head over here to hear what Direct Hit, The Old Wives and Fire In The Radio have to say about Pouzza Fest.

And don’t forget to pick up tickets to the festival here.

   
Pouzza Fest

Pouzza Fest: Direct HIt, The Old Wives, Fire In The Radio

Nick Woods, Dix, The Whole Band


By on May 5th, 2017 at

 

 

On May 19th, dirty punks will make their annual pilgrimage to downtown Montreal for the 7th annual Pouzza Fest. Three days of fatty foods, cheap beers, friends, adventures and music spread across numerous venues – the festival is not to be missed.

Last week we caught up with The Real McKenzies and Worst Days Down to discuss the upcoming festivities and we continue our coverage for the festival by chatting with three more bands playing this year.

Read on below to hear what Direct Hit, The Old Wives and Fire In The Radio have to say about Pouzza Fest.

And don’t forget to pick up tickets to the festival here.

Read More…

Jimmy Eat World - Vancouver

Jimmy Eat World

Live in Vancouver (04/26/17)

The Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
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When a band’s been around for 24 years and have nine studio albums under their belts, you sometimes forget about some of their songs.

Deep down you know them, but you haven’t listened to it in a year or two – maybe four or five years even. The hits instantly come to mind but those hidden gems linger under the surface, waiting to be pulled to the forefront.

Then that vey same band decides to do a rare tour through your town and you jump at the opportunity to see them. You sing along to the hits, pop up your head, dance like an idiot and have a fun-filled evening.

Suddenly it happens, you hear that chord you haven’t heard in years, the lyrical couplet that cuts straight through you, the vocal harmony that gives you shivers; and the whole night is elevated to a higher plane. You lose yourself to the music, to the moment and all your worries melt away.

At least that’s what happened when Jimmy Eat World passed through Vancouver last night at the Commodore Ballroom with Philadelphia’s Beach Slang.

Covered in a never ending fog of smoke and bookended by two street lamps, the band weaved throughout their ever growing catalog. They rarely spoke (Jim Adkins himself even mentioned this, saying he always hated speaking in front of everyone and felt he sounded like an idiot), but when they did, they used their words wisely. They joked, encouraged the crowd, professed their love for Beach Slang and their thankfulness for everyone taking time to come to the show.

Opening with You And Me from last year’s Integrity Blues, it didn’t take them long to jump into their Bleed American album as the title track came in second in their set list.  Despite the juxtaposition, the set flowed surprisingly well. For a band that has high energy rockers like The Middle and slow moving emo tunes like Lucky Denver Mint, Jimmy Eat World are able to alternate between the two styles with ease and control. The only time it felt forced was going from Big Casino to Pass The Baby, otherwise the transitions between songs were almost flawless.

Had there been flaws, I doubt people would’ve cared as they sung along to Work, A Praise Chorus, My Best Theory,  The Authority Song, Pain, Ten or Sweetness. The songs are what you think of when you hear Jimmy Eat World and  no show is complete without them.

But when they throw in the songs you don’t expect to hear, that brings the evening to a whole other level. I wasn’t expecting to see them play Hear You Me – in fact, I forgot about that song that became famous because of The Butterfly Effect; yet when that first chord ran through the speakers, the emotions all came running back. Those unexpected moments that make you feel alive and Hear You Me was only outdone when guitarist Tom Linton took lead vocal duties for Clarity‘s Blister.

That became the turning point, because no matter how much fun the set was before that – once Blister hit, the night just exploded.

After 24 songs and just under two hours, the Arizona quartet bid farewell to the crowd. They stood, applauded, even took photos. It will be several years before they come back but I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.

   

Pouzza Fest Round One: Real McKenzies and Worst Days Down

Pouzza7For the seventh year in a row, downtown Montreal is preparing to be overtaken by punks from all over the world as Pouzza Fest rolls into town. With over 150 bands from Lagwagon and The Flatliners  to The Bombpops, Iron Chic, and The Homeless Gospel Choir alongside Rvivr and Red City Radio – there’s a little bit of something for everyone there.

Leading up to the festivities on May 19th, we will be releasing a series of interviews with bands playing the festival. Each band will be tackling ten questions about the festival, giving advice to new attendees, retelling their favourite stories and generally just getting excited for the three day extravaganza!!

We kick off the series featuring interviews with Paul McKenzie of The Real McKenzies and Ben Sir of Worst Days Down.

Read the interviews here and don’t forget to pick up tickets to the festival here!

   
Pouzza7

Pouzza Fest 7: Real McKenzies and Worst Days Down

Paul McKenzie and Ben Sir

Pouzza Fest
By on April 26, 2017 at Email

 

 

For the seventh year in a row, downtown Montreal is preparing to be overtaken by punks from all over the world as Pouzza Fest rolls into town. With over 150 bands from Lagwagon and The Flatliners  to The Bombpops, Iron Chic, and The Homeless Gospel Choir alongside Rvivr and Red City Radio – there’s a little bit of something for everyone there.

Leading up to the festivities on May 19th, we will be releasing a series of interviews with bands playing the festival. Each band will be tackling ten questions about the festival, giving advice to new attendees, retelling their favourite stories and generally just getting excited for the three day extravaganza!!

We kick off the series featuring interviews with Paul McKenzie of The Real McKenzies and Ben Sir of Worst Days Down.

Without further ado, we bass the baton over to Paul McKenzie to lead the way.

Read More…

Interview: Worst Days Down

Worst Days DownWorst Days Down are no stranger to the road.  The band, which features current and former members of The Old Sins, Audio Rocketry, Fire Next Time and many more, has cut their chops touring across the cold winter backdrop of Western Canada.

Now, just as their sophomore album, Elsewhere, became available – the band took their live show further abroad and joined label mates and fellow Edmontonians Owl By Nature for a European tour to support the album.

We caught up with founding member Ben Sir to ask about the tour, the ever growing Edmonton punk scene and, of course, his obsession with manatees.

Read the interview here.

Worst Days Down

Worst Days Down

Ben Sir

Gunner Records
By on April 7, 2017 at Email

 

 

Worst Days Down are no stranger to the road.  The band, which features current and former members of The Old Sins, Audio Rocketry, Fire Next Time and many more, has cut their chops touring across the cold winter backdrop of Western Canada.

Now, just as their sophomore album, Elsewhere, became available – the band took their live show further abroad and joined label mates and fellow Edmontonians Owl By Nature for a European tour to support the album.

We caught up with founding member Ben Sir to ask about the tour, the ever growing Edmonton punk scene and, of course, his obsession with manatees.  Read More…

Video: Empty Lungs – Don’t Get It

EMPTY LUNGSBelfast, Ireland punk trio Empty Lungs have released their new music video for Don’t Get It, the lead single and title track for their upcoming EP set to be released on March 10th through Hidden Pony Records.

The band described the video saying:

“The concept is based around the feeling of alienation. We thought nothing says that anymore than being at a party surrounded by arseholes. In reality everyone had a great time making this, we sat around drinking beers all day while shooting and then played a class show in the kitchen! I’m pretty sure no-one felt alienated…”

The video is below.

Read More…

   

Exclusive Album Stream: Worst Days Down – Elsewhere

Worst Days DownThis Friday – March 3rd, Edmonton, Alberta’s Worst Days Down will release their sophomore album, Elsewhere, through Manatees and Jack-O-Lanterns in North American and Gunner Records in The UK and Europe.

The ten track album is the first record with a full band as Worst Days Down began as a solo project for Ben Sir but has since grown to include members of other venerable Edmonton punk bands like Fire Next Time and Audio/Rocketry

Having been big fans of the band for years, we’re extremely pleased to present an exclusive full album stream of the album below before its release on Friday.

 

Read More…

Reel Big Fish / Anti-Flag / Ballyhoo! / Pkew Pkew Pkew

Reel Big Fish / Anti-Flag / Ballyhoo! / Pkew Pkew Pkew

Live in Vancouver (02/09/17)

The Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
By

 
 

 

 

There are several types of concerts. Among others, there are some that you go to just for the hell of it with no real expectations. Sometimes you go to check out a new band you’ve never seen before. Sometimes you go just to hang with friends. Sometimes you’re bored, sometimes you’re engaged. There are times you see your favorite band for the umpteenth time and they put on the show you expect but don’t wow you – sometimes they do. You get shitty shows, and good shows, bad shows and great shows. Shows you enjoy than instantly forget, and some that stay with you long after the final chords ring out. Then you get shows that resonate so hard within you that you’re remembered why you fell in love with concerts in the first place.

Thursday’s show was that one.

A rather large four band bill topped by co-headlining sets by two wildly different bands (Reel Big Fish and Anti-Flag) celebrating twentieth anniversaries of major albums (Turn the Radio Off and Die For Your Government respectively), the show was a throwback to the old school punk tours that used to happen all the time but are an all too rare occurrence now.

Starting the night’s festivities was Toronto four piece Pkew Pkew Pkew who immediately put on the best show I’ve seen in months.

Although they would’ve been more at home in a smaller venue like the Cobalt, Pkew Pkew Pkew made the large Commodore Stage feel intimidate. With their straight forward skate-punk style,  and three alternating vocalists yelling chaotically into the microphones, Pkew Pkew Pkew put on the type of show that pulled me into this crazy scene so many years ago.

Their songs are goofy and sometimes moronic, but fun and seeped in earnestness. Songs about trying to skateboard (Mid-20s Skateboarder) and failing (Blood Clot), the need for pizza (Lets Order A Pizza), growing up (Glory Days), and drinking (Drinking In The Park, Hanging Out, Before We go Out Drinking) fill their catalog. These aren’t serious songs, but man are they fun.

You sing, you dance, you let loose in the two minute blasts of passion. For an opening band, the set was almost unheard of in terms of quality and control – this is the type of set that creates punk careers and Pkew Pkew Pkew will be at it for a long time if this is any indication of what to come.

Maryland’s reggae quartet Ballyhoo! came next and performed one of those shows that were enjoyable, but oddly forgettable.  Having just passed their twenty year mark together as a band, Ballyhoo! know how to work the stage – frontman Howi Spangler alongside keyboardist Scott Vandrey sufficiently wave their arms around and engage with the audience as they work through their Jamaican flavored tunes but it missed a certain punch.  Pulling from the likes of Pepper and IllScarlett, Spangler’s vocals are smooth and the set picked up the pace by the end; yet it still felt like what you’d expect to see from an opening band.

With a giant American flag hanging upside down behind the stage, Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag came next celebrating twenty years of Die For Your Government and ripped into ten tracks from their debut album. It was a smart move to not play all seventeen tracks because their musicianship has definitely grown since their early days and it would’ve been a disservice to ignore some of their newer material. Nevertheless, those ten songs they played showed the foundation of what was to become from the political punk band and helped fill out the best set I’ve seen in years.

With an added guitar now, the songs are fuller and fiercer than they were as a three piece. Justin Sane’s vocals are more confident than they were twenty years ago and Chris #2’s take on Andy Flag’s original vocals fit in their modern incarnation of the band much better. You could sense the teenage angst in the songs of You’d Do the Same, Drink Drank Punk, Davey Destroyed the Punk Scene,  and Summer Squatter Go Home. Not to mention their two mainstays You’re Gonna Die For Your Government and Fuck Police Brutality that make their way into every set whether they’re celebrating the album or not. They ended the ten songs tribute portion with  Your Daddy Was a Rich Man, Your Daddy’s Fucking Dead – a song, ironically, written about Donald Trump twenty years ago and is possibly even more relevant today.

For the second half of their set, they powered through some of their biggest numbers starting with Turncoat and focused heavily on For Blood and Empire tracks including The Press Corpse, This is The End (For Your My Friend),Cities Burn and One Trillion Dollars.  Playing so many from that album made sense since that was released just over ten years ago as well.

Whether they were playing their cover of The Clash‘s Should I Stay or Should I Go or All of The Poison, All of The Pain, it didn’t really matter. Anti-Flag were always Anti-Flag.

I’ve said it before, but Anti-Flag know how to put on a show. Yes, it’s not always spur of the moment anger or unplanned outbursts – the sets are structured and planned to a T, yet the bands’ anger seems real. Chris #2’s guttural screams pull at you, Justin Sane’s political rants ring true, and Pat Thetic’s never ending smile is contagious.

It’s a set full of venomous anger and passion, orchestrated to perfection by the Pittsburgh foursome; and even though they ended the set with Bradenburg Gate instead of Drink Drank Punk, they still moved everyone back and set up the drum kit in the crowd for the final verse. It’s a shtick they do every set, but it still seems just right.  Especially since Pat Thetic stays in the crowd for ten minutes hugging everyone he sees.

It was only an hour long set. There was no encore. Without any glitz or glamour, they lowered the massive American Flag and started setting up for Reel Big Fish – but during those sixty minutes, you were able to lose yourself. Momentarily transported to another plane of existence, Anti-Flag successfully put on a set that rocked you to the core and reignited my love for live shows.

And somehow, the night still  had another sixty minutes of music.

Swapping out the angry fist pumping and circle pits, Reel Big Fish brought out the horns and skanking shoes for their co-headlining spot of the evening. It was an almost 360 degree spin in tone and performance as Aaron Barrett and his co-horts pull in the crowd through comedy and goofiness rather than anger and speed.

Starting with the Ole chant, the band began their real set with three of the famous sarcastic songs: I Want Your Girlfriend to be Mine, Another FU Song and Your Guts (I Hate ‘Em). It immediately set the pace for skanking and sing alongs before Barrett reminded everyone why they were really here: to celebrate 20 years of Turn The Radio Off.

From then on, it was Turn The Radio Off front to back – Sell Out, Trendy, Everything Sucks, S.R. (and all the possible iterations of it), Say Ten. You name it, they played it.

As Monique Powell of Save Ferris was nowhere to be seen, saxophonist Matt Appleton took over her parts on She Has A Girlfriend Now. It was a good effort, but part of me missed how Scott Klopfenstein used to deliver her parts. In fact, the entire night missed the comedy styling’s of Klopfenstein who left the band several years ago. Him and Barrett’s on stage banter used to be the icing on the cake of a Reel Big Fish set. Without him, Barrett seemed somewhat lost and no longer had that comedic edge that made Reel Big Fish what it was.

Nevertheless, the crowd was there for the music and they delivered. After completing Alternative Baby, the band celebrated the album before realizing they missed the biggest song on the album. This led them to play The Mighty Mighty BosstonesThe Impression That I Get segueing into Beer (the missed track) into The Offspring‘s Self Esteem and back into Beer. It was a nostalgia trip if you ever wanted.

A quick encore comprised of Where Have You Been and Take On Me and the night was complete. It was a punk filled, ska filled evening by two of the longer run bands in our scene. Tonight showed why it is that they’re still around.

Good Friends - Ride the Storm

Good Friend

Ride The Storm

Red Scare Industries
By

Rating: 4/5

 
 

 

 

I don’t know how Toby Jeg does it, but Red Scare Industries always seems to be the first to discover hidden talent before anyone else. Good Friend‘s debut album, Ride the Storm, is further proof of that. Co-released with Gunner Records in Europe, the Newcastle-based trio have set the bar for debut albums here with a solidly determined punk album that fits right amidst the Red Scare catalogue.

With impeccable production quality, Ride The Storm kicks off with Rock Bottom Revival and right away you’re blown away.  Vocalist/bassist Adam Carroll delivers his lyrics with a catchy scorn that immediately makes you feel like you’re singing “I Find Faith In The Radio” with a hundred strangers in a small dive bar.

It’s catchy and familiar yet fresh and raw – made for The Fest crowd but heightened by standing on the shoulders of giants. They take what The Menzingers started with on A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology and merge it with the speed of The Penske File‘s Burned into The Earth and Downtown StrutsVictoria. There’s Bad Religion‘s like “wo-ahs” in the background while tracks like Young Blood could be forgiven as being confused for a Red City Radio b-side.

The album is full of unrelenting sing-along’s (try not to sing along to his raspy, emotional delivery of “This world, has got me fucking cornered. I was bored and I will die here, but I felt nothing, felt nothing at all” during The Return of Fionn and the Fianna – I dare you), but they mix it up and pull it back in on The Curious Case of Hy-Brasil; that borrows a page from Captain We’re Sinking where Carroll sounds almost exactly like Bobby Barnett, particularly in the opening verse.

Good Friend show their influences on their sleeves but never feel like a tired knock-off. Sometimes they’re serious like Curse The Name which focuses on technical guitar work and stark, almost hardcore riffs. Other songs are just more fun like Daniel O’D and The Moonshiners that really brings up the Penske File vibe. Yet, as a unit, Ride The Storm works seamlessly together. They take breaths when they need to, like on the acoustic number Bar Flies, and pummel forward when the time is right; creating an album with a nice rhythm of ebbs and flows.

So while I don’t know how Toby Jeg keeps finding these gems, I’m sure as hell glad he is.

John K Samson

John K Samson

Live in Vancouver, BC (02/02/17)

The Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
By

 
 

 

 

John K. Samson is the king of the understated.

Honing his chops with Propaghandi before breaking off to form one of Canada’s most beloved indie rock bands The Weakerthans, John K Samson has already cemented his name in the annals of Canadian music history.

For several years he’s be traveling and performing under his own name and it was that tour – in support of last year’s Winter Wheat – that saw him and his supporting band hit up the Commodore Ballroom Thursday night in Vancouver; and right from the start there was something magical in the air. Magical and understated.

Thanks for coming out to see a middle aged soft-rock band” he mumbled into the microphone as the quartet walked onto the empty stage. There was no grandiose entrance, no pulsating lights, no thundering intro music. They walked leisurely onto the simplistic stage, void of even a backdrop, and proceeded to croon to the audience for an hour long set that included two (somewhat unnecessary) encores.

There was a bare bones simplicity to the evening that reverberated even in the historic and massive ballroom. The four huddled together in the centre, leaving most of the stage completely empty. There were no matching outfits or color schemes and the lights were constant throughout. No flashes, no strobes, each song had a color delicately illuminating the black curtains behind that faded to red to white to green and blue between songs.

Instead of over the top showmanship and bombastic stage set ups, John K Samson strummed his guitar and let his soothing voice take center stage. There was no barrier, no distance between him and the crowd. When he needed to put his guitar down to try and sing a song with his hands free, he politely asked someone in the front row to hold it for him. No stand, no roadie running to grab it – just “hey, can you hold onto this for a second?” and it all felt right.

Despite touring in support of Winter Wheat, Samson relied heavily on his Weakerthans material as well – alternating between his solo material and his former band’s greatest hits almost every song. You could tell that would be the structure when the second song of the night was Sun In An Empty Room sandwiched between Select All Delete and Post Doc Blues.

There were times his Weakerthans material got the biggest cheers – One Great City and Plea From A Cat Named Virtute are iconic Canadian anthems at this point, hearing them live will always garner a cheer. However, that’s not to say his solo numbers didn’t go over well – they did. When he stood up alone playing 17th Street Treatment Center, it gave you shivers down your spine as the passion and emotion seeped through the speakers and into everyone in attendance.  Vampire Alberta Blues, dedicated to “all the people protecting water rights”, was greeted with jubilations as was The Last And from his 2012 album Provincial.

John K Samson, a middle-aged man wearing a plain gray tshirt and drinking green tea on stage, isn’t the type of person you’d associate as the headlining front man of  a major touring rock band. Yet it’s that understated simplicity that made the evening so memorable, so jovial, so… Canadian.

It’s like the quote from Miriam Toews that he references in the final verse of Winter Wheat: “We know this world is good enough because it has to be.” The line stood out last night and I smiled because when you’re listening to John K Samson, the world is good.

AFI

AFI

Live in Vancouver (01/24/17)

Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
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During one of their first stops on the Blood Album tour, AFI did something I almost never see: they played a real, genuine encore Tuesday night in Vancouver.

In the fourteen years of going to concerts, I can think of maybe two other instances where a band did an unplanned encore. Strike Anywhere at Avenue Skatepark and Beach Slang at The Cobalt. Otherwise, they’re always written into the set list. They’re structured and predictable to the point where bands make fun of the idiocy of them and the crowd cheers them on.

AFI planned their encore but then went a step further.

The second the opening chords of Miss Murder echoed through the Commodore Ballroom, the crowd erupted, the floor bounced, and you know it was it. It had been an hour, this was their biggest single of their career; so set-list wise, it made sense to place this as the final song of their regular set. And it was. The band pounded it out, the crowd sung back to Davey Havoc and his comrades and then the four musicians walked off stage. Thirty seconds of chanting accompanied by blinding flashing lights and Havoc alongside guitarist Jade Puget strolled across the stage to croon The Leaving Song to the audience.

It was soft, soothing and powerful – leading nicely into Silver and Cold before saying their final farewell. They stood, they bowed, they shook hands, waved and said goodnights. The houselights turned up, the roadies started packing up gear but the crowd just stood. They chanted “One more song! One more Song! One More Song!” and then the roadies were confused. Looking to the side, they got the cue to start plugging gear back in. The houselights dimmed and AFI were back. They huddled centre stage, talking amongst themselves, figuring out what to do. Havoc turned to the crowd “Wow, a real encore – this is nice” and then jumped into The Art of Drowning‘s The Lost Souls.

It was sincere. Honest. Real. Unplanned.

The crowd begged for more and the band delivered and in a time when everything is always so structured, choreographed and orchestrated – it’s nice to see AFI carrying on their punk torch.

Because no matter their evolution, AFI are at their hearts a hardcore band. Decked in all black, the quartet plays like a hardcore band even as their style has developed into emo and goth and rock territories. Havoc is an impeccable front man, his shadow projected on the illuminated screen behind him. He swings his mic with abandon, storms all over the stage, delivers blood curling screams and soaring falsettos, spits words with the speed of a viper or elongates and enunciates each specific syllable.  It’s a wide reaching style, punctuated after each song by tossing the microphone to the floor.

The highlight came during I Hope You Suffer when he not only stepped into the crowd, but eventually crawled on top and stood on them, thrusting the mic down so everyone can sing. It was a sight to see – he’s done it before, but it still carries the same sense of awe every time he does it.

Moments like this made up for the somewhat lack luster sound that hindered the set all night. The mix seemed muffled as they flipped through tracks like 17 Crimes, Beautiful Thieves, The Days of the Phoenix, Girls Not Grey, This Celluloid Dream and a few newer cuts such as Dumb Kids or Snow Cats. It failed to let Havoc’s voice truly soar the way it was meant to be heard.

Years from now you won’t remember  the sound quality though, you’ll look back and remember the true encore – the unexpected moments that concerts live and die upon.

   

Interview: Mute

interviews-muteWith Remember Death, MUTE released one of the most anticipated skate punk records of the year. Lead single Fill The Void quickly became a fan favourite and it wouldn’t surprise us if the album reached a few end of year lists come December. Just like you’ve come to expect from the Québec four piece, Remember Death is a fast record with melodic songs that are packed with guitar solos. During MUTE’s European tour, we had the chance to sit down with lead singer and bassist Jean-Philippe Lamonde and talk about the band’s first release in 5 years.

Read the interview here.

   
Pup

Pup / Meat Wave

Live in Vancouver (11/21/16)

The Cobalt - Vancouver, BC
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A sold out show at The Cobalt is a rare but beautiful thing. The venue is slowly becoming one of the go-to venues for punk and alternatives shows in Vancouver. As is the norm with punk shows, you still get the odd fairly empty showcase there – but when it’s packed, the excitement is palpable.

Amidst their three and a half month, 100 show world tour – Pup found themselves feeling that palpable energy as they started their Canadian leg of the tour last night in Vancouver.

The show was, of course, sold out. People were begging for spare tickets, trying to see the Toronto quartet touring in support of The Dream Is Over; and those lucky enough to squeeze into the packed house were not disappointed.

Fans were already there in full force by the time Chicago’s Meat Wave hit the stage and successfully warmed up the already enthusiastic crowd. The jangly, spastic sound from the SideOneDummy labelmates was raw and heavy, a nod to the Dirtnap style of punk mixed with the grunge revolution. Raspy screams and echoey feedback atop distorted guitars, the crowd ate it up, energizing old fans and converting new.

The Pup banner stayed behind the drum kit the entire night, so there was no cheer or big reveal moment. Instead, it served as a constant reminder of what was to come. So with equally as little fan fare, the four piece set up their instruments, said “Thanks for having us” and dove right into If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will and the crowd went off.

Pup were in top form, the hard months on the road have tightened their sound and performance while their reputation of one of the premiere live bands around proved to be true. Front man Stefan Babcock was frenzied in his delivery as the guitar work from him and Steve Sladkowski ripped through the speakers.

During their hour long set, they played fourteen of their possibly twenty recorded numbers – so pretty much nothing was left behind. It was something both the band and the crowd had in common: neither left anything behind.

Throughout the evening, Pup constantly thanked the crowd for being wild – and they were. It was non-stop moving, dancing, shoving, screaming and stage diving along to DVP, Guilt Trip, Dark Days, My Life Is Over and I Couldn’t Be Happier. They riled everyone up with Sleep in the Heat and pulled them back to reality with The Coast. The crowd cheered with Babcock confessed his love for his car in Mabu and everyone simply felt alive.

As they neared their final two songs of the night, Babcock denounced the idiotic tendencies of fake encores. He promised two songs and that was it, starting the two with Reservoir.

For the final song, he thanked the crowd again and said this tour was the first time they’ve been around the world and people were there to see them – because of that they felt like they no longer needed to impress people with big covers and wouldn’t be playing Sabotage by the Beastie Boys this time. Instead, Babcock put down the guitar, jumped into the crowd and let loose on Old Wounds.

He finished the song on the back of the bar, unplugged the mic and that was it. No encore (as promised), just one solid hour of non-stop adrenaline filled punk in a sold out venue in the heart of Vancouver.

No one could ask for more.

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Interview: Useless ID

Useless IDAfter over twenty years together, Useless ID are no stranger to the road. Hailing all the way from Haifa, Israel, the band has grown to become one of the most successful Middle Eastern punk bands ever. They never let that success get to their head though and instead stay focused on delivering solid music that actually means something to them. They carried on their tradition with State of Burning – the band’s eighth studio album that came out this past July.

Wanting to waste no time promoting it, the band instantly jumped back on the road and soon saw themselves playing through Canada with labelmates Pears and NOFX. We emailed them just before to learn more about the album, the tour, and their musical ideologies. 

Read the interview here.

   
NOFX - Vancouver

NOFX

Live In Vancouver (11/04/16)

The Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
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AZlyrics.com has a grand total of 340 songs listed under NOFX.  That’s a lot of songs to choose from when you’re slimming down to create a 25 song set list. It also means that as a fan, you really have no idea what songs you’ll hear on any given night either. In a time where so many shows are preplanned down to a T, that unknown coefficient adds an element of excitement and rawness.

And NOFX are nothing if not raw.

Fat Mike. Eric Melvin. El Hefe and Smelly.  These guys are a band that don’t really give a fuck in the most sincere way. They do what they want and eschew any expectations. It’s little things too. Where most bands drop 20ft banners behind them, NOFX hung a small, tiny version of  their Wolves in Wolf Clothing logo proudly above their stage. The bright yellow almost being swallowed by the blackness behind it.

But that minimalistic sign stands out, becomes a talking point and symbolizes the band: they’re not showboating, they’re just here to play music and have a good time. It’s a simple goal that they complete with style.

Newly sober Fat Mike was still his charismatic self. He was loud, he was abrasive, he was comical and in your face. The banter between him, El Hefe and Eric Melvin is sometimes stupid, sometimes hilarious but always real and unscripted. Even having to do with the drunken shenanigans of Chi Pig makes for an entertaining exchange of words. They jump around, they’re sloppy and make mistakes but no one cares, it’s a punk show where mistakes are meant to happen.

They get political when they need to, the upcoming election gives them cause to play The Idiots Are Taking Over and That One Man I Killed and solemn in remembering Tony Sly on his birthday with the soothing new cut I’m So Sorry Tony. They play their hits – Linoleum  and Bob – but not as encores or opening tracks. They just get lost in the shuffle with no special focus on them and it works because their entire catalogue is swamped with hits.

There’s the older ones, I’m Telling Time, Dinosaurs Will Die, Murder the Government, Eat The Meek and the ultra quick and very simple Fuck The Kids. Then you mix it up with 72 Hookers, We March To The Beat of an Indifferent Drum, Seeing Double at the Triple Rock, Bottles to the Ground and even the brand new I Don’t Like Me Anymore and it’s a varied setlist covering their entire history.

Karina Deniké of The Dance Hall Crashers was even there to help add harmonies and keyboard melodies to Mattersville and the aforementioned I’m So Sorry Tony among others.

The one showmanshippy thing NOFX always manages to pull out is their closing  number. Over the years I’ve seen them end with The Decline,  or Everybody’s A Little Bit Racist from the musical Q. Friday night saw them close out the evening with Pump Up The Valuum‘s Theme From A NOFX Album with Eric Melvin dragging the final melody out for at least an added five minutes to great comedic effect.

It ended the way a NOFX show should end: random, hilarious and unpredictable.

   
Against Me!

Against Me! / Dave Hause / Little Destroyer

Live In Vancouver, BC (10/25/16)

The Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC
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When Against Me! came out with Transgender Dysphoria Blues in 2014, it was all anyone could talk about. The album pushed boundaries and shot Against Me! into the limelight again. The follow-up, Shape Shift With Me, has not had that impact. It was mentioned just enough so people were aware of it, but it hasn’t made a splash. In fact, I always thought it was still scheduled to come out in a month or two – it wasn’t until Against Me! were set to play The Commodore Ballroom on Tuesday night in support of the album that I realized it was already out in the world.

So, for the first time ever – I went into an Against Me! show unsure of the songs I was about to hear and unsure of what to expect.

The evening kicked off with Little Destroyer, a Vancouver based trio merging synth and dance oriented beats with blasting drums and spastic singing. Reminded me at times of a more dance oriented Street Sweeper Social Club and was an odd choice to lead the bill. Allie Sheldan’s vocals were strong although sometimes muffled but she definitely had a distinct persona to her stage presence, channeling the energy of Yolandi Visser with each movement. It wasn’t until the closing song that they picked up the pace though, with a more thunderous, chaotic tune – the rest seemed almost too dancy for my tastes.

Dave Hause, with help from his brother Tim, were much more up the Against Me! alley. The former Loved Ones frontman is no stranger to Vancouver, having played all over the city but this was the first time with his brother backing him up. Northcote‘s Matt Goud also made his regular guest appearance at the show helping Hause to work the audience in an impressive manor for an opening act. Starting his set with Autism Vaccine Blues, he also played through C’Mon Kid, Resolutions before ending with We Could Be Kings. Throughout the set he got the crowd clapping, laughing, and even singing along to Time Will Tell when most in attendance wouldn’t have known it. He took his knowledge as a regular headlining act and truly warmed up the crowd for the main attraction: Against Me!

While their last set at the Commodore Ballroom saw them start fast, slow it down in the middle and end it fast again – this evening’s set seemed split down the middle of new and old cuts while maintaining the speed and intensity throughout.

They started focusing heavily on the new, switching between Shape Shift With Me and Transgender Dysphoria Blues songs  – True Trans Soul Rebel into 333, Haunting Haunted Haunts into Unconditional Love.  Grace introduced Delicate, Petite & Other Things I’ll Never Be with a deeply personal message of acceptance and the set was solid, yet missing a certain punch.

Around the midway point they threw on Bamboo Bones and the deeper cuts started rolling out.  White Crosses opened up the pit and they continued to dive deeper: Tonight We’re Going to Give It 35, This Shit Rules, New Wave, Cliche Guevara and the Against Me! staples, Walking is Still Honest and Pints of Guiness Makes You Strong. These are the songs that came packed with a punch.

Dead Friends and Crash were nice selections, but it will be bopping around to Dont’ Lose Touch  that were the memorable moment of the night.

They ended both the main set and encore beautifully, with Black Me Out and Thrash Unreal respectively. Haven thrown in I Was A Teenage Anarchist in betwee,  the ending soared about the start of the show.

But the one consistent was that throughout it all, the band was in top form. Laura Jane Grace is happier than ever, leaving everything she has on the stage. Atom Willard is wild and enthusiastic as he pummels the drum skin with flare while bassist Inge Johansson always seems to have the biggest grin on his face as he pounces around the stage. Even guitarist James Bowman, the longest running bandmate of Grace, seems to be more relaxed than he was in earlier years

Against Me! are a band nearing their twenty year mark and they still show no signs of slowing down

Interview: Trophy Lungs

Trophy LungsTrophy Lungs, a Boston based pop punk act, released one of the most exciting debut albums of 2015. The band sadly played their final show last week. We didn’t know this at the time of the interview during Brakrock Ecofest in Belgium, so we’ll publish our talk with the band as our way to give these Boston punk rockers the goodbye they deserve.

Read the interview here.

   

Interview: Public Animal

Public AnimalToronto rockers, Public Animal are releasing their sophomore album, Palace Arms on October 28th. We caught up with guitarist/vocalist Ian Blurton via email to find out what to expect from the new album.

Read the interview here.

   
Blink 182

Blink 182

Live in Vancouver (09/18/16)

Abbotsford Centre - Vancouver, BC
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When the black curtains fell at the Abbotsford Centre, Blink 182 dived into an evening of nostalgia and progression, creating a unique evening showcasing the future and past of the pop punk band.

Touring in support of this year’s California, the trio treated Vancouver to their first post-Tom DeLonge performance with Alkaline Trio‘s Matt Skiba taking over guitar and vocal duties. Sonically, Skiba fits perfectly. Years of harmonizing with Dan Andriano has readied him for the new role, what took a hit is the on-stage presence that Blink used to have.

The banter between Mark and Tom was always fascinating, comical and so very real. Off-the-cuff chit-chat that not only felt fresh, but also incredibly genuine. Each night felt like a new show no matter how many of the same songs they played.

Skiba hasn’t quite perfected that repertoire with Mark yet, making the performance a bit more – dare I say – normal.

However, the show itself – the setlist, pyrotechnics, and lights – were on top form.

As the opening chords of Feeling This blared through the speakers, four big bangs rung though the arena and there it was: the famous flaming fuck from Blink 182‘s Take Off Your Pants and Jacket tour. It was a throwback to an older tour gimmick, a hidden gem that many people probably have forgotten but it also set the tone for the night as they continually pulled through hidden gems – many of which came from TOYPAJ itself.

Somehow you just wouldn’t expect them to pull out Family Reunion or Happy Holidays Your Bastard when they just released Built This Pool, but the night featured all three and Brohemian Rhapsody as well. In between you were treated to the hits – I Miss You, What’s My Age Again, All The Small Things, Stay Together For The Kids  – alongside many of the lesser known cuts like Dystentary Gary, Dumpweed, Down, Reckless Abandon and Violence (which was used for Barker’s famous show-stopping solo section). The distinction between famed abd

Of course, the evening wouldn’t be a new tour without cuts from their latest album making an appearance, so the crowd got to compare Skiba’s writing style to DeLonge’s as the switched from I Miss You to Bored to Death and San Diego to Not Now

Their set was punctuated by flames spitting out all around Travis Barker and interactive videos splashed across the big screen (the videos for The Rockshow, Dystentary Gary and Los Angeles definitely being the highlights). They even filled the crowd with inflatable sex dolls for First Date.

Sadly, the venue itself wasn’t as ready for the show as the band was. The sound was sub-par, muffled for a large part of the set; and for four entire songs, the house lights were fully on. At first it may have been a schtick, but it soon became evident that something was wrong and the lights were stuck on inadvertently.

Was the show the best Blink show to grace Vancouver in the past several years – definitely not. I missed some of the comedic charm that DeLonge and Hoppus carried with them, but nothing really matters when they end the night with both Carousel and Dammit in their encore.

Anytime those two songs come on – well, then the night’s a success.

Photos by Nick Dudar

   

Interview: Antillectual

AntillectualAntillectual are one of the torchbearer bands for political punk in Europe. Their most recent effort Engage! is only a couple of weeks old, and is their sixth album already. One of the good things about Engage! is that it’s packed with fresh ideas and songs about hot issues, thus avoiding a pitfall of the genre: hitting the same nail over and over again. We had a talk with the Dutch punk rockers on a sunny Saturday afternoon at Brakrock ecofest. There really couldn’t have been a more fitting moment for a chat about Engage! and the songs on it, about European politics and about taking the stage at Punk Rock Holiday for a second time.

Read the interview here.

   

Exclusive: Audio/Rocketry – Fault Lines

Audio/RocketryIt has been far too many years, but Edmonton, Alberta’s folk punk troubadours Audio/Rocketry are finally set to release their new Self Titled album on November 3rd through Valley Home Records.

Kicking off the promotional push for the highly anticipated new album is the debut single Fault Lines featuring Vancouver’s Jesse Lebourdais on back-up vocals.

The song can be streamed below.

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Interviews: Rusty

RustyToronto’s famed Bovine Sex Club is celebrating it’s 25th anniversary this year and all year long they’re doing the Bovine’s 25th Anniversary Series. September 16th will see them host the legendary Rusty as they prepare for a new album this year. Joining them will be An Almighty Trigger Happy, Pink Wine, Blackdog Ballroom and Killer Virgins. Tickets are $15 at the door, 19+ to get in. 

We caught up with guitarist Scott McCullough to see what he remembers most about Canada’s most infamous underground punk venue.

Read the interview here.

   
Andrew WK - live in Vancouver

Andrew WK

Live In Vancouver (08/20/16)

The Cobalt - Vancouver, BC
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Andrew WK is the king of partying.

No one can deny that. Some may say its a gimmick, or a one trick pony – but there’s more than that under the service of the New York by way of Florida by way of Michigan party rocker. The 37 year old is a complex amalgamation of fascinating features. Motivational speaker, Village Voice columnist, TV personality, DJ, entrepreneur and an unrelenting ball of energy. Those are just some elements that combine to form the monster that is Andrew WK who brought his full band to the tight packed Cobalt Saturday night as part of The Vancouver Mural Festival.

And it was – obviously – a party.

WK oozes positivity and energy, very few people could turn a song like Ready To Die and transform it into a jubilant, hopeful anthem. But he does.

In the hour long set that left the crowd tired, sweaty and out of breath, Andrew WK and his band pulled out all the stops. Wearing his signature all-white outfit (that becomes increasingly dirty throughout the evening), the king of parting whipped the crowd into a fury. Pumping his fist, banging the keyboard, swinging his long, creasy hair in every direction. His backing band were equally as enthuastic, bringing their own flare to the performance never letting the front man steal the show completely. For his point, WK stays in the back when necessary, letting his two guitarist duel it off with epic guitar solos and interludes and the entire series is a well oiled machine. From his desire to turn I Love NYC into I Love Vancouver (which was hilariously voted down by the crowd which settled on a mixture of I Love Vancouver! Oh yeah! New York City!) to the tossing of free tshirts into the crowd, every moment was poised to foster most positive, joyful outcome.

Despite being fifteen years old this year, the main focus of the set constantly remains on his breakthrough I Get Wet album. In fact, he only played three songs from other albums: The Wolf‘s Tear It Up, Close Call With BrickwallsYou Will Remember Tonight and The Jackass Soundtrack‘s We Want Fun. The first two of which very few people knew but when he pulled out Party Hard, It’s Time To Party or Take It Off, the crowd went bezerk.

And for She Is Beautiful? Well I don’t think I’ve ever seen as many crowd surfers as I did in those three minutes.

They ended the evening with the titular I Get Wet, said farewell, gave high fives and walked off the stage. No cheesy encore, the lights turned on and that was it – and that’s the way it’s meant to be.

Andrew WK and his band partied hard for an hour straight. He created a sea of positivity and excitement and brought a smile to every single face in the crowd. There was nothing else left to give, no more sweat left to drip, no more heads left to bang. To force an encore would’ve been disingenuous, and Andrew WK is not disingenuous.

So it ended as quickly as it began but no one complained. It was an hour long party, the kind that only The King of Partying can deliver

   
Billy Talent

Billy Talent

Live in Vancouver (7/30/16)

The Roxy - Vancouver, BC
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I still remember the date. May 27, 2003. Sum 41 were playing at the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton back when I was the tender age of 15. Opening for them was a then-unknown band from Toronto called Billy Talent who almost stole the show. By September of that year, Try Honesty was taking over the airwaves and they were on the way to becoming the biggest band in Canada. Over the next eight years I saw them close to a dozen times and some of my favourite concert memories were courtesy of the Toronto four piece.

Over the last five years, I only saw them once. Schedules mismatched, touring slowed and – honestly – I never even listened to Dead Silence more than once. Waking up on Saturday morning,  the day after their fifth album (Afraid of Heights) was officially released – I was surprised to see that my former favourite band was playing an invite-only, win to get in secret show at The Roxy in Vancouver and, deep down, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

So eight hours later I found myself squashed among a mismatch of lucky winners at the 27-year old venue anxiously awaiting the arrival of the band for what turned out to be, to date, the best show of 2016.

In the five years since I last saw them, Billy Talent hasn’t lost their edge or live presence. I was saddened to not see Aaron Solowoniuk behind the kit (due to medical reasons associated with his MS), but Alexisonfire‘s Jordan Hastings was a suitable filler in the meantime. Frontman Ben Kowalewicz put his foot up on the barrier, taking his signature pose and the band dove right into Devil In A Midnight Mass as the packed crowd went off.

Despite playing in support of Afraid Of Heights, they leaned more towards their older material much to the joys and cheers of the crowd. Kowalewicz did the occasional speech, praising Canada, Vancouver and Gay pride, taunting Canucks fans and condemning the fucked up nature of  the world between cuts like River Below, Fallen Leaves, Surrender, Devil on My Shoulder, Rusted From The Rain, Living In The Shadows and Saint Veronika. Their three song encore ramped up with Red Flag and ended with Viking Death March and throughout the night they dropped a few new cuts – Big Red Gun, Louder Than The DJ and The Crutch – and even did a heartfelt  tribute to Gord Downie with a Tragically Hip cover.

Ignoring the songs or the speeches,  it was the energy that made this show what it was. Yes, a certain nostalgia element heightened everything, the realization that I still remembered every lyric despite not listening to the self-titled album in years forced me to smile; but more than that,  there was a spark in the air. Billy Talent felt that and expanded on it. The small venue, the rabid crowd, the surprisingly solid sound, made the night instantly memorable.

In a year of, quite frankly, mediocre and forgettable concerts – Billy Talent at the Roxy on July 30th served as a reminder for why I go to concerts in the first place. For an hour and a half, you felt alive and nothing could stop you.

I left the show and walked down a packed Granville Street drenched in sweat and a smile on my face, the way it’s supposed to be after a show. And to think, I only found out about the show ten hours before.

Fuck the bouncers though, they were assholes.

   
Leftover Crack

Leftover Crack / Days'n'Daze

Live In Vancouver (07/01/16)

The Venue - Vancouver, BC
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Outside The Venue on Friday night was a sight rarely seen down on Vancouver’s Granville Street as crust punks littered the sidewalks. Decked out in black, ripped clothes, dreadlocks, piercings and tattoos – the amalgamation of people was a gathering quiet different than the regular night club crowd. But they were there for a reason: to see the venerable and legendary Leftover Crack from New York City during their first ever show in the city on none other than Canada Day itself.

Opening the evening of dirty crust punk was the criminally underrated Houston four piece Days’n’Daze. After driving eleven straight hours through the rockies to get here in time, the band was a little out of it at times. Half the band seemed tired and just wanting to feel the comfort of their bed while the other half teetered on the edge of hilarious delirium, bringing their excitement to new heights.  They play a brand of folk punk built off the basics – an acoustic guitar, guttural voice, washtub bass, washboard and – creating a unique flare – the trumpet and occasional ukulele. Dual vocalists Jesse Sendejas and Whitney Flynn traded off one another, giving a raspy growl to their songs of rebellion, love and masturbation.  The two knew how to work the crowd, particularly Flynn who was energetic, expressive and alive. She seemed genuinely pleased, shocked and embarrassed when their named appeared in lights behind them and you couldn’t help but catch their contagious optimism.

They were out of place at The Venue, and a smaller stage would have had them feeling much more at home; but the crowd made the most of it and used the time to sing, dance, drink and catch up with old friends.

If music truly connects people to one another, this set showed that connection happen in real life.

Then, the legendary Leftover Crack stepped on stage fronted by the enigmatic Scott Surgeon, better known as Stza Crack. The politically active singer led the crowd through a mixture of Leftover Crack songs, Choking Victim tracks and  cover songs. They brought Flynn back up on stage for Bedbugs and Beyond, pulled out a Cyndi Lauper cover with Money Changes Everything  and travelled through memory lane for Nazi White Trash, The Good The Bad & The Leftover Crack and Gay Rude Boys Unite.

Those who waited fifteen plus years for them to finally come to town ate every word up; but it was when they played that they succeeded and the show slowed down whenever Stza spoke. He seemed long winded and rambling, never really reaching a point or trying too hard to be funny. The cover of Summer of ’69 didn’t need a three minute speech build up, especially after standing through what felt like five minutes of darkness while they did their scheduled encore break.

His speeches may not have been a success, but the music was – and the crust punks, well they just ate it up.

Contest: Win Tickets To See Leftover Crack in Vancouver

Leftover CrackThere’s no better way to celebrate the Canada Day long weekend than with a little American Crust Punk. The famed crusties Leftover Crack are hitting up the Great White North and stopping at The Venue in Vancouver, BC on July 1st and 2nd alongside up and comers Days’n’Daze. Joining them on the second night will be the legendary Dayglo Abortions who will surely make for a crazy and unforgettable night.

As the first night sold out in an instant, the fine folks at Blueprint Live were kind enough to not only put on a second night but also give us a pair of tickets to the event.

One lucky winner will walk away with a pair of tickets to see Leftover Crack, Days’n’Daze and Dayglo Abortions on July 2nd at The Venue. Enter below.

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