You Am I

Jewels, Bullets -- and Hernias

with You Am I and 2% Cherry
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Sunday, July 28, 1996

Review by P. Freako
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Let's get one thing straight: although You Am I was not headlining, this was their show, and most of those in attendance were here to see them. Locals 2% Cherry had the dubious task of warming up this Sunday night crowd, and I use the term crowd loosely. At the start of their set, I had more fingers and toes than the number of bodies in the room.

2% Cherry guitarist And that's too bad, because 2% Cherry played a cool modern rock set full of numbers which ranged from "Try," a Liz Phair-ish jangly alternapop song, to "One in a Million," a darker, brooding Veruca Salt-ish tune. Frontwoman Erin Sernasie, or Miss E, as she's called by her friends, was able to hold these lingering brooding tunes with a strong voice feeding them that extra punch. The guitar parts weren't overly distinct, however, and this was the only thing which kept the material from holding a consistent edge. The growing numbers did respond favourably to the material, making this a good performance that managed to warm up the Sunday audience for the invasion from down under.

You Am I as you'll rarely see them elsewhere You Am I are international stars of sort; they have stadium sized support in Australia and apparently in most places outside of Canada. But we were fortunate this evening in witnessing them in a small club. It wasn't a large crowd at the Starfish, but those in attendance were definitely the party faithful and celebrated the opportunity of seeing the band live.

Frontman Tim Rogers was a little under the weather this evening. I couldn't tell. I thought he might have a cold or something. Nope, a hernia. The guy has to have a hernia operation when they get home from this tour and then six days later they go back out on tour. Ouch! A schedule like that might just explain how he got the hernia.

Tim Rogers in mid-air One thing that was apparent from the beginning was that these guys love to play live and Tim completely revels in the pure joy of playing his guitar. He had his instrument and his arms flailing, throwing in some Pete Townsend arm swings. Not only did he look like -- and have the frantic energy of -- Matt Murphy from the Super Friendz, his music reflects the same kind of pop guitar wizardry as does that Halifax pop band. Awesome riffs with a 70's showmanship style. This kind of thing can really suck -- or, if the band is ultra-tight, can rule supreme. You Am I ruled supreme and were tighter than a Speedo on a middle-aged Italian guy (oops, did I say that out loud?).

You Am I let loose a barrage of fun-filled tunes that had us enslaved to their magic. From the opening song, "The Applecross Wing Commander," they had the crowd dancing away. There were few breaks between songs as they just pounded one after another, not giving us a chance to come up for air. Fortunately, they did mix up the material to give us an ever-changing pace. Ranging from the upbeat and jangly "Cathy's Clown," You Am I's fuckin' set list to the reflective "How Much is Enough?" they kept us entertained and, hey, they threw in "Purple Sneakers" and "Jewels and Bullets," which are two of my favourites. But you know, I think it was that kind of night, and everybody in the crowd probably heard one of their favourites.

Nickelback guitarist Nickelback, along with fellow Vancouverites 2% Cherry, had the dubious honour of bookending You Am I. A tough act to follow, but, to their credit, Nickelback went on stage with an air of confidence and played well through their set. Certainly, the crowd started to dwindle as time went on, not because of the band, but because it was anticlimactic. I turned around and there were thirty people behind me, ten minutes later there were twenty, ten minutes later there were five.

Nickelback are a heavy band with darker, angsty themes, letting their guitars dictate the mood of their songs. If that doesn't make sense, think a bit of Alice in Chains, Bush (or Bush X) and Soundgarden, with a touch of Econoline Crush for that added heaviness. These are just influences I heard in their songs; they didn't actually rip-off any of the aforementioned bands. Their set was pretty good, but I think they just lacked a bit of tightness and presence to really affect the crowd. Playing some new tunes, they readied us for their new CD scheduled to be released in September. They appeared to cut their set short, realizing it was Sunday and nobody was left to watch them play. Too bad, they were just getting warmed up.

It wasn't a good night for the locals to showcase their stuff, because everybody was there to see You Am I and because Vancouver audiences generally suck when it comes to supporting their artists. Still, it was a cool bill, and there was no doubt that You Am I stole the show.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on August 8, 1996

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