Review by Suzanne Goodwin
Photography by Paul Clarke
I pondered these things as I entered the sweltering, claustrophobia-inducing little church basement venue to find everything running about a half an hour behind due to the usual round of equipment problems. All was well after what seemed to be eternity and the first band of the evening, Submission Hold, organized themselves on the stage -- if you could call it that.
With barely enough room for a small drum kit, the majority of tonight's performances took place on the floor with the audience. This minuscule change in elevation did seem conducive to close rapport between audience and band, compared, that is, to a typical club gig. No backstage and no mystery. No pretensions either, making it rather like a large party sans alcohol.
And in that socially conscious mode, Submission Hold dove into their half hour set. All the denizens of Commercial Drive seemed to be there to see them, too... nice to see some local support for a change. Submission Hold might best be described as a cross between Vancouver's Tone and old Black Sabbath -- with a seriously socially-conscious twist. Their sound was a little too screechy for me, but the band put on a sincere performance punctuated with concerned social and gender issue banter (I kept wondering what they'd think by the time they were 30... ). The kids seemed to dig it and the intense musical style was just the right intro for the next band, Behead the Prophet.
This band's thrash punk got everybody up and moving while the singer wound his way through the crowd blindfolded and screaming into the mic. I can't say I really understood a word he said during any of their 30-second-or-so "songs," save for a couple of lines about killer bees. Whatever. It was fast, furious and, yes, the kids dug it. Even after replacing the singer's mic twice, the momentum -- if not any distinguishable music -- was still there.
Continuing the momentum and elevating the quality of the music were the next band, the Pee Chees, all the way from California, with their mix of Beatles, surf, grunge and the Stones. Quite the combination, and they rocked. The look of the singer's lime-green polyester duds made me shiver despite the venue's lack of cooling ventilation, but he was stylin' along with the guitar player's Pete Townshend-esque guitar windmills. Definitely check these guys out next time they're in town.
I surmised that by now the room was not unlike the inside of an unopened sardine can, as the population and demographics had swelled in all directions. Parting this sea with a surprise visit were two sheet-swathed persons whose bods were imprisoned by too-tight kelly green collegiate-style sweaters with ugly big yellow 'W' logos on them. They did a slow dance out to the "stage," enchanting us with drum and keyboards only. Thus we were introduced to thee Goblins (not just any Goblins, theeee Goblins). This weird little offshoot of the Evaporators set the tone for the latter's upcoming set, which they began about five minutes later in too-small, tacky, cheap little belted ski jackets -- albeit a coordinated set!
Thus began one of the most entertaining, weird and hilariously fun and funny shows that I've seen this year. Audience participation was to be the key and no one was left untouched (unscathed?).
The first event of the set was to be a conga line, led by Nardwuar, which dragged off the innocent for a mission, the object of which was to move three steps forward in time to drum and trombone music, then hunch over like a gorilla and shout "uuuhhhh!!!!"
That all ended when Nardwuar spotted a young-un, probably no older than seven, and enticed him onto the "stage." Confusion and bewilderment seemed to set in for the child when the "cool" aspect and novelty of being onstage wore off: hairy, sweaty and crazy Nardwuar wanted the boy to help the band perform! Eventually the reluctant child followed along in the songs and antics with Nardwuar, but the kid was smilin' again when he was rewarded for his pains with a free copy of the Evaporators' latest release United Empire Loyalists. And all was well.
Until, of course, another (not entirely) reluctant soul from the audience was ushered to the stage by Nardwuar... then things just got even weirder. This guy was encouraged to play and lie on the keyboards whilst Nardwuar danced about, through, over and with the crowd. He dragged even more innocent victims up to sing backup or just play with the keyboard guy's stomach -- by now he was lying on the keys. Whatever... the whole place was in an uproar of howls, laughter and, uuuhhh, locker room sweat.
So what of the music? Well, to be honest, I was so caught up in the antics, I wasn't exactly lending a critical ear to the tunage; however, the guitar-heavy, cheery energetic punkiness of the band was tight and intense. And so it should be, since the Evaporators have been around for about ten years. Their somewhat political and everyday life tongue-in-cheek songs were the perfect backdrop for the stage antics, rather than the other way around, but, really, it just didn't matter.
When it was all suddenly over, it seemed like everyone just about collapsed coming down from the giddy hilarity of the Evaporators' performance. Nardwuar himself is pretty hard to describe accurately... if you want a taste of what he's all about, then catch him on CiTR (FM 101.9, here in Vancouver) some Friday afternoon, since you've got to hear his high-speed nasal whine to really appreciate his persona.
Get out and catch the Evaporators live, too, but prepare yourself first by giving United Empire Loyalists a spin. You'll probably never forget the experience and I'll betcha you'll get more bang for your pennies than any ol' three "tenuous" guys could give ya' for a paycheque or six.
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