Review and photography by Suzanne Goodwin
Ironic, too, that on this night, the Pump's walls could barely contain the population squeezed inside like so many sardines, with a lineup around the block, outside. Those of us who were smart enough to get there really really early were in for a musically eclectic evening that quickly escalated to modern rock mayhem.
Totally bonus were the first two bands up, 'cause they weren't even listed on the bill. Victoria's Seventh Stone's brand of rock-laden blues energized the room right off the start. Excellent musicianship and deep powerful vocals were this band's mark, although the blues did get to be a bit repetitive as their set wore on.
In the midst of their cross-Canada tour supporting their recent independent CD, Motion Sickness, Joe's Funeral took the second unannounced spot. The Toronto trio reeled in the peripheral onlookers as Gord Tough's intelligent lyrics wove mysterious intricate tales and the songs' melodic rhythms, edged with a touch of surf guitar, pushed up the increasingly electric atmosphere in the crowd.
Rocking out towards the end of their set, Joe's Funeral got the crowd totally fueled and primed for the next act, Ron Hawkins & the Rusty Nails. A curious and unique style of swing-styled rock intertwined with some blues, Ron Hawkins & the Rusty Nails had both the big band sound and look, with all six of them onstage in very natty attire. This was totally different, and Ron's slightly gravelly voice and gritty guitar, backed by two baritone saxes, commanded the crowd's attention, and out onto the floor they spilled...
By the time Change of Heart started their set, bodies were solidly smooshed up against the stage. As the band fervently flew into the first song of the set, "Crazy Bastard Device," from their lastest release Steelteeth, frontman Ian Blurton's guitar strap broke mid-leap a few seconds into the song. Not to be slowed down, he grabbed his second guitar only to have that guitar's strap break, again mid-leap and a couple of seconds into playing. The whole song lost momentum, but the band just kept going, and Blurton grabbed his first guitar, sans strap, and just played at the edge of the stage with exuberant fans fighting to be his mic stand.
Change of Heart left an indelible imprint on those lucky enough to have squeezed themselves into the swollen Pump, and definitely get the 'You Rocked My Ass!' award for the evening. The frenzied crowd were treated to driving intense guitar, played in Blurton's seemingly trademark bloody-fingered style, underscored with spacey techno-keyboards and all pounded forward by an impermeable rhythm section. Anyone who didn't know about Change of Heart before this gig certainly did after.
And that was a good thing, because it seemed like there were an awful lot of people at the show only to see the Matthew Good Band. The screams from the young females of suburbia upon a Matthew-sighting confirmed my suspicions; that, and the fact they were singing all his songs before the band even started their set. Whatever the situation, Matthew et al did put on a splendid performance. While not quite as mind blowing as Change of Heart, Good was definitely the focal point of the evening, and the mad milieu of the mosh pit seemed almost more than the not-often-seen security at the Pump could stand.
The band played all the hits, starting out intensely with the new one "Raygun," Good's trademark voice and the band's pace solid and steady throughout the set. It seems that Good is headed for the limelight, and, for the faithful present, this was the most personal evening they're likely to get with the Matthew Good Band for quite some time.
Although the crowd had thinned slightly, it only left more room to move when Rusty bounced onto the stage. Their country-undertoned alterna-rock style was well received by the still-convulsive crowd, who were shouting out for "Empty Cell," from Sophomoric, which they eventually got -- but not before singer Ken McNeil shared a joint onstage with fellow bandmates. Giving us a performance that flowed along, rather than banged you over the head, the band finished up with "Misogyny." A grinding tune intensified by Ken's jagged voice, it left the audience in a hoopla yelling for more.
After six hours of music at maximum volume to a crammed house with nary a break between bands, it was hard to believe it was the end of the last show at the Town Pump as we know it. Those there witnessed the end of an era and one helluva great show. It couldn't have had a better send-off.
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