Robert Plant!

Happy America Day, Eh!

with Removal and Fuse
The Niagara
Vancouver, B.C.
Friday, July 4, 1997

Review and photography by Rodney Gitzel

Expectations are worrisome. It's too easy to get all worked up about a band you haven't seen in awhile, and often you remember them being better than they were. Set yourself up for disappointment like that a few times and you start to feel really anxious about seeing old bands.

Fuse rock out And so I was feeling worried about Crankshaft. They, along with the likes of Big Gulp and Mollies Revenge, were one of the first bands I glommed onto when I first moved to Vancouver, mostly because they always put on amazing shows. Their 1994 self-titled CD turned out to be cool, too, a cranked-up bunch of southern-soaked rock tunes... And then they broke up. But, now, about a year later, they're back, and they're playing the Niagara tonight. I hope they don't suck.

But first, Black Strap Onassis. Oh wait, no, these guys on stage say they're "Fuse," instead (later, they explain they were called in at the very last minute as a replacement). A four-piece hanging out in the funky chunky metal universe, the best things about Fuse were (1) they've got a hyper, aggressive (and good) drummer, (2) the singer plays the congas, (3) they greeted the sole admitted American in the crowd with a cheery "Happy America Day, Eh" and (4) they did a hyped-up cover of Sons of Freedom's "You're No Good." Other than that? They said they hadn't rehearsed in awhile, and, overall, they sounded like it. For a couple songs, the bass went waaaaay out of tune, and the singer tried to split the difference between guitar and bass... eeeeeg. Oh well, at least they put some effort into the set.

Bill Johnson wails on his Gibson After a pleasantly brief set change came Removal. Now, I'm not really sure why instrumental rock music tends to suck so badly. Surf music aside, what's left? Guitar wank-a-thons (oh boy, the G3 tour is coming to town... my body is already cringing uncontrollably) and...? Removal.

This local trio makes rock instrumentals work. Some punk, some metal, a little (old) Rush for good measure, a whole lotta energy -- and very little in the way of wanking, noodling or (insert your favourite scary guitar verb here). Yay! Guitarist Bill Johnson, also of Face of Fear, leads the way, and tonight his sinewy body sprawled wildly across the open stage as he squeezed the music out of his old Gibson. Even the 'how to repair a kick drum pedal' lesson in the middle of the set didn't stop the band from being entertaining, which is something even a lot of bands with singers have a problem being.

Crankshaft guitarist But, now, after an unpleasantly long set change, it's time for the man with the biggest grin and the highest cheekbones in show business, it's... no, wait, one of the guitar amps is dead. Sigh. Ok, now they're ready, it's time for Crankshaft! Woowoo, woohoo!

And... they didn't suck. Whew!

Certainly not a classic show, but still quite fun. Singer "Slim Jacky" was his usual overly cheerful, charismatic and insane self. As usual, he nearly got into a fight with an audience member (I've always wondered if those guys might not be plants). As usual, the guitars wailed, the guitarists jumped around a lot and the mid-sized crowd was quite into it all. Cool.

Crankshaft all over the stage Most of the songs were from their CD: "NME," "Wrong," "Weak Jets"... but not "Mao," surprisingly. They also brought Robert Plant (well, big surprise, Mr. Jacky in a blond wig) onstage for a rousing rendition of "Misty Mountain"; the wig made a later appearance attached to Jacky's crotch for "Dress is Torn" (not sure who he was pretending to be, there). Burning a U.S. flag (it was ID4 day, after all) during "Tattoo Germ of Sweat" seemed a little... tasteless... hmmm, wonder if that might have something do with all the fights "Slim" ends up picking...

P.S. Went to the Brickyard after this show to catch Queazy's last (for sure) performance. Yup, they'z packin' it in, though whether Queazy's out for summer or out forever apparently hasn't been decided. (The latter, likely.) Too bad. Oh well, maybe they'll pull a Crankshaft and return someday...

First published in Drop-D Magazine on August 1, 1997

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