Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel
Nardwuar is riding some pretty cool waves right now. He just celebrated 11 years of informative, utterly hilarious radio shit-disturbing on UBC campus station CiTR with a 24-hour marathon of just that. His bands the Evaporators, thee Goblins and thee Skablins have just released their new opus I Gotta Rash/We Are Thee Goblins from Canada. And since tonight's show was a continuation of the merriment, you knew this night was going to be a hoot.
The night began with Nardwuar informing us that when D.O.A. played thee Pirates' hometown of Kamloops recently, the lead Pirate was the only one who spit on Joey Shithead (indeed, the first to do that in years)! How does Nardwuar know this stuff!!? Bands beware. He knows your darkest secrets. Anyway, thee Pirates were like Captain Tractor getting jumped into the Ducky Boys from the movie The Wanderers. As fast and Celtic as a bullet train full of Harp Ale, they played a tight, entertaining set of Jolly Roger punk rock.
The lead singer sang speed demon shanties like "I Am a Pirate" ("I am a pirate/a pirate's what I am") with real heart and conviction, which is good because, other than his considerable spiked hair, the intense creepiness of the beret-wearing bassist, and the thrill of watching pick hands move like ninety, the visual appeal was limited. Still, this was some fine catchy tuneage to whet the appetite for...
Head from Seattle?? To quote Mr. Horse, "No Sir, I didn't like it." Nardwuar gave Head (not to be confused with hHead) a rousing introduction, saying that it was the band's rock and roll dream to play Canada. Come on! They're from Seattle not Thailand, how hard could it be?
Head suffer from what I like to call Fastbacks Syndrome, in that every song sounds the same. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, if the one song you play is shit hot, but such is not the case with Head. They played riff heavy pop-punk with really dumb lyrics ("Do you remember me/I live in a tree/I smoke a lot of dope/??? the Pope"), but they are devoid of any humor doing it. The only bright spot was their cover of the Chocolate Watchband's "I'm Not Like Anybody Else," which was faithful. Though there wasn't a mass exodus, a lot of people eventually went outside for sanctuary and a cigarette during the band's set.
The Murder City Devils must be from... D.C.?... Detroit?... no, Seattle! Fuck grunge, let's rock. Sleazy and greasy punk and roll so big it's ginormous, with a singer who looked like Drew Carey -- that is until he shed his work shirt and glasses to reveal that he is indeed a manic, intense rock machine of the finest take-no-shit, kick out the jams tradition. And, of course, Nardwuar had a colorful anecdote to open their set with....
Nardwuar: One time, you guys didn't get paid in money, the club owner paid you in food...?So this crazed singer wearing a vintage Neil Diamond t-shirt led his band of much repute through a sweaty set of stompin' tunes which was like the Stooges meet the Gun Club. We're talkin' awesome low-end rumble here, folks. The one guitarist was snapping his fingers and doing the beatnik bop while making porno faces, the other guitarist was makin' all Buddy Holly cool like, and the bass player was bustin' rock moves that would make the Monoxides weep all over their Hawaiian shirts (he also played a mean frathouse organ). And most of the time the three of them were airborne.
Murder City Devils: Stamps!
N: And what did you buy with the food stamps?
N: And then you were in that city in Northern California, Sacra... ?
N: And then you went to the house of Tesla, famed rock and roll band in the city of Sacramento, and what did you do?
M: We egged Tesla's house!
They played a song about Johnny Thunders, and the singer jumped all over the place, hootin' and hollerin' with the mike in his mouth. For the finale they set the organ on fire. Play a flaming organ and the world will beat a path to your door...
And now it was time. The audience had just been rocked and rocked hard. It was now time for some jiggery pokery, a little bit of buffoonery, and a crash course in extroverted-goof as-garage-rock-guru with Nardwuar and his merry band of musical eccentrics.
First up, the wearers of the big W, thee Goblins. Drum 'n organ instrumentals like if the Residents played hockey fight songs. The big N got a few people up on stage to strike the classic bodybuilder pose and shout UNNH! at strategic intervals. Then out came the brass, and purple SKA-crested shirts signifying the arrival of thee horny Skablins. They played a couple of swinging ditties highlighted by excellent bass playing.
Then came the arrival of the Evaporators, with the big N sporting a flashy black Thriller shirt, a red and black Michael Jackson-issue jacket, and billowy white harem pants with legs that looked like inflatable pontoons. He ran in place like Richard Simmons, scissor-kicked like David Lee Roth (well, not quite), and ran all over the hall like he was leading some demented pep rally. For one song he had two guys holding the keyboard, three people trying to play it, and one excited kid sitting on it. Talk about your unique concert memory.
I've got to give special mention to the other guys in the band because Nardwuar usually gets all the attention. Guitarist Dave Carswell (also of the Smugglers), bassist John Collins, and drummer Scott Livingstone don't get enough credit for what they do, which is to lay down a strong foundation for the big N to sing and dance over. These guys would probably kick mighty ass on their own. Carswell even unleashes the odd guitar solo, like the one he whipped out in "Higgly Piggly."
For the denouement of tonight's performance, a reworking of the Edwin Hawkins Singers' "Oh Happy Day," the band donned priest's robes. The big N then enticed the audience, each and every one, to get down on the floor and jump when he gave the signal. Several times over.
By the time the show was over we had found out that "Mercury motors have plastic propellers," that Nardwuar has a rash, that he's your buddy, and that he's going to France. We also found out that if it wasn't for the Vancouver Sun, the show's sponsor and deposit-payer, this show would not have happened. And later we found Daniel Richler outside! He and his Big Life crew were filming tonight's show, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
Soon we will be sharing the Evaporators with the rest of the world [ed. Watch for them throughout Canada in the second half of May, and down in the States for a few weeks in June.], but if the Murder City Devils are any indication of what we are receiving in return, then I have just one last thing to say: Vive la free trade!
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