New Music West '98
Various Venues
Vancouver, B.C.
May, 1998

Review by Darren Kerr
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

"You know the day destroys the night
Night divides the day
Try to run, try to hide. Break on through
to the other side"
- Jim Morrison

"Watching the corners turn corners"
- Tom Verlaine

Did I do New Music West or did New Music West do me? I ask myself this question as I try to piece together the shattered fragments of my mind. This bacchanal of music and mayhem does it to me every year. I become both corruptor and corrupted.

My illustrious colleague Michael O'Donahue said, "The rock is out there. I will search for the rock." I said, "The beer is out there. I will search for the beer." Well I found it all right, in copious amounts everywhere I turned, but I also found a higher understanding of what New Music West is all about. It's not about corporate toadies walking around in major label stud attire giving good cel phone and declaring "this band is a viable commodity for our organization." It's about experiences musical, spiritual, and alcoholic. It's about meeting new friends and really bonding, wandering into a different club and knowing you've just found a future hangout. It's about the ology of the izness. It's about being able to stand up and say THIS SCENE IS NOT DEAD, VANCOUVER IS A ROCK AND ROLL TOWN AND ALWAYS HAS BEEN.

Here's the kicker, folks: This happens every weekend. Maybe it's not the one price theme park package tour with sponsorship up the wazoo but there are excellent bands all the time.

Since the music begat the booze, here is a blow-by-blow, beer-by-beer account of my mad, ecstatic stumble through New Music West.

Thursday and Friday -- "Join together in the band"

I had to miss Thursday's surprises because of that necessary evil called work. My Friday evening then started out with a frantic forty-minute search for my wristband and laminate. My place looked like it had been ransacked by spies looking for microfilm when I left, running like ninety all the way to the skytrain. I arrived at the Picadilly just in time to catch the last three songs by the Brown Eyed Susans. They had a full thick sound and came off like Redd Kross if they were influenced by Gerry and the Pacemakers instead of 70's glam. A good cross-section of the crowd liked them though.

Then along came Sam, who played that style of overwrought grunge rock along the lines of Tool, but without the madness. Left after one song because we weren't in the mood for such posturing.

We then traveled to the Marine Club, a cozy little place which was so jam packed with people that cozy turned claustrophobic. The Salteens played a groovy harmonic pop with a heavy bang and bounce quotient. Their songs are memorable and they have a very skilled drummer. I would've liked to report on the visual aspect of the band, but with all the people right at the front of the stage, I couldn't see very bloody much at all. I'm gonna have to catch the Salteens again because I thought they were damn cool.

We blew that sardine can and went back to the Pic to see Bossanova and walked into another full house. Good ta see, let me tell you. I was expecting something much more noodley with dollops of fractured skree, but they were definitely not meandering. Chris Thoreau's guitars were loud, as were Heather of the Electrosonics' dual Acetone keyboards. Tight pop songs with an unassuming ebb and flow with Thoreau's low croon fighting for air above all the churning. The second last song was the best, the extended coda possessing the same galloping organ timbre as the Velvet's "Sister Ray."

Of course the only band that could follow Bossanova was... Hissy Fit?!? Whoever put this bill together you've got some 'splaining to do.

You know, I'm sure people must think that we here at Drop-D in cahoots with Hissy Fit. That there is some kind of conflict of interest going on. Well, I have a confession to make. We cover Hissy Fit a lot because they FRIGGIN' ROCK, so fuck off!! Gisele has the best set of punk rock pipes in the city. Her unique caterwauling delivery tears strips off of the tired likes of L7 and ninety percent of the so-called punk rock elite. Terry, Rich, Scott, and Gisele's playing is like an uncaged lion at feeding time -- roaring, hungry, and looking to bite your leg off, and the songs are choice.

Tonight a number of guest vocalists joined the fray: our own Michael O'Donahue and his roommate Lara lent wicked vocal support to "I Never Promised You A Rose Garden," and even yours truly got into the act helping out on the Dead Kennedy's "Too Drunk to Fuck". The band ended with an awesome cover of "I Believe In Miracles." So there you have it. Hissy Fit rule. All detractors, you can stick that in your pipe and take a deep long haul, baby.

Saturday -- "Well I feel pretty good and I guess that I could get crazy now, baby!!!"

So I'm feelin' pretty loose, ambling along in the sunshine. I've got the MC5's "Skunk" buzzing around in my head (the lines of which will prove prophetic by night's end) and I'm approaching the Plaza of Nations. It's fairly dead except for the fervent set-up activity onstage and the people at the basketball challenge trying to get you to say the "magic" phrases "obey your thirst" and "I wash my hair in Sprite." You could hear the skate park announcer saying things like "oh he fell again, that was a shit hack special. That must've hurt."

After awhile, Limestone, from Victoria, took the stage. They are young, probably about 16, 17 years old so I can't be too critical about their neo-grunge, hair-swinging, guitar chug. The musicianship was definitely not lacking and I'm sure that experience and maturity will see their songwriting abilities grow. They were energetic and they were loud. I bet they go down a treat with the hometown kids.

"Not a straight edge band". That's what the banner in front of the stage proudly declared as Edmonton's LAMS stomped into view. They are no-bones hardcore punk that is harder than corundum and stronger than dirt. They played songs about one of their favorite things -- beer -- and also gave a warning to the rest of the world that, yes, Canada may be passive, but "on the ice we're not so nice." My favorite part of their set came when they introduced "her name is Lisa, faster than light" to lend her angry tones and stage presence to a duel with the lead singer that went "I'm right!!" "You're wrong!!" "I'm right!!" "You're wrong!!" before she knuckled into solo verses like a seasoned pro. She's in a band already, I reckon.

After their set, much hilarity ensued when behemoth bass player Vince displayed his unique t-shirt selling technique, which consisted of ballroom dancing with said shirts, as well as flopping on the ground like he was just shot. I don't know how he expected to sell merch when all around must've thought he was a certifiable nutcase. Still it was pretty fucking funny.

It was around that time that we started to smell something foul, a powerful corporate stink. Sure enough, to our right was the smarmy, brown-suited T.D.M., self appointed ruler of the left coast music scene. Vince walked near, one meaty fist raised as if to crown the king, then thought better of it and just walked away in disgust. "Did you get your shot?" T.D.M. inquired snottily to our Rodney who was snapping pix of Vince's antics when TDM's head got in the way. He clearly thought all the focus was on him. Ridiculous. Hilarious. Fun, even. When all's said and done, the LAMS kick large amounts of ass.

So we next decided to check out the New Music Mall. At first glance it looked like overpriced swag. You know what? It was overpriced swag, except for the Mint Records booth. Body piercing, sunglasses, french polishing (just kidding), you know, the usual hip stuff. Finally found the beer garden which consisted of cider or Molson Canadian pumped into kegs from a tanker truck out back (seriously!). Four bucks for a plastic glass guaranteed that most of that beer was going to stay in the tank.

Back outside and... Copyright. How can a band that sounds so good be so full of shit? Lead singer Tom Anselmi strutted onto the stage with a pocketful of cock and a headful of Morrison vogue. Yep, Anselmi has a habit of wearing freak flag pants and today's cream and orange number didn't disappoint. In fact, combined with his Jimmy Pageboy hair, he looked like a girl. The bass player meanwhile looked like he'd rather be home watching golf. Maybe it was one of those band-prison things where if he strayed too far from the designated footprints he'd be electrocuted.

I love the sound of this band though. The guitarist has that rare ability to sound like he's playing three guitars instead of just one blue Fender Mustang. His use of textured notes, perfect delay and sweeping, grandiose chords gives this band their dynamic intensity. Without him Copyright would be just another posturing, dead-in-the-water rock band. No, I can't be that mean. Anselmi has a epic voice full of shuddering splendor. I just wish he'd lay off the groin-thrusting.

Bottom line: A much better Copyright set than last year. Anselmi didn't even gob on anybody.

We then drove to der Brickyard for Denise Sheppard's Exclaim! party. We parked a few blocks away and saw a Gary Coleman homeboy-pimp-wannabe apparently trying to recruit to no avail. Arrive to find wacky varieties of pizza. Devil's Delight, potato pizza, meatball pizza, four different vegan pizzas, you name it. Denise, ever the gracious host, made sure we were all well and goodly juiced on vitamin B-E-E-R. At this point I truly felt on top of the world. You know that feeling where your step gets a little springier and you start to glow in bright burning neon colors? When you just have to say WHAT THE FUCK!! Well, that was me.

I don't know whether it was the mood I was in, or maybe I just had Supergrass tunnelvision but, whatever the reason, I didn't like the Papillomas when I saw them play the Rage some time ago. But I liked them just fine on this night. Tight, catchy pop tunes with just enough Pavement/slacker elements to up the ante. One guy in the band is missing a hand and plays with a pick attached to a clamp. Now that's determination and perseverence personified. Other details are quite hazy so just let me say that the Papillomas were very "on" tonight.

Out of the ashes of Sparkmarker, Strain, Sineater, and Pebble, spleen-venters all, comes Samsaraseven. I didn't "see" much of them (it wasn't just me, the place was packed by this point), but they sounded crisp and powerful. Perfect sturm und drang soundtrack for pool table obliteration. I'm looking forward to hearing more from this emotional, intense band in the future.

No gold dress tonight. No gimmicks or smoke or mirrors. Plenty of angular space-age polymer rock though. This was Closed Caption Radio, who are riding pretty high now that they are signed to Sonic Unyon and have just released their debut, Slang X Generator. They mix elements of Krautrock, modern prog, and lots o' dissonant noise to come up with a loud, challenging beast. Their songwriting seems to have developed more fishhooks since I last saw them opening up for dramamine salesmen Pigment Vehicle. Dig it weirdo.

I missed Modest Mouse for reasons totally within my control which I will not get into. That's right I plead the fifth. I know... I suck.

Big hairy kudos to the people who put this whole thing together in such a short time. Boys and girls give yourselves a round of well deserved applause.

I would like to thank: everybody, Denise Sheppard & Exclaim!, The Academy, God, Music West, Music West, Roly poly Music West, Music West, Music West.

Eat it up, yum.

Until next year, osmosis, amoebas...........

First published in Drop-D Magazine on December 5, 1998

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