I like my women how I like my shows: sweaty and within walking distance of a hospital. This fine April Fools' Eve, Vancouver, BC's Riff Randells swept through town to fulfill these parameters. The show was taking place in the basement of a bar by the name of the White Orchid. I slipped into the bar and down the narrow steps to take it all in. It was a darkly lit room setting the ambience for baby-making, with the bands set up at the far end under a blacklight. The tricky part here was the washrooms were situated directly behind the bands; on a sloppier night this would make for quite the dangerous enterprise. Thankfully, for the bands this was not a sloppier night.
At around 10 o'clock, after much fiddling with the sound system, the opening band finished setting up. They go by the name of Boulevard Trash and are a comparatively young band on the local scene I guess. Unlike the rest of the bands on the bill, the main vocalist had testicles that weren't taken at gunpoint. The strongest aspect of the band I witnessed was perhaps the contrast between vocalist/guitarist Jesse and guitarist/vocalist Lindsay. Both singers bring a snotty attitude to their poppy spirit of `77 punk but Lindsay has a more laid back sort of "I don't give a fuck" attitude and Jesse brings a more maniacal "give me your fingernails!" aspect to the live show. Drummer Bobby was also playing with an injured hand like a real trooper. I'm positive I've seen them on more than one occasion prior, but remember those sloppier nights I was talking about? Yeah. They played off each other well and had some solid showmanship, such as Jesse falling to the ground during the last song. Solid group of people.
Next up were the Bayonettes, which I was particularly jazzed for. By this time the room had filled up considerably, and recall how I mention I liked my shows sweaty? Well, I've worn down-filled jackets into shows before and this was up there with the hottest I've ever been. Anywho, the band opened up with "Doomed" from their latest 7", and things were off to a bit of a rocky start: You couldn't really hear the vocals at all. It was however soon fixed and they really ripped into their power-poppy set. Despite the abnormal heat, vocalist Zoe was up there strutting her stuff, charismatic and as alluring as an untouched stack of Jenga. Glorious, glorious Jenga. The luckiest member of the band in that heat was probably Mary Ann because she had a perfect grooving-along bassist stance going through much of the set. Any bassist worth their weight in government cheese has to have a good grooving-along bassist stance. They played a couple of new songs as well, which sounded superb, maybe even slightly harder than some of their other material, or maybe I was drunk. They closed the set with "Stuck in This Rut" which was a definite highlight, with Zoe just screaming her lungs out.
While the next setup was taking place some non-musical entertainment was being provided. Gentleman, scholar and judge of fine whiskey Nick Flanagan (of Brutal Knights shame) graced the audience with his own brew of comedy. He claimed he wanted to gear his routine toward what power-pop fans would like. Apparently, power-pop fans enjoy jokes and musings about centipedes, sex trade workers, and amputees. I for one vote for more comedians at punk shows.
After xFlanzx had finished up, the B-Girls took the stage proclaiming "no more washroom breaks" or something to that effect. Toronto's B-Girls were an original `77-era punk band that had a couple of releases on Bomp! Records and broke up in early `80s. This incarnation of the band featured original vocalist Lucasta Ross and bassist Cynthia Ross along with members of the Screwed. I was a little hesitant to see them because of the age-ism I developed. You see, just two nights prior I had seen Vancouver's power-pop elder statesmen the Pointed Sticks at their reunion show and while I enjoyed myself I felt they lacked a bit in the energy department. The B-Girls luckily were just as energetic as their younger counterparts that night, especially vocalist Lucasta. They put on a really fun set even if it seemed kind of short. Their music appears to occupy the poppier end of the power-pop spectrum, bringing to mind classic girl group-pop from the `60s. The Bayonettes' Zoe and Mary Ann even helped sing backup vocals on a few songs.
Not long after the B-Girls exited, the Riff Randells took the stage, moving through the wall of human heat. I won't claim to have listened to the Riff Randells any more than a song or two in passing but I was mightily impressed that night. Out of any band on the bill the Riff Randells were the tightest sounding of them all. The only negative aspect I can recall was a few particularly ear=piercing moments of feedback. The part of their catchy power-pop-punk that was most impressive was their really great sounding guitar solos; now, call me un-punk because that's what I am, but some tasteful solos never hurt anybody. They played some new songs which sounded great gearing up for what I believe is the well-established first full-length, wetting the pallete of new and old fans alike. The standout part of the set toward the end was "Bandana."
Since it was getting late and I live about a dozen subway stops away from the show I decided to hit the rails in order to perform a one-man rendition of Tony Kushner's Angels in America. Covering quite the generational spectrum of Canadian power-pop the show was extremely impressive. The band in question all get extra points for having their cold Canadian hearts melted in the sweltering heat. If you get the chance to see any of these groups live I suggest you take it, especially Nick Flanagan with or without his band.
The Bayonettes' set list (from what it says):
- Guilty Pleasure
- Let It Go
- new song
- Take This Pill
- new song
- Hungry for You
- Stuck in This Rut
Riff Randells' set list
(from what it says, confusing...they may not have played all of these):
- How â??Bout Romance?
- Lethal Lipgloss
- Listen Up (new song?)
- Parker Place (new song?)
- Mississippi Hotdog
- Traitor of Love (new song?)
- He Looks at Me (new song?)
- Double Cross