A band's farewell tour is one of the most bittersweet events I can think of, sort of like when you know someone is going to break up with you but you agree to meet up with them anyways and give it your best anyhow. What made this show special in particular was that it was the Ergs! first and last show in Toronto, if I'm not mistaken, so this was the first time a lot of folks would get to see them live as well as the last.
The show was scheduled to start pretty early with doors at 7 and it was in a place to my knowledge that hadn't previously hosted a show: the Canadian Corps Legion Hall. People poured into the venue around 7 and the atmosphere was pretty relaxed as it was a dry show and there were tables set up for show-goers to kick back before the bands took the stage.
The first band of the evening was a local band, Junior Battles, who I had never seen before. They drew comparisons to Jawbreaker, however, so I was anticipating their set. They ended up sounding a little more like the Lawrence Arms with their two guitarists trading vocals; also, having two guitars helped flesh out their sound a lot more. Early on there were some problems with the sound in regards to one of the vocalists because you couldn't really hear him, but it improved slightly throughout the set and didn't negatively impact things too much. Overall, they were good performers; the songs sounded good and although the crowd wasn't moving too much they seemed to be enjoying things.
After a reasonably short setup time, the next local band, World War 1 (how apropos that we were in a legion hall, eh? Eh? Ahhh, forget it). They are a band I've heard a bit about since they've been playing a good amount of shows since their inception, but I've never had the chance to catch them until now. The show flier drew comparisons to Hot Snakes, and that is noticeable but to me they have a lot more straightforward hardcore punk leanings. The crowd was noticeably bigger for their set. I didn't catch the whole thing, though, because I skipped out part of the way through to go find a friend. From what I did see I was impressed as the band seemed really into it and they had a strong dynamic working among the three of them.
Next up were a band I'd seen a few times and was stoked to see again because they are one of the best power-pop/pop-punk bands going and they have always put on a great show each time I've seen them: Sudbury, Ontario's Statues. This set was no different and they livened up the crowd with some people singing along and a few seemingly drunk folks dancing. However, there was still a few problems with the sound at this point. Still, it was remarkable how tight the band plays together and how good the songs come off live.
Now, I had seen Static Radio NJ once before, and I must admit I didn't enjoy that set very much. Looks like a lot of things have changed since then because the band impressed the hell out of me, from the songs themselves to vocalist Mike's engaging stage presence. There was also more people with raised fists and a few singing along, but unfortunately their fast-paced hardcore tunes were a bit lost on a crowd relatively unfamiliar with their songs and mostly sober. I picked up their recent full-length, An Evening of Bad Decisions, and I recognized them playing a number of songs such as " "Places" and "Who's Laughing Now" off of that.
When the Ergs! finally took the stage (well, there wasn't an actual stage but you get the idea) the crowd had moved in and was noticeably excited. They started things off appropriately with "First Song, Side One" and people started singing along and the whole crowd, it seemed, had a big smile on their face. By the third song or so, for the first time in the night, a small pit had started. The set was pretty heavily focused on Dorkrockcorkrod, which seemed fine to the majority in attendance, but Upstairs/Downstairs is my personal favourite and I could have used a few more songs off of it -- but who am I to complain. At one point, when they introduced that their next song was off of a split with Lemuria, the crowd was noticeably energized and the band launched into "Introducing Morrissey." It proved to be one of the biggest crowd-pleasers of the night, with people bobbing up and down and singing every word. A huge personal surprise for me was when Mikey Erg announced they'd be playing a cover of a Montreal band and proceeded to do an awesome rendition of the Nils' "Fountains." I may have been the only one singing along but it was very thoughtful of them to bring some regional flavour to their set and do a song most people will never get to hear live. There was also a rather sad moment when someone in the crowd asked them to stay together and they responded with something like "we would if we could." Yet, there were mostly really happy moments, like when the band finally conceded to playing "Vampire Party" for those shouting for it in the crowd even though they seemed a little rusty on it. For the final number in the set, "Books About Miles Davis," Mikey Erg got up from his drum kit to sing with Joe taking a seat and Jeff acting as his only accompaniment on guitar to a rather subdued crowd. While the rest of the members resumed their usual positions, Jeff, like at many points throughout the night, showed off his considerable guitar skills until eventually everyone, band and crowd alike, erupted for the crescendo of, "In a place I've only read about in books about Miles Davis." After they thanked everyone, said goodnight and the crowd gave their applause and milled around a bit, the band returned to their instruments and people began to request "Aja," to which the band complied. At that point the pit grew and people bounced all around and I moved to the centre of the pit in the middle of the "stage." After "Aja" ended they said they were going to play one more song and it would be a cover of a band that was very important to all of them and that song was "Bikeage" by the Descendents, and the crowd went bo-nanas and fell over each other singing every word -- well, I almost sang every word as I was just trying to keep my balance.
When the dust had settled and people were finally heading out, I think everyone had a big smile on their face, I know mine has barely left as I'm writing this. It was a great bill with great bands, and a good crowd. If this was the last time most of us would see the Ergs!, we certainly wouldn't need anything else.
Set list by album (mostly complete/accurate):
Jersey's Best Prancers EP
- Kind of Like Smitten
- Aja [encore]
- First Song, Side One
- A Very Special Song for a Very Special Young Lady Part 2
- Most Violent Rap Group
- Pray for Rain
- Saturday Night Crap-o-Rama
- Running, Jumping, Standing Still
- Vampire Party
Hindsight Is 20/20, My Friend
- Bike Shoppe
- See Him Again
- Trouble in River City
- Books About Miles Davis
- Introducing Morrissey
- It's Like I Say, Y'know
- Fountains (Nils cover)
- And the True Believers [new song]
- Bikeage (Descendents cover) [encore]