From the lengthy conversation with Against Me! bassist Andrew Seward upstairs at Rickshaw Theatre to the pair of 7" records I scored downstairs, nearly completing my collection, it was already a memorable evening in the making.
The evening’s beloved headliners weren't the only act I had high expectations for. Cancer Bats were one of those bands I’d continually heard great things about, though regretfully had never experienced until tonight. Setting the mood with a crimson medley of quotes from my favorite movie--Lost Boys--was a flawless initiation.
The seemingly large pit of fans dispersed immediately--separating the hardcore kids from the innocent bystanders (guilty as charged)--as the Bats made their descent. A captivating, devil-locked frontman and his clan of gruff musicians unleashed a slaughter of Zack Wylde-approved guitar riffs alongside a kindred NY hardcore-sounding choral scorn.
CB frontman in question Liam Cormier made friends quickly as he described his longing to be in Vancouver for the recent Olympic U.S. and Canada hockey game. He paid his respect both to opening act Jaguar Love--who played while my photographer and I stood, waiting in line despite our guestlisting--as well as the Against Me! camp. Fan favorite “Pneumonia Hawk” was heard, as well as “Scared to Death” and a bone-crippling Beastie Boys cover, “Sabotage”--both from their newly released Sabotage EP and forthcoming album Bears, Mayors, Scraps & Bones.
Gainesville’s fab four soon surfaced while “These Boots Were Made for Walking” primed the walls of the sold-out theatre. Testing new waters with a tale of anarchist past, Tom’s signature rasp cut through the pack with vigor as he disclosed “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” from the upcoming 2010 release, White Crosses. Instantly, I felt a stronger connection with the band and crowd alike than at past performances.
Was it “White People for Peace,” “Don’t Lose Touch” or future title track “White Crosses” that had my fist, my heart and--above all--my smile screaming within the set’s initial minutes? While the latter is surely an enchanting instant classic regarding extremist fundamentalism, there is little room for awe outside of hearing the lyrics, “Turn gunshots and mortar blasts into a metaphor of how we are all the same / This is the party we came for” in “Cliché Guevera.”
Amongst Andrew’s signatory mannerisms, James’ trademark background cries and newcomer George’s bullseye drumming were amps with White Crosses-style lettering. One so boldly displayed what appeared to read “Fear breeds in honest men”--which is thought-provoking at bare minimum.
“Because of the Shame” and “Suffocation” was the final pair of new material, the second of these songs being my least favorite of the bunch. It did offer a ditty of a guitar solo; why they required a second (guest) rhythm guitar player is unknown.
Fresh from a handful of Florida home-state club shows and a one-off stint in Seattle, they seemed genuinely at home in front of the significantly larger Canuck mob of 1000 faces. “I wish Canada would adopt us,” he craved, with his command temporarily granted as they are set to embark on a country-wide arena run with Billy Talent all month long. Thankfully, the Van-city vermin were the fortunate few who experienced an intimate tour opener as well as a set list sure to rival the rest of the nation’s (in both length and song selection). Hearing Tom’s recent solo cut “Amputations” alongside classics “I Still Love You Julie” and “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong” provided a famously seasoned set as the clock turned to 11:00--a dreadful curfew for the city’s all-ages shows.
Gratefully, our southern souls returned, discounting the regulation and kicking into their (arguably) most triumphant tune of all: “T.S.R.” “The party’s over / It was fun while it lasted / I hope everybody had a good time” echoed over the crowd who surely did. Cries of both surprise and endorsement rattled the room’s walls as the evening’s final number, “Baby, I’m an Anarchist,” assembled the crowd. Originally a duet, in this instance it was a choir of all ages, races and (I’d bet) political stances.
Tom dodged crowd surfers and smirked at the scantily clad gal in the crowd, elevated with her back towards him. Although it may have gone unnoticed to the chanting baron with whom I stood, I appreciated the contrast from the set’s opening take on anarchism to the closing radical anthem. Showcasing the here and now, the career-planting seeds and all that flourished in between, Tom and his band of merry men avoid stagnation yet maintain relevance. Well, boys, in spite of what fashion--it sure is great to know you.