w/ The Tranzmitors / Master Apes / Los Tycoons
The Biltmore Cabaret
July 11th, 2008
Mmmm! The Biltmore, with its refurbished red booths, red lights, cavernous mystery – once the most depressing waste of space in Mt. Pleasant, it is now the smoky back-alley lounge of my dreams (minus the smoke, of course, no smoking in Vancouver). And perfect for...
Mmmm... Los Tycoons! Surf music is so vital to the rock family tree, and so often forgot. There is lightning – bottled lightning! – in those looping basslines, the quick ride hits, the stuck-inna-water-tower reverb. It's so amusing! Poking all the fun buttons. Kids are dancing, everyone is young. Tanner, the lil' tyke on “red guitar” (thusly described by the other, older guitarist on “white guitar” during a marvelous “meet the band” moment) – was he even of drinking age? In his muscle shirt, wanking solos – not old enough to be a team player, perhaps, but Los Tycoons sure were wonderful. Among BC surf trios, the Surf Messiahs are tighter, the Tycoons more spacey. Drummer Nate lost his stick at one point, and “white guitar” stopped playing his instrument to retrieve it! I have never seen a drummer receive such courtesy. I felt like hugging.
Mmmm! Master Apes – noisy punk rock, with a twist!! Drummer Levon was up on his feet for the whole show, playing only a snare, a floor tom, a ride and a crash. No kickdrum, no hi-hat, no messin' about! It certainly made for a surprising visual treat, aided and abetted by Levon's pink shirt and unflattering moustache, which reminded me (when sweatin' it) of the pod-ified Donald Sutherland in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Bassist Jake and guitarist Nick traded vocals almost song per song – I prefer Nick for his scratchy wail, bigger range, and departure from the usual punk snark, but Master Apes is all-around a fuckin' rad live band. Candy!
Mmmm... The Tranzmitors! I am sorely underschooled in “punk rock” (really), so the Tranzmitors – ex-Smugglers, ex-New Town Animals – were new to me. And wowiw zowie. All five of them decked in “Canadian tuxedos” (tight jeans & jean jackets) in tribute to the evening's celebratory release. So refreshing to see a band nail it hard from start to finish, tighter than a cat's arse, never letting up, furious energy AND experienced showmanship. Five guys in denim, all very tall. Lead singer Jeffie tossed aside his malfunctioning guitar in the most nonchalant and indifferent manner imaginable – not for spectacle, not as a cathartic release, but just 'cause it wasn't working and it would be better over there, like a bad dog. The guitar continued making nasty feedback, so he kicked it, clipping that noise at a climactic moment with (accidentally?) perfect cheorography. Magic! The Ace Tone keyboard sure cooked, and I figure it must have been 50 degrees celsius inside Nick's tightly buttoned denim tuxedo.
Mmmm! Vancougar. Yes, the cleverest gag name in this city, yes. And nothing gets gals rockin' like rockin' gals! Vancougar are total fluff, but joyous. They cannot match the preceding triple-threat fireball freakshow, but they've got charm.
My Vancougar story is that I procured a misprint of Canadian Tuxedo's advance 7” single, 'Obvious', with – for real – a full-bore viking black metal song on the B-side. It was a pressing plant accident and very rare! So thanks Mint Records! I thought this was hilarious. I couldn't have predicted that 'Obvious', the A-side, would become my summertime obsession; the simplest of simple pop songs, with only one lyric: “It's so obvious to me / We were meant to be alone”. This sugary crack has become a permanent fixture of my frontal lobe... though recently it was pitched to me that maybe Eden is singing, “We were meant to be in love,” in which case, fuck it, the fire is out.
Well, Vancougar played 'Obvious', and they played a lot of other things. They are Vancouver's Bangles, your classic girl-group, playing up the cutesy aspect (though full-grown women). It's CC Rose on drums who carries it for me... between Vancougar, Pink Mountaintops, and the defunct Cinch and Sun Arise, she's clearly a women of power and taste who lends an undercurrent of edginess to the proceedings that perhaps, say, the sparkly keyboardery, big smiles and granny glasses of bandmate Megan do not (for example). But it's a good personality clash in the 'Coug. Eden's vocals, the song structures, Becca's super distorto fuzz-bass, they're all kinda repetitive, but damn it, I can't figure out why this glues to the cranium so frickin' much...
...the power of pop?