The wife and I stopped in at the backroom of The Rivoli on Toronto's Queen St West strip for some punk-entertainment. International Pop Overthrow has brought their punk-based, mostly indie, festival north to Canada for it's club debut. They've got a 4-day run booked, presenting 10-15 bands a day. Quite a lot to take in some my ADD addled mind. So I picked four bands playing the Bullseye Records showcase. Thanks to Pete Kashur for the 'heads up'.
We're in the city early enough to find parking within a short walking distance of The Rivoli. It also results in our witnessing The Modern Punk Quartet. Two things of interest. 1) During their short set they were a trio for song 1 and a quintet for all but their last song, when they were finally a quartet. 2) The last song was a spirited, if flawed, cover of New York City by Canadian punk-legends The Demics. Made what preceeded it bearable.
Next up, from Youngstown, Ohio, a post-punk supergroup, of sorts. Actually I'd argue that the concept of a 'supergroup' is anti-thetical to the punk ethos but his band is comprised of former members of the Stiv Bators Band, Napoleon in Rags and the Infidels. (Those last two band names are somewhat related to Dylan.)
The Deadbeat Poets bring a tongue-in-cheek humour to the 2 minute power punk genre. The set opens with a self-searching blast at accountability, "Where Was I When I Needed Me?" Great work from shaggy-headed guitarist Pete Drivere who was just blistering the whole set. They had some troubles with tuning but after all, this is punk, tuning should be just an afterthought.
Third band is The First Time, a hard-driving punk band with something intangible happening. After making a buzz in 2005 on the Toronto Indie scene they underwent some personnel changes and have emerged with Ron McJannet fronting the band. If their success is predicated on his continued growth then they have a chance because he commands the stage well now and has the chutzpah to make an impression.
He opens the show with an a capella version of Dorothy Fields' If My Friends Could See Me Now, as dry-ice fog envelops him he belts it out like he was Judy Garland. Attention grabbing, but no gimic, it's a fun and powerful one minute intro. It accomplishes much more in my mind... you gotta respect kids who respect the history of music. The set showcases songs from their new release, TakingBreakingDown. Can-con highlight of the night...a cover of Gordon Lightfoot's Sundown that you would not believe.
Last band for us tonight is The Original Segarini Band. Now what to say about Bob Segarini? I dunno, so I'll just make some shit up.
He was there, in The Haight, when the counter-culture was busy being born. For reasons undisclosed (but likely having to do with morals laws) he made his way to Canada sometime in the mid-to-late '70's. Here he became a bit of a fixture on the college-pub circuit and in 1978 released a piece of art that stands the test of time, Gotta Have Pop. That record sits alongside Van Morrison's Moondance, The Beatles Abbey Road, John Prine's Sweet Revenge, Creedence Clearwater Revival's Cosmo's Factory, John Otway's Deep Thought (a NA release that was a combination of 'John Otway & Wild Billy Barrett' and 'Deep and Meaningless', but i digress) and Nick Lowe's Jesus of Cool, which was released in NA as Pure Pop for Now People.
Are they as good as those records?
Who am I to say?
The point is when you drop the needle on any of them, there's no need to remove it...every song is a joy to hear and that's quite an accomplishment.
Gotta Have Pop is both a send-up and an homage. It's a moment in time that never got it's righteous due in the rock pantheon. Them's the breaks, I guess.
Which is why it's a pleasure to be standing 15 feet from the stage with my sight-line and bead on the PA banks unimpeded by visual or auditory distractions. He's backed tonight by the players who were in the studio with him almost 30 years ago, and a couple of chick-a-dees they picked up on the way 'cause neither of those girls could have been born in 1978. Bob and the band deliver, covering a ton of songs from Gotta Have Pop.
They open with a trip to the Islands, Jamaica that is, a funky rendition of I Want You To Stay from the 1977 EP, Starlight.
I think lead guitarist Pete Kashur deviates from the set list and throws the audience an early bone as the ringing opening chords of Gotta Have Pop get us into and through the 800 pound gorilla in the room. A pop-anthem.
We dive into the melodramatic angst of the lovelorn and lovetorn with the pairing of I Don't Want to Lose You and the dreamy Hide Away.
Livin' in the Movies lightens the mood considerably. Some great lyrics in here as we wade through the pitfalls of a menage-a-trois, or perhaps merely unrequited love. Bob changes the line the whole song turns on though. What was once, "i'm not even sorry that I hit you that night..." becomes "i'm not even sorry that I spanked you that night..." I guess it stings a little less in this PC days. Still with tongue-in-cheek, which seems to be a sub-theme amongst the fun-loving bands onstage tonight, we get the 50's era Steady Eddie. There ain't no cumupance like your kids. This song could have appeared in a dream sequence in Blackboard Jungle or even High School Hellcats. We move from the coolness of James Dean to the dorkiness of the disco era with the hilarious Don't Believe A Word I Say. Almost a doo-wop song it lampoons the shallowness of the chase in the 'image is everything' age. Hey, if you can't laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? I used to own a crushed velvet jacket.
Back to some pure pop with When The Lights Are out before the set closes with the more mature Good-Bye LA and the anthemic Juvenile Delinquents double-shot.
I missed not hearing Dressed in the Dark or Love Story but it is a festival set. This band has tightened considerably since the last time I saw them, over a year ago, while retaining a party looseness that makes them a joy to witness. I hope Bob gets to play this show for more audiences...they'd do well to take in a night and revisit the golden age of new wave music.
There's a torrent of this show running at dime.