NOVEMBER 13th 2015

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan


Friday night the Rickshaw had its hands full with aged punks and a full bill. There was a strange mix of folks from your average couple to the kilted-out half-shaved and tatted types but despite the variety; everyone was in perfect form to enjoy the shenanigans ahead.

Openers Los Kung Fu Monkeys from Tijuana, Mexico, set the tone for an energetic night with some island-type beats a la Sublime.  Using higher-note intermittent picking, slower paced drums with lots of cymbals and a different overall arrangement (three guitars, and even an accordion at one point!) the set was varied to say the least. The boys gave several shout-outs including one to the late Brandon Carlisle, drummer for Teenage Bottlerocket, who passed away after being found unconscious in his home on November 3rd. They also sent tunes out to the other bands, Vancouverites for their support and even to all the ladies in the house as they covered “Boys Don’t Cry” by The Cure. We were also sampled a couple of hometown songs in Spanish and a guest vocalist came out on the last with an air hump that would have made Pam Anderson blush. The set itself was fine but was nothing to write home about in the end.

Next on stage was Rude City Riot, who surprised the shit out of me by setting up not only your typical vocalist, two guitars, bass and drum kit, but also with a trombone and alto saxophone. They channeled a real New Orleans vibe while still dabbling in some groove-rock. They seemed like an odd choice for an opener but everyone went with it. The band played well together and somehow all the pieces fit. Being a former band geek myself, I can legitimately say that the trombonist was the hardest working dude up there all night – and he pulled double duty as a backup singer as well as a melodic minx. The lead singer was a giant dude with biceps the size of my thighs; a guy that reminded me of Chris Jericho not only in style but in stature as well – not someone you would expect fronting such a tepid group. Finally though, we got to hear some graininess on the closing number when frontman David Clark got some nitty gritty modulation going. Not my musical bag typically, but it didn’t blow my skirt up either.

Third on the list before the heavy hitters were The Isotopes. A growing local act, who I last saw as an opener for Teenage Bottlerocket, continue with their baseball themed punk rock racket. They were the most true punk band on the bill, with quick tunes, faster guitars, and high energy.  Anyone who has listened to the ‘Topes will say that lead vocalist Evan October brings the most originality to their sound with whiny/rocky vocals that either have you praising or pawing at your eardrums for allowing it in.

As with any Isotopes show, the highlight is Rad Jockstrap: a
‘coach’/’announcer’ type who parades around as the dynamo pumping up the crowd and the band. The image ever burned onto your frontal lobe though is when Rad gets just shy of naked, rocking a literal jockstrap and t-shirt. In an epic conclusion equal parts applause and horror, Rad dropped the strap to reveal a cheetah printed thong in which he dug around for treats, which he then tossed into the crowd.  A few times I thought he was going to loose his package while fishing in the nether regions.  That’s right: almost full frontal nudity from a dude at a punk show.  Brave man.

At last we come to the band that I was most pumped to see. The reputation of The Brains of Montreal proceeds it to such a degree that I felt I almost knew the crazy fucks.  It’s impossible not to be in awe of anyone who plays a stand-up bass so during their quick sound-check pre-show all eyes were on stage.

The band is only a 3-piece consisting of a drummer, Pat Kadaver, the bold stand up bassist, Colin The Dead, and guitarist and lead vocalist Rene D La Muerte, but they make a huge clatter. Somehow a fusion of 1950s/60s big band swing sound with punk-psychobilly madness has coalesced into a musical menagerie the likes of which has inspired a whole new sound movement.  Rene sounds like a fusion of Johnny Cash and Bobby Darin with a sprinkle of Corey Taylor harshness. The band rages like the Brian Setzer Orchestra on speed and there is no one who can slap the bass like Colin.

In the early 1990s Apocalyptica brought big band string instruments into the realm of cool by covering Metallica songs, demonstrating that classically trained musicians can rock the fuck out. While Apocalyptica took this to one extreme, The Brains have taken a sharp left into the days of soc hops and malt shops – if they were molded into a zombie wasteland.  The Brains have denied any categorization and blur the lines previously rigidly kept by one genre or the other. And they have done it masterfully, putting on one of the most energetic and mind-blowing shows I’ve seen. Combine the speed-riffs of Motorhead, the crooning come-hither voice of a lounge singer, and the goth-punk of appearance of Escape the Fate and you can begin to picture an evening with The Brains. Awesome job guys: I may not always indulge in punk fusion, but when I do, The Brains satisfy.

After a short repos, we then had not only the McKenzies but The Real McKenzies hit the stage. Unmistakeable in their kilts, band members Paul McKenzie (vocals), Troy Zak (bass, vocals), Jesse Pinner (drums, vocals), Aspy Luison (bagpipes, vocals), Jono Jak (guitar, vocals) and Dan Garrison (guitar, vocals) were hitting shots at the bar and loitering around the merch table chatting, photo-bombing, and signing stuff for fans.  While half in the bag, they got to jamming Celtic-style. In true Canadian fashion a prequel commentary was made about drinking and driving and a sympathetic note was sung to the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris.  A sociable was downed and then it was off to the races.

From song one, the entire room was jumping and tossing drinks, just thrashing out. It was like being at an East Coast Kitchen Party with 200 of your closest friends and a kick-ass soundtrack. Picture yourself staring at the business end of a hard older dude in a leather jacket and kilt.  Then picture him rockin’ his mic like Freddy Mercury. Then add 5 other dudes in kilts with or without shirts, pounding beers and playing their little hearts out to a rowdy bunch of Celtic-punk kilt- and beer-loving fucks circle-pitting in an airless vacuum. That’s a small sample of how the night began…

The relentless set included original tunes and covers including “The Night the Lights Went Out In Scotland” and “Barrett’s Privateers” which inspired many a drink lift and many a sing-a-long (however whiskey’d and out of tune). It was a blast to participate in this show and even better to see some varied versions of punk that keep me interested.  If this show taught me anything it’s that I’m a metalhead at heart but that I’m a sucker for the unknown and will try anything twice: including psychobilly swing and Celtic-punk lunacy.