Wednesday, February 16, 2011

the problem of leisure (what to do for pleasure)

I did not get lost leaving Vancouver airport this time. As long as you do the opposite of what you think Lady Garmin is telling you, you'll be fine. It's a trick I have learned over time, one that has saved me from being murdered in a lake or driving the wrong way down a one-way.

It was almost sunny as I motored along Marine Drive, the friendly-looking mounds of the Coastal Mountains, lightly shrouded in fog, the arbutus leaves unfathomly green, not a snow bank in sight. It's very hard to miss Calgary when in Vancouver.

The first day of this mini-break was filled with sushi, curry, wandering Kitsilano in the rain, Thrift store finds, snuggling under comforters watching the Westminster Dog Show, and finally heading back out into the night to be (as the frontman for the Hollerados so eloquently put it) fucked so hard by the always relevant, always passionate Gang of Four.

The show was held right on the wrong side of Granville Street, across from the Commodore Ballroom, at a rather skeevy joint called The Venue, where seats are a rare commodity and every surface is sticky. The OFKAR and I though, if nothing else, know how to concert. We arrived at door opening and secured the best seats in the joint, up on the second level directly overlooking the stage. With stools to sit on.

I quite liked the openers, Hollerado, from Manotick, just outside of Ottawa. They played a rather lengthy high-octane set, nicely interspersed with self-deprecating digs and, as is only fitting for a Gang of Four opener, politically charged observations. They nicely and very capably set the tone for Gang of Four, the highly influential, highly revered, funk-driven and socially-intellectual British punk mavens, to take the stage.

Oh and did they take that stage! Though only vocalist, Jon King, and guitar god, Andy Gill, remain as original members, this incarnation of Gang of Four has lost none of their passion, none of their intelligence, none of their vitality. With a young, hot, and vibrant rhythm section doing an admirable job of melding with the old guard, Gang of Four remain an extremely tight, aggressively charged force of nature.

In a nose-thumbing statement to the mores of ageism and political rhetoric, it was an interesting juxtaposition of style to see Jon King, pushing sixty, thrash passionately about the stage in a near shirt-less state with Andy Gill maintaining a stone-faced buttoned-down demeanor, while laying down some of the most aggressively angular guitar riffs in memory. Further capitalizing on mind-bending differences within band dynamics was the new bassist, Thomas McNeice, a dreadlocked, pin-striped runway model who kept an authoritative hammerlock on the band's signature bassline.

Gang of Four were incredible. There were a few issues with the mics at the beginning of the set, muffling the vocals and resulting in some screeching feedback, but the aggressive rhythm and funk-powered staccato were forefront and so gloriously and so powerfully Gang of Four that it was easy to overlook the fact that it was a well middle-aged man, shirt held on by a single button, who was doing a frantic gyrating merman dance onstage betwixt manhandling his bandmates.

Strangely enough, Gang of Four did not play At Home He Looks Like a Tourist, perhaps their most well-known song, but then, they have a very deep and very fine back-catalogue to mine. Nor did they play Armalite Rifle or Guns Before Butter. But I was thrilled that they absolutely killed Damaged Goods, Anthrax, and, even though the creeper who kept hanging over our shoulders and trying to engage us in increasingly unbelievable boasts almost ruined the song for me, I Love a Man in Uniform. You bet I shot back at Jon King when he pointed his gun finger up at us.

Even discounting the lack of snow and the cosy time with the OFKAR, Gang of Four alone was worth the trip to Vancouver. Friend visits still to come, too!


Wandering Coyote said...

...and...??? You're killing me here!

I almost went to The Venue a year ago because Sonata Arctica (oh yes, those of the other T-shirt I got at BlogCon) was playing there. Now it about to be minutes away from my brother's place so I do hope other bands I love will go there (or to Van) so I can take in the venue & all its stickiness.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Sorry to leave you hanging there for a while, WC. I must have inadvertently published before I finished writing.

I do hope you get to see one of your bands somewhere in Vancouver. The Venue isn't the nicest joint, but I have been in worse.

John Mutford said...

I know I'm getting hung up on the wrong detail here, but what sort of boasts was the creeper spouting?

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Only chit chat at first, John before the band started, which was fine. But then to keep talking after the music starts, that's sacrilege in my mind. Spouting on about how today's music is crap and nobody knows how to play a guitar anymore and he saw Joy Division in 79 and see that girl down there in the red? That's my former girlfriend, I got her into this band. At that point I had to pointedly shun him, the OFKAR having done so much earlier.

BeckEye said...

I thought "I Love a Man in Uniform" was Gang of Four's best-known song...but maybe it's just the one *I* know best!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Many people don't know any of their songs, Beckeye, so gold star for you!

Sean Wraight said...

I can not tell you how jealous I am that you got to see this band in their present incarnation.

Definitely one of those 'foundational' bands for me their music the soundtrack to my misspent youth. To think it was thirty years ago when I first saw them boggles my mind a little. Of course I was three at the time so the memory is a little hazy... ;)

Excellent review though, it sounds as if their artistic impact has not lessened with age. Interesting that Hollerado opened... Definitely a band on the upswing.

Did G04 play To Hell With Poverty?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

You have the best memory of any three year old I have ever met, Sean. As you suspected it would be, this really was an experience for posterity. And yes, of course they played To Hell With Poverty! How could I forget to mention that, when we all sang along.

bloody awful poetry said...

Okay you've lost me here - I don't know Gang Of Four, so I can't be jealous, like I usually am. But judging from this post and your impeccable taste in music, I'm sure they're awesome! So I'll go ahead and be jealous anyway.

bloody awful poetry said...

Also can I just say how envious I am of the OFKAR for having such a cool, gig-attending parent? You're so cool. So. Cool.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Aw shucks, BAP! I would just go ahead and adopt you but I wouldn't want to fight Beckeye for parental rights. I have the feeling she fights dirty.
Your homework assignment is to check out Gang of Four, for your own good.

phlegmfatale said...

Happy for you and more than a trifle envious that you got to see that essence rare. It's what I'm looking for.

And when I heard them first in the early 80s, there was something primal and instantly-vintage sounding about them, and today they are just as startling and fresh.

Ooooh, *envy*envy*envy*

You're the coolest chick ever.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I thought about you at the concert, Phlegmmy, knowing how you would have loved the show. You should have been there!