Friday, January 26, 2018

The Flesh Eaters, Chinese food, and the forgotten art of self-disembowelment

The Flesh Eaters by bev davies, January 25, 2018 at the Rickshaw; not to be reused without permission. All photos below also by bev davies, unless noted otherwise (the crappy cell phone photo at the end is by me). 

Two great nights at the Vancity Theatre and the Rickshaw. Thanks to Tom Charity for takin' a dive for culture, first off (and not the first time he's done it with my involvement, either) and programming Border Radio. We all kinda knew (though we had, of course, hoped otherwise) that Border Radio wouldn't be a huge draw - though I can't REALLY understand why a couple hundred people who would come out to see the Flesh Eaters wouldn't want to hang out, chat, and hear stories the night before from Chris D., and watch a  movie with 3/5ths of the band in it (including John Doe and Dave Alvin), with a soundtrack by Dave Alvin, and better yet, with the rhythm section of DJ Bonebrake and Bill Bateman in the fuckin' audience with you. I mean, the film IS out there on DVD, but you're not going to get to ask Chris D. questions about it, y'know? He really showed a friendlier, chattier side of himself at Border Radio, too. He comes across as a bit stern onstage and up-close, with those Patrick Magee eyebrows and all.

Chris D and I at the Rickshaw, by Erika Lax

But whatever - it was an intimate and positive night at the Vancity, in part BECAUSE there were only 20 people there, and Kier-la Janisse conducted a great Q&A: more about her implied below in the section on ritual self-disembowelment, an art to which she is no stranger. Which reminds me, Chris D. said some very nice things about the importance of event programmers like her to generating/ sustaining/ fostering and supporting culture, often at a financial loss to themselves, frequently without getting acknowledgement. I don't have an exact quote, but amen to him for the sentiment: Chris is the rare example of someone who has straddled BOTH sides of the fence, as a writer/ interviewer/ programmer AND a singer/ actor, filmmaker - so he knows what he's talking about...

Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

And besides Kier-la and Tom (and the people who DID come out to Border Radio), HUGE thanks to Mo for putting on the Flesh Eaters show. It was not a show I actually had anything to do with inspiring, note - or at least not that I know of (Mo mighta seen me enthusing about them somewhere or other in 2015). It's just that they were my favourite punk band of all time, throughout my 20's and teens, when my range of tastes was still contained enough for me to have favourites. I know Mo was nervous, with sluggish advance ticket sales, that he was going to regret booking such an all-star band, but Vancouver more or less acquitted itself decently, with a venue 2/3rds full and enthusiastic for the music; he seemed happy enough with how it turned out, though I gather it didn't pay for itself, either, ultimately. The coolest cultural events in this city are almost always, to borrow a phrase from the Japanese, "jibara o kirimasu" - an idiom adapted from the practice of hara kiri, which involved cutting open your belly to show your sincerity, represented by your entrails; it has come to mean, in Japan, to dip into your own pocket, to foot the bill - "using one's own money to pay for something that one isn't obligated to pay for," according to the Complete Japanese Expression Guide. This blog itself is kinda that way. I mean, you see all the ads I'm running? 

What, there are no ads? What's wrong with me? (Note: if you are reading this at some distant point and there are, in fact, ads, well, sorry. I stuck it out for over ten ad-free years, folks. It's not like I haven't considered it...). 

And speaking of Mo, chatting with Bev about how cool he is the other day, it occurred to me - I don't even KNOW who runs the Commodore, the Venue, the Imperial, or so forth... it's all faceless agencies like Timbre or Livenation or whatever; but the actual people behind the scenes - you might know one person involved in promoting shows, but whose venue actually IS it? What do they actually LISTEN to? Do they LIKE what they put on? Mo, by contrast, is on the frontlines, taking pride in what he does, interacting with people, checking in with them, and digging his own booking choices, as much as a presence in his own venue as "vintage wendythirteen" was at the Cobalt-back-when. I like a business like that! It's kinda Mom and Pop, when you think of it - kinda like how some of my favourite restaurants over the years, the person cooking your food and the person serving you are the OWNERS, and you get to know both of them by name. Actually, I'm thinking of Chinese restaurants. The Rickshaw is the Vancouver music scene's Chinese Mom and Pop restaurant. But holy fuck is the food good!

Okay, that was a bit weird, but you see what I mean. 

And, I mean, how much money - this was Bev's observation, actually - has Mo raised for charity and such? The last Bowie Ball alone took in, what, $10,000 for cancer research? She was saying the city should recognize him in some way, BOTH as a belly-cuttin' purveyor of culture and a socially-conscious contributor to those in need. I totally agree. Cheers, Mo.

The Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

And by the way, it was a great show. I think the band actually did a better set last night than in Seattle a couple years ago; Seattle the energy was intense, but kinda subdued, right up til the end, with a rip-roarin' encore of "Cinderella," "Pony Dress" and "She's Like Heroin to Me" that really raised the stakes when there was nowhere left to go. By contrast, last night, there were more dynamics to the energy - less of a linear journey to a climax than Seattle. You really noticed the rhythm section, too - Bill Bateman and DJ Bonebrake are an amazingly solid team (as Doug Smith will tell you, leaning in to your ear and shouting - or, wait, that was MY ear: Bateman is a singularly amazing drummer, a real powerhouse - though there was one song where DJ got off the vibes and got on snare and we had two drummers, which was a real treat). 

Bill Bateman of the Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

DJ Bonebrake of the Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

As with Seattle, John Doe seemed to have the most fun onstage - getting singled out for cheers by X fans and very sweetly actually coming out to say hi to a few of them afterwards (He remembers Bev well and she introduced me; I, in turn, introduced her to Chris, who she's never met, though apparently she took pictures for Slash back in the day). I wish X would come back to Vancouver - I've never gotten to see them! But I've seen John twice now, and someone mentioned that Exene would be in town this spring (I have done nothing to confirm this). John seems like a real great guy.

John Doe of the Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

Also, as with Seattle, Dave Alvin seemed the hardest person to fully contain onstage, the most tightly-packed package up there, a hugely energetic musician, having to channel his energy through a fairly narrow corridor. I mean, face it, he's really a frontman, not a sideman, and you kinda sense a tension in him, like he's packing in sooooo much of his personality and passion to be a support person rather than the bandleader that it kinda wants to explode out the edges... which he got to do a LITTLE, during solos, but not nearly enough to fully use him up. Hopin' he brings the Guilty Ones (and Phil!) back sometime soon (I saw their last show here and I gotta say that it was maybe my happiest concert-going experience of 2016, dancing to "Marie Marie" with my wife, also diggin' it, beside me).  My favourite Dave moments last night included a particularly fun passage of "Satan's Stomp" where he deliberately de-synchronized from John, so both were playing the same hook but at different times; plus there was  a nice moment where he squatted to take a pull off a beer at the side as the band did their thing and could be seen grinning hugely at checking out his bandmates. Dave Alvin has a real infectious smile; looking at him, it was impossible not to grin back, then glance away awkwardly when he noticed I was doin' it. What can I say, he seemed so serious sometimes up there that it was a relief to see him lookin' that happy...

Dave Alvin of the Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

Sax player Steve Berlin took my joking with him with grace and humour when he came out at the end (quoth me: "I saw Los Lobos when you opened for Neil Young here and I was, like, 'it's Steve Berlin from the Flesh Eaters!'"). I always kinda am reminded of another sax-playing Steve when I hear him with the Flesh Eaters: Steve Mackay on the Stooges' Fun House, who does similar things with his horn, packing in noise and texture, treating his sax much like one might an electric guitar. There's nothin' jazzy about what he does, and none of that Clarence Clemons' rock sax thing happening. He and Dave Alvin complimented each other beautifully, at opposite sides of the stage. Good beard, too. 

Steve Berlin of the Flesh Eaters by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

Finally, frontman Chris D. was super-generous, telling stories between songs about sharing stage with the recently departed Mark E. Smith (in the run up to the somewhat Fallish "So Long") and making sure the audience knew "The Green Manalishi with the Three-Pronged Crown" - the band's first encore - was NOT a Judas Priest song (it's by Peter Green of the original Fleetwood Mac, who also, didja know, wrote that Rezillos song about someone getting their head kicked in tonight!). Other covers were the same as Seattle: the Sonics' "Cinderella" and a blistering show closer with John and Chris teaming up for vocals on "She's Like Heroin to Me," by the Gun Club. Incidentally, have I showed you this photo that I found online of Kid Congo and Jeffrey Lee Pierce dressed up as Debbie Harry and Rita Moreno? This one goes out to Erik Iversen (it is also not by Bev):

In fact, Chris' voice got pretty ragged at times - more when he was speaking than singing, weirdly enough; he seems to be able to scream when he can hardly talk, which I don't understand at all. He even seemed to have a bit of a sore throat at the Border Radio Q&A, but it was obviously not something he was going to let get in the way. He seemed irrepressible both nights, coming out after the concert to chat with fans (the artist formerly known as ARGH! of DOA colouring book fame and he had a nice chat about Dan Stewart of Green on Red, apparently living in Mexico now  - "living Border Radio," as ARGH! put it; I gotta get me a copy of Gravity Talks, speaking of which). Chris actually should probably take a page from David Thomas' and PROTECT and CONSERVE his voice before a show, and only do email interviews or something, but then, I'm the motherfucker who did a three hour phone chat with him a couple weeks ago (see below) and then had him do a Q&A after Border Radio the night before, so, um, mea culpa folks.   

John Doe and Chris D. by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

It didn't really matter. Chris still delivered, passionately and powerfully, with "Miss Muerte" in particular standing out as a fantastic tune on an album I don't know half as well as I should. Kickass versions of "The Wedding Dice" and "My Life to Live" from Forever Came Today, all of Minute to Pray, and "Pony Dress" filled out the set - and, oh yeah, "House Amid the Thickets." If the overall energy was better in Vancouver in 2018 than Seattle in 2015, I do have to admit that the Seattle "Pony Dress" was better, even got a moshpit going. (I had retreated to further back last night by then so I didn't see if anyone got moshin'). But still, what a treat. Setlist more or less the same as the Echoplex one posted previously, though "See You in the Boneyard" got moved til later...

Setlist by bev davies, not to be reused without permission. 

That's about it. (I missed Petunia and the Vipers and am bummed to hear that Petunia's guitar got stolen the other day; his new album should be in select stores now or soon, and he tells me that after the current run is done he's going to re-master it, with a few changes, so it's going to a very limited edition of 300 LPs. Get yours now!). Thanks again to the bands, and Mo, and Bev, and Tom and Kier-la and everyone who came to the show and did not embarrass me with how sucky and fickle the Vancouver music scene can be (it's still better than the cinema scene). Some of my guts got spilled too, with all the transcribing and writing I did (see also my Allison Anders and Petunia interviews on the Straight website, which were donated pro-bono, along with all the writing below).  The people whoopin' and dancing last night made it all worth it. 

It would be a real drag to cut open your belly and have no one notice. 


JMH said...

what was that first encore song they did?

Allan MacInnis said...

It was "The Green Manalishi with the Three Pronged Crown." It's a Peter Green song, apparently - most of us know it as Judas Priest song!

David M. said...

My buddy Allan, always on the side of the angels, always looking for weird kicks in strange places because that's where the fun is. "Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite" is a Jeremy Spencer song, the B-side of Fleetwood Mac's "Man Of The World", billed as "Earl Vince and The Valiants"; he did 50's rock & roll specialty numbers with Fleetwood Mac, as well as being their slide guitar specialist until he freaked out and cracked up (always a possibility when you're always looking for weird kicks in strange places, Allan take note and Erika beware).