My feet peeled slowly with each step as I neared the concrete floor. Pockets of people were pow-wowing over ice cold Caribou and PBRs. A man and myself made eye contact briefly. Not too long before, this same man, in the piss-flavoured alley next to the Rickshaw, had asked me if I was a member of the Orwells. I answered him with a puff of my cigarette and a lie through my teeth. Yes, I replied. When Mario Cuomo, Matt O’Keefe, Dominic Corso, Grant Brinner, and Henry Brinner (aka the Orwells) emerged from backstage and I stood on the beer-soaked concrete floor, the man’s eyebrows suggested that he had put the pieces together.
Cuomo made his presence known immediately, donning a shirt that looked like it could have been found in the “Tween” section at your local consignment store: a low-leaning, one-shoulder pink top with black stripes. With his hair in a ponytail and a pocketful of sexual moves, Cuomo performed contortions with the mic seen only in dingy strip clubs or at punk shows. Pelvic thrusts, twirling the cord around his neck, and thrashing on the ground while belting out songs from the Orwells’ 2014 release, Disgraceland.
A mosh pit had started by the second song. A small tornado of flailing limbs and plaid shirts. At times, looking up on stage through the limbs, Cuomo looked possessed by a cocktail of substances. His eyes were white, and his knees looked like they were about to collapse. There were moments when I was worried that he was about to fade, with his jaw scrunching down and his lips pursed out. But, he never choked. In fact, as a frontman/singer, Mario Cuomo was dominant. He was on point vocally, and his thrashing moves made it all the more entertaining.
Four beer cans baseballed into the seats with a red guitar.
Liquid debris flew around as Cuomo barged through his songs with O’Keefe and Corso providing some slick licks behind him. The Orwells, not far removed from high school, naturally have songs that centre on drinkin’ beers, grabbin’ ass, skippin’ class, and livin’ on the edge. Snot Rock. Slacker Jams. Fast-paced fuck-you music. Songs for those who remain forever twenty-years-old and not a day older. Young, old, and all pure at heart, the crowd sang and jumped around incessantly to the group’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll.
Wannabe crowd surfers attempted to ride the small mosh tide. A nucleus of punks bumping around without a care in the world until a human body came flying in from above. Crash. Each attempt was brief and painful. There was only one successful crowd surfer under the Rickshaw lights: Mario. He stood on the edge of the stage and threatened the crowd: “Vancouver, if you don’t catch me, we won’t come back!” We all squished together and formed a tight pack, making sure not to drop the ball on a great set. He leaped, was caught, and proceeded to cock his head back to sing, FIDLAR’s “Cheap Beer”, from their 2013 self-titled LP. Fists flew, and we celebrated.
The set was a high-octane thrill. Nothing quite like a Wednesday punk show to keep you going for the rest of the week, right? By the end, I was a mess. My hair was in strings down my face, my T-shirt was soaked through to my nipples, and my chest had never felt heavier. It hurt so good. The Orwells stuck mainly to Disgraceland, but playing “Mallrats (La La La)”, “Suspended” ,and “In My Bed” from their debut Remember When (2012). Hopefully, the garage rock youngsters will be back in the Northwest before too long. I would like to catch one of those Beer Baseball home runs.
Click here to view more photos from the Orwells at the Rickshaw Theatre.