NEEDS with BRASS: humble, appreciative band night

Photo by Tom Nugent
Photo by Tom Nugent

Vancouver punks NEEDS and BRASS came together at Fortune Sound Club last Thursday for what might as well have been a co-headlining, co-LP release show. NEEDS put out their self-titled debut on May 12 via File Under: Music, while BRASS will follow with their first album, No Soap Radio, exactly one month later. Post-punk upstarts Flowers & Fire and scrappy rockers Low Levels rounded out the all-local night.

Flowers & Fire may only have a demo out, but their live reputation has been growing steadily over the past few months. They appeared at Fortune in special form with Vanessa Dandurand of garage-soul ensemble the Ballantynes singing. The band’s jagged, sweeping sound hinted at something both gothic and new wave. Low Levels took the stage next with a hard-hitting drummer who could play his ass off, a single chunky guitar that snarled with the heart of three, yelping vocals by frontman Al Boyle, and pulse-pounding bass that pushed everything along urgently.

“We are the band before NEEDS,” BRASS singer Devon Motz said, “and that is all you need to know. And there is this big piece of floor between us.” His words were a rallying cry: the crowd flocked to the front to get smacked in the face with white-hot, lightning-fast punk rock. Motz thrashed and yelled until his veins popped and his eyes bulged (when he wasn’t squeezing them shut and forcing premature crows feet). Shortly after the band’s initial blitz, he reiterated: “We are the band before NEEDS.” He added: “We are the band after Low Levels, who are fucking amazing. We are the band after the band after Flowers & Fire. They’re better than us too…”

BRASS had so many beer cans hurled at them (lovingly), I was sure people were buying drinks just to whip at the band. A malfunctioning mic didn’t stop Motz (or it just kept getting unplugged; I couldn’t tell form my viewpoint), and neither did the hoppy, metallic barrage. Motz screamed just as hard, if not harder, into the muted mic.

BRASS’s set hit a fever pitch during first single “Monolithic”. As the song began, Motz literally shouldered a guy by jumping into the crowd. They moshed with him briefly and tossed him back onstage with a hell of a flip.

The band ended with two songs made more chaotic by the frantic wailings of a guest saxophonist. I didn’t catch his name, only a string of expletives, but he played with the tension of a James Chance spaz. The band closed by pointing out that “NEEDS are better than your band.”

Stepping up to prove BRASS correct, NEEDS opened with “We Forgot the Records to Our Record Release Show”. By the end of the song, singer Sean Orr had caught his drool in his palm and put his spit back in his mouth. By the second song, he’d begun reaching into his pockets and tossing handfuls of candy into the crowd. After dispensing the sweet treats, he tossed himself into the riled up mob. He ran circles around the audience – along the edges of the venue and all the way to the back. People craned their necks to try spotting him, but even though they could hear and feel the tremor of his approaching footsteps, like the classic scene in Jurassic Park, the crowd was always one step behind.

Orr jumped back and forth between the audience and the stage all night, praising wireless technology, draping his arms over people’s shoulders, showering them with beer, and yelling clichés like “Play one more song!” and, as he rushed towards the bar, “I’m going to get a drink!” Nothing could stop him, not even a belly full of Caribou Beer. Patting his belly, Orr divulged: “I feel like I gotta burp. I really like Caribou Beer. Thanks for the free beer. But it really makes you gassy.”

Caribou wasn’t the only group that Orr gifted with free press that night: “Shout out to L’Abattoir! Shout out to Bestie! Shout out to Tacofino! Shout out to the whole restaurant industry!” He pointed at the crowd: “Thank you! Thank you, Fortune! Thank you, File Under: Music!”

Not only did Orr make sure the crowd was enjoying themselves; while carrying a toy guitar, he made sure they performed their civic duty: “Can I get more fake guitar in my monitor?” Orr asked before he confirmed that everyone “voted yes on the transit referendum, right? Wooo! Mail it in!” Naturally, the band followed with “Walk, Cycle or Take Transit Like Jehu”. He then smashed his toy guitar into pieces.

“I’m 36. What am I doing?” After this final rhetorical question, Orr thanked the crowd one last time. As he bowed, the people returned the gift by dosing his smiling face with beer.

Look for NEEDS to repeat the mayhem with BRASS on June 12 at the Astoria.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu