Old is the New Young

After watching the Canucks productive second period on Hockey Night in Canada and having pre-drinks with friends down Hastings at the Warehouse, I arrived at the Rickshaw just after nine. There were good-sized lines for the front door and to order drinks, therefore I literally saw the last two minutes of the Ford Pier and Strength of Materials! set. This one had an early start that I regret not having been there for. I’ve only seen The Ford Pier Vengeance Trio once before when they opened for Pink Mountaintops in December at the now defunct Waldorf Hotel. On their website, they describe themselves as “a new rock band for string quartet (which has) … verses, choruses, parallel fifths, plagal cadences, the pulse which connects it physically with the tides, the celestial cycles, death and resurrection and a Hellhound On Your Trail”. This sounds genuinely intriguing, but I regret not having anything to report. Sorry, y’all.

Invasives are a Vancouver three-piece consisting of brothers Byron (guitar, vocals) and Adam (bass, backing vocals) Slack and drummer Hans Anus. The mid-to-late 20 year-olds play a tight, crunchy, no-frills type of alternative, punk and rock sound similar to what I’ve heard from Fugazi, Danko Jones and likely Nomeansno. Before checking out their website during my review research, I didn’t know anything about the band. But I correctly assumed that the guitarist and bassist were brothers because they look alike, have similar vocal styles, and their rhythms and riffs gel well musically, along with the drum patterns. Maybe their cover of the Ramones’ “We’re a Happy Family” gave it away. The vocals can be quite high-pitched and nasally, like Ben Kowalewicz from Billy Talent or Davey Havok from AFI, but this isn’t a bad thing. They played the Sudden Debt Tour in Europe last spring with the members of Nomeansno’s hockey-themed, Ramones-indebted side-group, The Hanson Brothers (modeled after the characters from the movie Slap Shot). Check out the series of entertaining video clips of sights, performances and downtime during the European tour.

On stage from 10 to 10:40 p.m., Invasives played a lot of the songs that I would again recognize afterwards when checking out their still very active Myspace page. Hopefully these gentlemen get more opportunities opening for high-profile headliners and progress from there.

Brothers Rob (bass/lead vocals) and John (drums/backing vocals) Wright started Nomeansno in Victoria in the late ’70s and are still going strong today. Joined by Tom Holliston (guitar/backing vocals) permanently in 1992 — who some fans still affectionately call “the new guy” — Nomeansno’s last major LP was 2006’s All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt, but the trio has toured quite steadily as Nomeansno and with all three members also playing in their aforementioned side project, The Hanson Brothers. And, in case you’re wondering, it was the other Hanson brothers that wrote “MMMBop.

The band, who will be 51, 53 and 59 this year, definitely don’t act their age when playing live. Besides obvious grey hairs and a few wrinkles, they are easily more energetic and enthusiastic as bands that are Invasives’ age. Onstage, they like to joke about aging and have t-shirts for sale that say “old is the new young” on the back.

With age, comes experience, and their levels of musicianship and showmanship are incredible.

Although generalized as punk, their style also has a lot of progressive jazz and rock flourishes. They have been cited as one of the leading founders of the math-rock genre and Dave Grohl has been quoted as saying they were one of the best live acts he’s ever seen. They have some straight-forward garage-style bangers and then there are also strange, noodling soundscapes with quirky lyrics about everything from rock’s usual suspects to philosophical questions and sociological issues. Most of the lyrics and crowd interaction is playful and tongue-in-cheek, but they also have several songs that are quite intense and thoroughly absorbing. One of these, “The World Wasn’t Built in a Day”, had the crowd mesmerized with a long, spoken-word style poem set to music—reminiscent of The Doors’ masterpiece, “The End”. During the song, Tom played with a wild, guitar distortion feedback device that looked like a Theremin and fit in well with Rob’s storytelling. His voice can be at times very booming and authoritative, almost like a preacher.

As mentioned, there’s a high level of showmanship delivered at a Nomeansno show; there are karate kicks and rugby stances. Members will often banter between each other and audience members, sometimes in the middle of songs. There are crazy facial expressions, head shakes and arm gestures. Then there are the varying time signatures and complex jazz structuring. Each member of the group is equally important in the mix, bringing unique playing styles together. From what I gather, John usually sets up on the side of the stage, facing the other two while singing parts of songs and telling stories while drumming.

Nomeansno played for about an hour and a half (until around 12:30) before sarcastically thanking “Enron, Halliburton, Pepsi and Stephen Harper” among others. With a bladder bursting, I rushed upstairs to the washroom to go before they were done. “They really need to play more songs off Wrong!” one excited guy informed all those who were relieving themselves. He was referring to their classic cow-on-the-cover 1989 album which many fans and critics consider being highly influential and the group’s best. I remember picking up a used copy on tape when I was 18 and just didn’t get it at the time. My young, immature brain couldn’t understand the mix of punk, metal and funk which I now appreciate almost 18 years later, especially after familiarizing myself with bands like the Chili Peppers, Primus, DOA and some of Mike Patton’s work.

Back to the show. The band weren’t done yet! They came back on and played the encore for another 20 minutes.

It was nice to see a good mix between audience members in their twenties and the “old guard” who likely have more responsibilities. Although some folks can’t get out very often anymore, it’s special when old reliable bands like Nomeansno can still bring back a piece of youth.