The venue was pleasantly packed when the Family Matters theme song began coming out of the speakers. The first band, Pears, took the stage. They launched into their brand of catchy punk with those hardcore hooks. I’ve seen them three times now, and they always amaze me with their animated anomaly of a show. Singer Zach Quinn was a mad, manic machine as he stormed around the stage, throwing his body around with ragdoll physics; one moment, he was bouncing on the balls of his feet, and the next, he was belting high octane growls while rolling on the ground. Not to be outdone, during “Green Star,” guitarist Brian Pretus’ movements were all flashy staccato during the stops and starts. His backing vocals were spot on too. Even with the less-than-stellar sound quality, they pulled off another great show. To be honest, it was never in doubt.
Next up was The Creepshow. They’re a ripping rockabilly band based out of Toronto, ON. They told us to “Run For Your Life,” because they’d “See You [us] In Hell,” before burying us with “Grave Diggers.” KENDA! had enough dirt on her voice to cover us all. Whether she was striking sharp chords on the six-string or howling into the mic, sans guitar, alongside bassist Sickboy McNab, it was all aces. Diemonds, not spades, sorry. Rugged behind the keys, The Rev McGinty hammered home an homage to all those boogie woogie classics. He was just perfect in the mix. During his solo, he flashed his best techniques to grip the audience and made his piano “Shake” like nothing I’ve ever seen before; not that he was the only one to garner a standalone performance. My tip of the hat would go to Sandro Sanchioni on the skins. During “Grave Diggers,” he syncopated himself into our hearts with a hard hitting solo. It started off simple until it wasn’t. I guess it was a ‘you had to have been there’ moment; just make sure you don’t miss the next one.
Both opening bands warmed up the night in their unique ways. To compare the two would be like comparing apples and oranges. Suffice it to say, the crowd was good and thoroughly stoked when Me First and the Gimmie Gimmies strutted onto the stage. Bassist Jay Bentley led the intro for “Summertime,” and right away, the beer cups began raining down in the pit; I saw no less than four fountains of beer. The crowd, who’d been nodding and stomping along to the previous bands, exploded when they hit the fast part. They danced, moshed, crowd surfed, and sang themselves hoarse.
Oh yes, before I forget, the band was wearing matching uniforms. They were adorned in white pants, shiny red shirts (forgive my colorblind palate, it may have been magenta or some such), and gold ties. Only Spike Slawson was wearing a sparkling gold jacket, and his trademark shades. Not only dressed the part, Slawson acted as the quintessential frontman the entire night. The swagger on him was spectacular and his between song banter was spotless as well. He’d always tell us when they were doing a cover. Such a gentleman.
Me First had the shimmies. Me First had the shakes. They had their own sound guy because the quality was above and beyond the opening bands. They played all the classics you’re too embarrassed to put on the jukebox; not limited to, but including “Jolene,” “Sweet Caroline,” and, my favourite, “I Believe I Can Fly.” They showed that a bunch of geezers and pioneers of punk could still put on a show that grabbed you by the street cred and hauled you in.
All things considered, it was a blast.
Post Script: Fat Mike was unable to join the band on tour because he was “too busy taking a bath in your (our) money.” – Spike Slawson.
Written by Aaron Deck
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy