With the holiday hangover well behind me, I slammed down the last few sips of my delicious coffee and hit up the Corona Theatre for my first show of 2018. Big Wreck were touring in celebration of the twenty year anniversary of their double-platinum debut album In Loving Memory of… Man, life was a little different back twenty years ago, especially the ways in which we consumed our music. I heard Big Wreck back in 1998 thanks to a popular run of Canadian CD compilations put out by MuchMusic called Big Shiny Tunes. Remember compilations!? They will always have a special place in my heart. Anyhow, it was Big Shiny Tunes 3 (arguably the best installment, although volume two could give it a run for its money) that featured Big Wreck’s “That Song.” I absolutely loved the track, and as a result picked up a copy of In Loving Memory Of… and really dug that too; promotion through compilation at its finest. Now twenty years later, I was beyond fired up to finally hear these songs live!
Openers Attica Riots from Winnipeg, Manitoba electrified the already-burgeoning crowd with a brief but blistering set. I’ve made a note to check out their debut album Love Sunshine & Hysteria, and I’m hopeful it contains some of the energy I witnessed during their half hour set. Singer Bobby Desjarlais was like the Tasmanian Devil on stage, only with a better voice, as he proceeded to make the tambourine he was wielding his bitch. Their sound is not unlike that of fellow Canadians Arkells, hard rock with a danceable quality to it. The songs “Misery” and “Love Sunshine & Hysteria” had the crowd grooving and totally invested, to the point where someone coming in off of the street could have assumed they were the main act of the night. It was Attica Riots’ job to warm up the crowd, and they had us going hotter than a Sean Kingston dance floor.
Big Wreck made good on what their tour title portended, playing every song off In Loving Memory Of… Opening with “Look What I Found” and then blasting into “That Song” to a huge pop from the crowd. Between songs, singer and guitarist Ian Thornley changed guitars. I literally mean between each and every song they played; kudos to the roadie who sauntered on stage to provide Thornley with his variety of axes. A more refined and educated guitar aficionado could tell you all of the beautiful attributes and intricacies of each guitar Thornley played, but alas I’m a drummer and can’t help you. I will say that Thornley is criminally under-recognized as a guitar hero! This guy can play! His solos were pristine and jaw dropping. On top of all the six-strings he played, he even busted out a twelve-string and a double-neck guitar. It was a guitar orgy!
Some of the higher points in the set were the songs “How Would You Know” and “Blown Wide Open,” the latter of which truly showcased Thornley’s vocal chops, which are very much in line with late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, but with more of a blues or country component. Towards the end of the set Thornley commented on his sentiment of how it was weird playing songs he wrote as young, flourishing 22-year-old. Honestly though, the songs and the band sounded as vibrant and gripping as they did on In Loving Memoey Of… twenty years ago. They played in front of a banner that simply read “Big Wreck,” with no depictions or designs. It was purely about the music, and that, my friends, is a beautiful thing.
Written by Lee Ferguson
Photography by Stacy Basque
*edited by Kate Erickson