On Friday the 13th, I embarked on a quest to catch the Vancouver stop of PirateFest, a tour featuring The Dread Crew of Oddwood, Swashbuckle, and the idiots in charge, Alestorm. Every date of the tour featured a local opener. In Vancouver, we were treated to Crackwhore.
Full disclosure: Grind is absolutely not my cup of tea. However, I have to give credit where credit is due: the guys from Crackwhore are talented. With an adept bass player and song titles like “Feeding The Pigs,” “Trespassers Will Be Shot,” and “Razor Blade Apple,” they were entertaining. The crowd got into them quickly and they did a fine job at warming us up, though I wasn’t sad when they left the stage (mostly because they were making way for The Dread Crew of Oddwood).
Every person who knows a thing or two about me knows that the way to my heart is by using an unconventional instrument and using it well. Oddwood uses six: the whistle, the upright bass, the mandolin, the accordion, the toy piano, and the bouzouki.
The seven musicians barely had room to move in the cramped space, but their energetic performance did not suffer one iota. They spun around during “Bottoms Up,” and Stark Cordwain still crab-walked across the stage. They completely owned every available inch of the stage and stunned the crowd with some of their best songs.
Oddwood never gets boring. With so many instruments and most of the musicians sharing singing duties, you never know what you’re going to get. Some epic mandolin action? The rugged yet melodic sound of Smithy Crow? The raspy and gravelly voice of Wolfbeard O’Brady? A whistle solo? Every song is a new adventure! The crowd got a little taste of everyone with a superb set list featuring “Æirship of Doom,” “Berserker,” and the mandatory sing along song, “When I Sail’d.” Though their set was far too short for my liking, Oddwood were brilliant.
I didn’t know much about Swashbuckle before the show, but I did know their drummer from his solo project Rainbowdragoneyes. Since the man is very good on his own, I thought the rest of the band couldn’t be bad, and I was right. The dirty buccaneers delighted the crowd with music much heavier than Oddwood’s signature Heavy Mahogany, which only served to fuel the rhapsody of the crowd. To give themselves and the crowd a break, Swashbuckle covered “Kiss From A Rose” (originally by Seal), allowing the crowd to cool down for a brief moment. With their carefully crafted set of catchy songs (like “I Hate The Sea,” “No Prey No Pay,” and their opening song “Raise Your Hooks”), their penchant for nerdy dry humour, and their immeasurable musical talent, Swashbuckle anchored themselves in the hearts of the people who were lucky enough to see them before Alestorm took the stage.
When Alestorm walked on stage, the crowd went berserk. They opened with “Walk The Plank” and immediately pulled the ravenous crowd in. It became completely impossible to breathe. The energy displayed by the drunken pirates was contagious and the more they played, the wilder the crowd got. Fists pumping, elbows flying everywhere, crowd surfers raining on the front row and unsuspecting photographers…. The show goers were deranged and the five musicians were grinning from ear to ear.
There were so many amazing moments during Alestorm’s performance that I cannot list them all. However, some highlights include:
– The band inviting short people to dance on stage during “Midget Saw”
– Swashbuckle’s Admiral Nobeard singing “Nancy The Tavern Wench” with Alestorm, as well as the Legendary Pirate King Eric The Brown singing the chorus for “Wooden Leg” and the rapping portion of “Hangover”
– Their dry ice canon
– The floor of the Rickshaw shaking from people stomping and jumping during “Drink”
Other songs played by the European quintet included “Magnetic North,” “Shipwrecked,” “That Famous Ol’ Spice,” “Keelhauled,” “Sunk ‘N Norwegian,” and my personal favourite “Wenches and Mead.”
Once Alestorm finished playing, ending their encore with “Rum,” I was finally able to peel myself from the barrier and give my ribs their first break in three hours. My voice was hoarse, my legs and back were aching from the battering ram of a crowd, and my cheekbone was nearly broken from smacking my face into the shoulder of the photographer in front of me. The sweat, the blood that wasn’t mine, the blood that was, the swollen cheek and battered body… it was all worth it to witness the magical performance of the three pirate bands.
The show was so incredible that I embarked on a four-hour quest to Seattle the next morning to catch PirateFest that night at El Corazón, but that is a story for another day.
Written by Kai Robidas