THE BEGGARZ playing as part of the Emergenza Festival at the Rivoli (332 Queen West), tonight (Thursday, January 9). $10. 416-596-1908. Also at the Latte Caffe (598 College), Friday and Saturday (January 10 and 11). 416-532-2555.
Adam Cassidy, main man of the Beggarz, is a real rock dude.He's got knuckle rings and is inked up both arms, and his band plays the kind of old-time raunchy Stonesish rawk 'n' roll you don't hear often enough these days, roadhouse hymns about no-good vixens who done him wrong.
He seems like the type of guy who eats the current crop of barely legal pop-tarts for breakfast -- or at least beds 'em in a greasy motel and leaves 'em bawling in their silicone implants.
So when I bait him with a dig at the authenticity (or lack thereof) of Britney and her sisters in bubblegum, his diplomacy shocks me.
"A lot of bands shoot themselves in the foot with attitude, thinking everyone's in it to rip them off. They start getting jaded and thinking it's all about money," Cassidy starts slowly.
"They get pissed off about what's on the radio and the fact that they're not. But the thing is, if Britney Spears is selling 5 million records, those aren't sales she's taking away from some rock 'n' roll band. She's doing something that appeals to a completely different audience. It expands the music industry more than anything else.
"You could take the argument to the next level and claim that classical music is more genuine than rock 'n' roll and all this other music is bullshit in comparison."
And Cassidy knows from bullshit. Brought up on his parents' Beatles and Chuck Berry records, the rhythm guitarist later discovered the wonders of blues-based open tunings by religiously studying Stones songs. (His Mick Jagger swagger belies the fact that he ignored the Stones shit in his mom and dad's collection because "the album covers looked so much the same when we were kids that we figured it was all the same band, like sometimes the Beatles made records as the Rolling Stones.")
Cassidy's been toiling in the trenches for almost a decade, including a guest spot helping out his pal Hugh Dillon on a Headstones record or two. Tired of being in bands that folded fast, he finally decided to take possession of his work, and the Beggarz were born. After several stabs at pulling together a live band, Cassidy recruited a rotating lineup of studio musicians to help record his first full-length, Days Come Easy, which dropped last year.
Now he's getting his live game on again, with a solid band that includes bassist Rees Pepperell (also swilling lattes at Tequila Bookworm on this gloomy Sunday), guitarist Nelson Sobral and drummer Brad Holy.
The outfit won't be -- wait for it -- beggin' for work any time soon, since they've got tons of gigs in the immediate future, including tonight's slot at the Rivoli. The show kicks off the Emergenza fest, an offshoot of the sprawling European organization that, like a less glossy Popstars meets Battle Of The Bands, gives bands a leg up to stardom.
Participants shell out a $75 registration fee (which Cassidy claims they recoup in prize packs from the sponsors) to slog through tiers of elimination rounds. The competition continues throughout January, with semi-finals at the Reverb and a final showdown at the Opera House.
For a guy who's taken a hiatus from playing live, Cassidy's got some wacked-out anecdotes about onstage antics.
"Once a band member was pissed off and refused to play the third set. Halfway through it, totally drunk, he tried to hijack the drummer, and the singer had to drag him offstage through the drum set. That was the end of that show. Another time, three songs into a set I turned to see my guitar player and his girlfriend grappling over the last of a bottle of Jack Daniel's."