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It's been awhile since the restaurant's basement concert venue got a proper punk show, but the two local bands gave the crowd one to remember
METZ and TEENANGER at Parts & Labour, Wednesday, December 19. Rating: NNNN
It was a strange thing from the start: below the restaurant with the celebrity chef and the award-winning design… a sweaty basement punk venue. No sightlines, barely a stage to speak of, precarious speakers often held up by the will of the moshing crowd.
From Parts & Labour’s opening in 2010 until a few years later, The Shop (as the basement concert venue was known) was the go-to venue for ear-splitting punk, garage and post-punk bands, as well as last-minute after-party shows for opening acts at bigger shows. Mac DeMarco played there. So did Iceage, Ty Segall, Ceremony and countless locals.
But there haven’t been many guitars down there in the past few years. Instead, the venue has mostly shifted to DJs and parties like Boosie Fade and No Chill. But before Parts & Labour closes – both upstairs and downstairs – local bands Metz and Teenanger (both of whom have probably played that barely inch-high “stage” more than any other musicians) got together to give it one last good old-fashioned rock show.
And wow, it was like the early 2010s all over again. I was once a regular – I was actually in one of the photos on the wall (photographer Ivy Lovell, once a fixture there, pasted her shots all over the basement’s concrete). But I hadn’t been there in years, to the point where I had trouble remembering exactly what a show down there was like.
Didn’t take long to remember. Walking in, I saw many of the same faces I would have seen in 2011 or 2012. Many people were still wearing the uniform: black hoodie over a band shirt (mostly Metz) and a tiny toque that sits on top of your head without covering your ears – a look I call the hipster yarmulke (we’re throwing back to the early 2010s, so I can still use the “h” word). Jason Wydra and Tim McCready, who often manned the boards in those early days, were back to do sound and hand out earplugs. Mark Pesci, the original booker of the Shop who now works for the Rec Room, was not involved in the show, but he did get a shout out from Metz for making the venue what it was.
Using muscle memory to retrace my old strategy – fighting through the crowd towards the only sightlines in the room – I posted up next to the stage, enduring a ton of people jostling me to get to the bathroom. And then I waited. “We have to wait till dinner service is over before we can start the show,” McCready reminded me. Oh yeah, I forgot those shows all started after 11 pm.
Teenanger started, mercifully, at 10:30 pm. The four members still look a lot like they did in those early 2010 days – singer Chris Swimming even had a hole in the neck of his t-shirt – but their hooky rock has progressed from early 20s punk snottiness to thirtysomething post-punk about social media overload angst and rising real estate prices. Perfect for the occasion.
Metz’s debut album came out in 2012, but before that they were a local legend – one of the loudest, most abrasive bands on the scene, spoken about in whispers of “best band in the city,” though virtually unknown outside of it. This show felt like a throwback to that version of the band.
The first thing they did was unplug the multicoloured lights on stage, replacing it with their trademark one bright white light. And when Hayden Menzies began to beat the crap out of his drums, re-channeling his visceral strength, we were back. And so was the mosh pit. One crowdsurfer got his foot through the plaster of the low ceiling and bassist Chris Slorach yelled “we’re not leaving here till the whole fucking ceiling comes down.” People took it literally, ripping the pink insulation guts from above them and raining dust through the pit. Then Slorach admitted he didn’t mean it literally. “Do your demolition shit after the show,” said singer/guitarist Alex Edkins. “Have a good time, but don’t get stupid stupid.”
But this crowd was here to remember the glory days of Parts & Labour, and give us all one last memory. Metz are used to that – weirdly, they were also the last band to play the Silver Dollar. Once again, they gave a Toronto audience something to remember.
It’d be nice if venue-closing shows weren’t so common, but at least they give the local scene a reason to celebrate.
@nowtoronto | @trapunski