Fri, Apr 25
TEENAGE HEAD at Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse, Rating: NNN
Jeff Healey’s wasn’t the only spectral presence Friday at Healey’s Roadhouse. The ghosts of punk rock’s past were reanimated in the form of Hamilton’s legendary Teenage Head.
Original members Frankie Venom, guitarist Gord Lewis and bassist Steve Marshall, along with drummer Jack Pedler – all looking very much their age – burned through a no-bullshit set of classic proto-punk for a respectably sized mature crowd of leather-clad Head loyalists. And when he wasn’t hunched over the mic staring at the floor, Venom looked genuinely gratified by the adoration his group received.
But as with any reunion involving punk from that nascent era, it’s impossible to ignore how much the music’s appeal relies on the dangerous energy of youth. What once incited riots and revolution now feels discomfortingly like a generic pub-rock experience. You wonder – was this the last pogo?
TURISAS as part of PAGANFEST at the Opera House, Rating: NNNN
Throngs of fans – some sporting Viking helmets and other costumes – packed the sold-out Opera House. The show could have taken place back in northern Europe, judging by the enthusiasm for the war-painted and fur-clad Finnish band known for fusing their native folk music and traditional instruments with rollicking power metal.
Playing Toronto for the first time, the six-piece, including accordion and violin players, blew through anthems about going to battle and drinking. Singer Warlord Nygård stormed the stage and kept the intensity at a fitting level with his raspy and relentless howling while encouraging sing-alongs and plenty of excessive beer consumption. Aside from a dreadful sound mix and a few technical goofs, the band absolutely killed it; between that and hundreds of rabid fans yelling and pumping their fists in unison, Turisas proved they’re in a class by themselves. Awesome.
BUCK 65 and CADENCE WEAPON at the Music Hall, Rating: NNNN
One of the world’s best turntablists, Halifax’s DJ Skratch Bastid, tore the show open, making unbelievable sounds and rhythms with Black Sabbath, deadprez and Al Green records for the few hundred polite patrons seated in the dark hall. At the request of the always animated Cadence Weapon, the crowd got up and danced for him and manic, coonskin-cap-wearing DJ Weez-L, who ripped into tracks from Cadence’s albums with reckless abandon.
When Stinkin’ Richard Terfry humbly took centre stage with Skratch, their playful synchronicity truly delighted. As a 10-foot screen displayed random images enhancing Buck’s vivid storytelling, he delivered an hour and a half’s worth of words from his extensive back catalogue, including the rare Vertex selections, an utterly hilarious live version of Spread ’Em and a rising-BPM, clap-along version of Wicked And Weird. Mount Uniacke’s finest finished ’em off with a gritty version of his porn-tastic fable The Centaur, then brought Cadence Weapon back out for their duet Benz. Nothing but good times.
Sat, Apr 26
BORN RUFFIANS at Lee’s Palace, Rating: NNN
Let’s face it: Toronto-based bands simply cannot complete a show in this city without hauling all their buddies onstage for a frenzied chorus or two. For the Born Ruffians’ album release party, the song in question was a rambunctious version of I Need A Life, with 10 drunken/enthusiastic friends hollering, “Oh, but we go out at night” at the top of their lungs.
Strung as tightly as his guitar and grasping an oversized orange mic, wiry lead singer Luke Lalonde shimmied and shook his way through interchangeable combinations of ohs, ahs and whoas that began to feel hypnotic somewhere in the middle of the set. (The mysterious lack of lyrics makes it difficult to recall.)
Clever stop-start tempos (which won Warp Records’ interest), raucous rhythms (delivered on bass by Muppet-like Mitch Derosier and drummer Steve Hamelin) and the doo-wop harmonies of a band twice their size – these are the things that make the Ruffians fresh and exciting.