Sunday, October 19, 2008
Punkz not dead! It just dilutes: Vancougar, Chocolat, Jay Reatard at the Cabaret
I'll start with Vancougar, since these ladies played first to those who dared come early enough to see the opening act. These four talented ladies put the Ps in Pop and Punk, which is the best way. I don't mean Dead Kennedys punk. Think 80's punk-pop sort of new wave and that's exactly their sound. They were a solid four-piece, standard bass-guitar-keys-drums, with some sweet harmonies, and catchy tunes. A group of women musicians always risk being a little on the saccharine side with too much technique and not enough bone chewin'. Their cute name (I rather like it, but these are not cougars by any stretch of the imagination) and matching "rocker" suits didn't do much to give them depth. I was worried that these girls had no chops, but about halfway through their set, they seemed to grind and rock out a little more. Montreal can be a tough town, though, and Vancouver is a long way away. Every song was well done, and the dynamic between them is enjoyable to watch. I liken them to the GoGos, back when the GoGos were cool.
Next up was Montreal's much beloved Jimmy Hunt in one of his newer incarnations: Chocolat. Jimi Hunt has been around the scene for a long time, a champion of that mod-electro 60's style that gets the kids dancing here. This band brings together members of Hunt's band the Demon's Claws with some members of the CPC Gangbangs. WIth fuzz, reverb, and a certain amount of psychedellia (I don't think they pull it off quite as well as the artists of the 60s, but drugs these days aren't what the drugs of yesterday were), they put on a ballsy show. And the audience? The audience practically threw themselves on the stage in adoration. Hunt crooned, wailed, caterwalled, and folked while the rest of the piece band provided effective backup as well as outstanding solos by second guitarist Dale MacDonald who even flung himself at the feet of Hunt in a rock spin of solo madness. Make no mistake, if Vancougar worked the black denim Canadian leisure suit, Chocolat worked the bargain bin at the Salvation Army. Obviously, the Montreal one, since tight pants ruled the day. Hunt is iconic, emblematic: a scarecrow come to life, with his checkered plaid shirt, fedora, and harmonica strap. The Dylan comparisons are more than appropriate.
Finally, hair rockers Jay Reatard. Reatard harkens back to the 80s and 90s, when men wore tiger print spandex and eyeliner and played guitars that were shaped like lightning bolts (in this case, a flying V). Reatard, fortunately, forewent the spandex, but the sound was unmistakable. If only he'd brought the fog machine and a better light show. This is hair metal. That glam rock meets hard rock sort of thing. It isn't hard to imagine these three dudes sitting in their basement, taking bong hits, and head banging along with Motley Crue, ACDC, and um... Meatloaf? Loud, crunchy, riffy, power-chordy. Which is not to say un-talented -- this is real music, but it isn't serious. Songs clock in under 2 minutes apiece and the entire set might have been a half hour long. Who cares? It's awesome! Reatard is fun. Big fun. Indie rock kind of fun. Indie rock? You read that right. Seems that as the music of my youth becomes retro to today's 20-somethings, the genre switches. What once would have been metal has become the mainstay of today's fans of the alt independent scene. Not that I'm complaining. I liked some of those MTV bands and know all the words to the Final Countdown.