Key: (JG: Jeff Greenback)(SS: Steven Strange)

Fuck Yeahs/Ponys/Tyrades/Sweet J.A.P/Midnight Evils @Triple Rock, Minneapolis, MN
This show was in honor of Paddy from D4's birthday, and it was a pretty fun vibe all night. Fuck Yeahs are Takashi from Sweet J.A.P and some other dudes playing pretty basic punk rock. Nowhere near as crazed as Sweet J.A.P, but still pretty good. They opened their set with some cookie monster vox, which really had me scared for a second! Next up was the Ponys, who had me captivated from the first note to the cascade of feedback that closed their set. It was one of those rare moments when you see a band and think to yourself, "this is fucking IT!!!" The music, the atmosphere, my mood, everything just fit together perfectly. Like how three individual notes harmoniously come together to make a chord, everything about that moment was in perfect agreement. The Minneapolis crowd didn't really know what to make of them, but that's their loss. They played a particularly downbeat and decidedly un-raucous set, but it only served to make them stand out that much more from all the aggressive, fast paced bands on the bill. I'm not sure, but I think Tyrades were up after the Ponys. They went off like a hand grenade aimed at the ears and eyes of all fortunate enough to get in their way. Tyrades were a whirlwind of spastic action; they bounced all over the stage, and at one point Jimmy inadvertently body-checked the Robert right off the considerably high Triple Rock stage. They didn't miss a beat though, providing the unsuspecting Minneapolis audience with a fleeting glimpse at the total destruction and abandon at the heart of all great rock n roll, that was over and done with before I could so much as blink. Great band. Speaking of great bands, I hadn't seen Sweet J.A.P for months, so it was a real treat for me. As usual, they put life and limb on the line in the pursuit of a good time. This particular set was particularly energetic, so much so that they had to cut it short early cause their setup got too fucked up by all of their antics…what's even worse, Hideo spilled my beer when he jumped into the audience!!! It was all good though, since he hooked me up with another afterwards. In an odd bit of placement, Midnight Evils closed things off. Their refried AC/DC-lite riff rock was pretty anticlimactic coming off three fantastic sets. Despite that, it was still a great night for rock n roll in Minneapolis, the kind that makes you realize how much you love this retarded shit called punk rock.(SS)

Ponys/Beans/Unicorns @Triple Rock, Minneapolis, MN - 4/3/04
This was an all ages show, the first I'd been to in some time. I was kind of surprised to see how many people turned out for this, since attendance at the show the Ponys played in Minneapolis a month prior was kinda tepid. Turns out most were there for the other two bands. Ponys were more than up to the task of making new converts however. They only played nine songs, but they managed to fit in a lot of hits, including some that aren't on either of their new releases on In the Red. The song Melissa sang was particularly awesome. It was another indispensable set from the Ponys, showing us all how fresh and original rock n roll can still be some 25 years removed from the dawn of punk rock. As unlikely as it seems, a solo rapper named Beans had the unenviable task of following the Ponys. He started off with an a cappella rap that was actually pretty awesome, mentioning SARS and God's cock within 15 seconds of each other. After that he was pretty hit or miss, some songs were entertaining and others a bit too long-winded and repetitive. Still it was massively entertaining compared to the usual punk crud that gets slotted between decent bands in this town. I wish I could say the same for the Unicorns. One thing I can say for them is that they definitely have their look down. If a bunch of farm kids got together and formed a band with the sole purpose of playing a NAMBLA benefit concert, they'd be dead ringers for the Unicorns. Their sound was too obtuse for my taste, but the underage crowd was eating them up like rock candy. Too bad they didn't actually, y'know, rock.(SS)

Wednesdays/Sweet J.A.P/Riverboat Gamblers @ Big V's, Minneapolis, MN - 4/3/04 AND @ Triple Rock - 4/4/04
After interviewing the Ponys in the men's room of the Triple Rock, it was time to head over to big V's and catch two of the hottest live acts walking the face of the earth today, namely Sweet J.A.P and the Riverboat Gamblers. There were four bands on the bill that night, but I don't even know the name of the first band that played. I got there right as the Wednesdays were setting up. While I wouldn't say they were actually bad or anything, there really wasn't much about their set that grabbed me by the balls (as their overall sonic aesthetic would suggest ball-grabbing [or at least scroat-stroking] to be their intent). Probably it was the lack of hooks, or any discernable edge to their songs. After that Sweet J.A.P stormed the stage and showed us all how it's done. Jesus, they just keep getting better!!! Tons of new songs, that all have a slightly catchier sound to them than their already killer past material. One new song in particular stood out as particularly jaw dropping, thanks to both the instantly infectious guitar line that pervades it and some shit-hot drumming and chord changes. Strangely enough, according to Sho, Matthew (their drummer) taught the guitar lead to the other guys by humming it to them!!! Despite the odd origin behind it, this tune is a fucking cut if I've ever heard one. Someone needs to put it out as a single PRONTO!!! I must have seen Sweet J.A.P a zillion times over the years, but this set, with all of them packed on the teeny Big V's stage like firecrackers in a sardine can, stands out as one of their most incendiary and inspiring to date. Riverboat Gamblers had some tough shoes to fill going on after Sweet J.A.P, but they were more than up to the task of whipping the crowd up like fruits in a blender with their brand of sonic bombast and timeless rock n roll swagger. Their singer made me realize that what separates the truly GREAT frontmen from the merely really, really good, is probably a slight case of insanity. Once they start playing, it's as if his only ambition in life is to scale the highest object in sight and then leap off of it like some backyard wrestler with jumping beans in his pants. The Gambler's set was an example of rock n roll at it's amped up and out of control best, and the crowd was loving every minute of it. My mind was on fire the whole time! Both bands were also great the next night at Triple Rock, but neither could compare to their performance the night before, largely due to the stellar atmosphere at the packed Big V's. My only regret is that I missed the Hospitals/Sweet J.A.P show three days later. Damn Japanese tests….(SS)

Clorox Girls, Nons, plus other crap @ The Brickyard, Vancouver, BC - 1/3/04
It was so fucking cold walking down to the Brickyard that even the usual assortment of crack whores, heroin dealers and the omnipresent Downtown Eastside junkies were nowhere to be found around the club. When my ears finally thawed and my hearing came back, the Nons were finishing up with a killer cover of "We're the Professionals" which was the high point of their set. Anne-Marie from the Riff Randells plays drums and Justin (ex-Riff Randells) plays guitar along with two others, and they come off sounding like a mix between the sloppier sounding Redd Kross songs and the Avengers. I've seen 'em better than they were tonight, but they were certainly much better than what was to follow.

The No-No Spots were next and here is what I learned: 1)Generic keyboard centered new-wave is a horrendous style of music to be forced to sit through, 2)The lead singer couldn't carry a tune if it were strapped to her back, and 3)A mid 80s New Jersey housewife fashion style (lead singer again) is downright hideous. The Invaders followed and bored the hell out of me.
Finally, after practically everyone had left, the Clorox Girls (they had lipstick on, but I don't think they fooled anyone) took the stage and immediately started to mock the No-No Spots, which made them instant heroes of mine. After a few songs vocalist Justin started to go nuts either due to the fact that he just had to sit through two shitty bands, or because he was playing on an extremely impersonal, elevated stage to a couple of dozen people too tired/stoned/jaded to do much of anything. The Brickyard should board off the stage and make all bands play on the floor. After cranking out a few songs from the debut single and a few new ones, Justin's guitar went flying and out came a bag of flour, which ended up all over the place. Some feeble, Iggy inspired blood-letting was attempted, but not much came out of that. They rushed though a couple of last songs, including a Urinals cover, some with guitar, some without and then crashed through the drum set to end things abruptly. Professional it surely was not (actually, this 15 minutes of chaos was more polished than the first time they played Vancouver last summer) but I was entertained. (JG)

Evaporators, Riff Randells, Goblins, Los Furios @ The Brickyard, Vancouver, BC - Feb. 14, 2004 and @ Mesa Luna, Vancouver, BC - Feb. 17, 2004
I figured I'd go to both the 19-up and the all-ages version of this bill as both the Evaporators and Riff Randells don't play Vancouver all that often. The Goblins started things off both nights by bashing out most of the hits from their side of the split LP with the Evaporators and were soon joined on stage by the other "'blins" to play some Skablins songs. It's always funny gauging people's reactions who have never seen Nardwuar (oops, sorry, "Goblin") up there on stage in outrageous garb acting demented, like only he can. Los Furious followed and played their stupefyingly popular brand of ska-punk, which was my cue to get as far away from the stage as possible.

The Riff Randells have had a pretty low profile lately, mostly due to the fact that lead singer Kathy has been living in Calgary, while the rest of the band resides in Vancouver. Thanks to a sweet new job with the benefit of dirt cheap airfare, Kathy can now make the trip to Vancouver regularly which means that locals can get used to seeing the three ladies playing more often. These two shows were the first local gigs to feature new bass player Felicity who adds quite a bit of spunk to the band with her glorified rock poses and girly facial snarls. The Riff Randells took the stage and proceeded to rip into a short, but sweet set of poppy, garage punk hits that absolutely floored me (especially the Brickyard set). They've improved their tightness as a group immensely compared to their charming amateurish beginnings, and are hands down the top all female group going today. The one standout new track turned out to be a cover of "Bandana" by the early 80s L.A. group the Little Girls, whose only album has now become a must find.

Finally, the madman genius that is Nardwuar the Human Serviette led his fellow bandmates on stage and proceeded to demand and then capture the attention of everyone in the room on both nights. Seeing Nardwuar play a hometown show probably isn't as interesting as seeing him outside of Vancouver, or Canada in general. People basically know what to expect here and participate without hesitation in all of the audience interaction schemes that Nardwuar spins, but I've enjoyed all non-Vancouver Evaporators shows much better. Seeing Nardwuar being forced to wander out into the crowd and get the oldest, grumpiest fuck involved was always entertaining, as anything could happen, but in Vancouver his job is too easy. Showmanship aside, both nights the Evaporators played a large number of songs, most of which came off of their stellar new "Ripple Rock" full length (with guest vocalist Megan Barnes signing backups on a lot of tracks) plus assorted hits from the first two.
The real treat came at the Mesa Luna show where after a Nardwuar rant on the suckitude of metal bands, an imposing looking, leather clad masked dude arrived on stage and promptly revealed himself to be none other than cheesy metal god Thor! Things quickly devolved into a nonsensical, yet entertaining, mess of Thor songs (with Nardwuar on the key-tar!), Thor antics (he couldn't manage to blow up the water bottle, but was able to bend steel), and Thor joining Nardwuar on vocals for the show closer "I Don't Need My Friends to Tell Me Who My Friends Are". Thor's definitely one of the cheesiest, aging rockers going today, but seeing him up there with Nardwuar somehow made sense, and was the perfect was to end the night. (JG)

Photo Credits:
Nardwuar, Clorox Girls, Riff Randalls: Jason Fisher
Ponys: Steven Strange