with THEE GOBLINS and TOUGH AGE
September 8th, 2013
If you ever go to a concert at Astorino’s, there are two things you should know. First of all, the venue has become an absolute paradise for independent musicians, DIY punk bands, experimental projects, slam poetry, and just about every other cool thing you can find on Commercial Drive. Second? The shows never, ever start on time. Not even for Nardwuar, who orchestrated the Sunday night show. As we learned last issue, the CiTR host, music journalist, and musician had been painstakingly planning out the event for months. The lineup included his bands Thee Goblins and the Evaporators, as well as punk act Tough Age, ensuring there was something for everyone. Even better, it was all-ages and completely free.
The music didn’t get rolling until just past 7:45, despite the scheduled 7:27 start time. The massive waves of teenagers, punks, and, yes, families, flowed inside Astorino’s. 10 year girls skipped along next to heavily tattooed rockers, but that was hardly the weirdest thing happening once Thee Goblins began their set.
Trying to describe Thee Goblins purely by the music they play would be impossible. If anything, seeing them live is an experience just as vivid as any song. Outfitted in blue sweaters emblazoned with a massive gold “W” and wearing what appeared to be skirts, the duo immediately began rocking out on the keyboard and drums. It was impossible to tell when the songs changed- it was one giant onrush of heavy, powerful drums, keyboard riffs, and endless stage shenanigans. A few fake laser guns were produced and audience members were soon being doing “the Phaser”, whenever they got zapped with them. For those tragically unaware, “the Phaser” consists of convulsing and flailing your hands around, accompanied by dazzling lights and buzzing sounds. So, kinda like how you dance normally.
For the song “Hit It!”, audience members were pulled onstage to mime playing the drums. The real drummer followed, making it look like human puppets were suddenly rocking invisible kits. A giant conga line developed in the middle of the venue to the song “Honk My Horn”. With every honk of that hypothetical horn, the audience bobbed up and down in a steady rhythm, guided by really excellent drum work. The music, the energy, and the crowd were kept on edge, always waiting for the next crash of the snare.
Thee Goblins weren’t really about technical skill or a huge sense of artistry, just fun tunes with dynamic performers making every second an absolute delight. And you know what? No one minded.
After a quick intermission, Tough Age takes the stage. Many audience members don’t know what to expect from the punk group; most of them were on the older side and their guitars were attached nice and close to their hands. On the outside, they didn’t look very punk at all. Then they started to play.
After the raucous fun that was Thee Goblins, Tough Age was like the pull of punk gravity slamming you back down to the mosh pit. They were loud, technically on point, had great arrangements between instruments, nice solos, and pumped up the crowd every chance they got. The lyrics were close to incomprehensible, but it didn’t feel like the music was lacking without them. Tough Ages’ most endearing trait was their dynamic. They were heavy enough to get the more serious fans going, but had enough pop and rock elements for the less daring to bob along (at a safe distance from the mosh pit, of course). Tough Age weren’t necessarily performers on the same level as Thee Goblins, but their technical skill, attitude, and sound won everyone ever by the end of the first song.
During the Tough Age set, Nardwuar, plastered in sweat from his set, but still outfitted in a vibrant orange hawaiian shirt and a beret, came down to the crowd. He was quite the host; going up to people who excitedly called out his name, talking about everything from the show to writing styles of famous music critics. This was his party.
The crowd waited outside during the intermission, enveloped in little rivers of cigarette smoke and shaking with anticipation. The concert began with Nardwuar’s high, shrill screech into the mic: “HELLO, ASTORINO’S!” he called out, like some kind of crazed Vancouverite preacher. The flock assembled for mass. The Evaporators were slated to be the highlight of the night; the antics of Thee Goblins mixed with the punk aesthetic that made Tough Age such a strong act. Nardwuar was an energetic vocalist, despite being mostly concerned with getting the crowd as turnt up as humanly possible. The Evaporators were a force to be reckoned with. Bassist John Collins (of the New Pornographers) and guitarist David Carswell traded riffs throughout the night as Stephen Hamm kept up a steady rhythm on the drums. Jokes were made, thanks were given, and the audience was reminded to dance every few seconds. At the height of it all, Nardwuar jumped into the crowd, and was carried around the venue like some kind of energetic airplane, dropping laughter and thank-yous wherever it went.
Most people were too caught up in the energy of the evening to care about the music. The three bands weren’t virtuosos, but they were certainly entertainers. And if there was one word to describe everyone in attendance, it was entertained.