Fuzzcat, Vagrants on Parade, The Easy Brothers and Whitey at The Railway Club

Tally-ho good readers! It’s your old pal Mace with another concert review made possible by the rowdies from Fuzzcat and Whitey, both of whom were goodly enough put us on the guest list for the Fuzzcat CD release party over the weekend. And what a party it was! A ska/punk/funk equivalent of a Saturday night St. Paul’s emergency room defibrillation, if you will. So have a read, and live vicariously through my modest words!

Vagrants on Parade
Vagrants on Parade Vagrants on Parade have been around for a couple of years and, despite my never having heard of them before, it really shows. I always expect opening bands to be kind of rough around the edges, but the performance I witnessed from the Vagrants over the weekend was clean and professional while at the same time being very spontaneous and full of energy. All their songs from the raucous opener Rude Boy, Heart Song to the tongue-in-cheek self-depreciating closer Dirtbag managed to accomplish something that I haven’t seen at a show for as long as I can remember. They made people get off their asses and hop around at the start of the evening as opposed to sitting patiently, waiting for the headliner, and saving up that precious enthusiasm to spend later. “Hooray for words!” exclaimed lead singer Jessie Z., “They’re magical things!” Coming from these kids they certainly are! I have a feeling that Vagrants on Parade are going to be around for a while. And if they continue bringing the level of fun and positivity that I witnessed last Saturday, I can almost guarantee it.

The Easy Brothers
The Easy Brothers It’s so difficult to write a review on any ska band without referring to The Specials. It seems like a cop-out, you know? Regardless though, it can’t be denied that Van East’s The Easy Brothers are probably the closest thing that Vancouver currently has to that Two-Tone ska sound. Their music is extremely fun and danceable, so much so that I myself could be witnessed shaking my usually-static ass to their utterly infectious sound. Singers Malcolm and Jesse do an admirable job channeling that late-70’s British rude-boy bravado, whipping the crowd into a frenzied “Oi! Oi! Oi!” chant that could probably be heard down the block from the club. It should also be noted that in a genre of music where a somewhat lazy, cookie-cutter sound has always been tolerated, this band shows a tremendous amount of versatility, especially on the guitars. A strong outing from a vital (if largely unheard-of) gang of locals.

Fuzzcat One of the things that struck me most about our gracious hosts Fuzzcat was not their music (which, as I’ll get to, was amazing in it’s own right) but in their ultra-positivity toward Vancouver’s music scene and it’s plethora of virtually unknown bands. Speaking to lead singer Chris Ryan after the set, he practically implored me to check out their show on October 31st at The Media Club not because his band is playing, but because there would be other bands there that would blow my mind out. This is exactly what Vancouver’s scene needs more of. Bands hyping other bands, hyping the city, and hyping up the fans. One of the best pictures taken all night was of Ryan – front and center, fist in the air – hyping The Easy Brothers. Part ska and part punk, the lads in Fuzzcat also have no aversion whatsoever to serving up an earful of wah-imploded funk. Opening their set with the ultra-fast vocal blaster Oceans and then ever-so-slightly mellowing out into a straight ska-groove of Good Man, Fuzzcat had their mighty legion of fans out of their seats with the quickness. Moreso than any other band of the night, Fuzzcat seamlessly shifted gears and tore through a plethora of genres, all the while mixing up a crazy mix of very tight and technical instrument solos with one-wheel-in-the-dirt jam sessions. Check out the picture above, for crying out loud! This band means business!

Whitey The final band of the evening was also the loudest band of the evening by far. Let me qualify this statement: I would say without reservation that the only time I’ve been more concerned for my poor eardrums was when Metric rocked a 2004 set at the Tequila Nightclub in Calgary at such a volume that my hearing is still slightly fucked up in my right ear. Whitey will kick your ass. The six-piece from Chilliwack(!?) tore through their set with a wild ferocity that can only be seen to be believed. First off, their sound is much more mini-big-band than ska. Think Brian Setzer without so much noodling guitar. Secondly, to get some sort of understanding of what in the hell I’m on about, check out their MySpace page and listen to Shadow of a Doubt. How the town that produced a song like “Whatcha Gonna Do” could also produce a band like Whitey is beyond me. There must be something in the water. Cole and Mike on trombone and trumpet respectively cause such a Satan-fuelled ruckus that it leads one to assume they must have been kicked out of more than a few band classes in high school. Their continued deliquency is most definitely our gain. It’s as if the whole band secretly delights in their anonymity, infiltrating towns and cities and marking their territory with such a sonic explosion that any member of the unsuspecting populace lucky enough to witness their show initially find themselves in a state of shock. Make no mistake boys and girls, this band will not be anonymous for long.

So that’s that! A night of ska. And you know what? The crowd loved it. And why wouldn’t they? Maybe good old fashioned ska music is the remedy for what ails Vancouver. In between sets Rob and I talked to an old-timer who’d been coming to The Railway for thirty years and he told us one thing that hasn’t changed. Vancouver had great bands in the past, and they have great bands now. Vagrants on Parade, The Easy Brothers, Fuzzcat and Whitey find themselves in good company and hopefully their unique take on a vibrant genre will be around for quite some time.