Vancouver isn’t that far away from Boston I guess.
The whole night could have been schizophrenic, maybe the club wanted to cover their bases–the poster was billing the show not only as a Halfway to St. Patrick’s Day event but also the west coast CD release for the Shite’n’Onions “What the Shite” Vol. 2 CD compilation of Celtic rock bands of which British Columbia gets two entries with Vancouver’s The Town Pants and Victoria’s The McGillicuddy’s.
And on the same weekend that the Dropkick Murphys, Bad Religion, Rancid and Billy Bragg were all in town doing concerts all over the city, it didn’t lessen the turnout for an audience of at least 300 people that packed into the relatively small confines of the recently opened Limerick Junction, which was previously the Gastown punk-rock bastion The Brickyard. The night started up with The MCGILLICUDDY’S. Despite that the band doesn’t come over to Vancouver from the Island that often, they certainly had a few vocal fans out to see them including a pretty loud mowhawked guy in an Exploited t-shirt. McGillicuddy’s singer Mike Walker has learned a trick or nine from Mike Ness’ vocal style and the band (with requisite cute girl bassist) raced through a pretty solid set with songs from their “Kilt By Death” CD which includes “On the Rocks” featured on the Shite’n’Onions comp. They played a couple of covers including “If I Should Fall From Grace with God” and “The Leaving of Liverpool” and halfway through the set drummer Brent Restal drum pedal broke which forced Walker to tell a long joke to buy time to fix the drums, and they lost a bit of momentum but got it back quickly enough. Later on, Walker bashed Arsenal football club and made some soccer references I didn’t get. Maybe the British folks in the audience got it? The McGillicuddys tried to stir up some good natured trouble with some banter of Vancouver/Victoria rivalry, but I think the McGillicuddy’s made some new fans here in Vancouver and any band that has their amps speaker fabric replaced with tartan deserves points.
After a pretty quick changeover it was The Town Pants turn. This being their first local show in months after a long tour back east, the hometown crowd was certainly there to see them and the dance floor was filled and pretty lively from the beginning.
While the McGillicuddys play Celt music with a more punk style, The Town Pants play Celtic rock with a roots edge. More a rock band employing a folk style than the other way round, they have their own distinctive sound, a sort of folk n’ roll.
Their first show back in some time, they played like there was no tomorrow and though the sound system’s heavy bass emphasis of the sound was at times unkind to the banjo and tin whistle, but the band was obviously more interested in getting the audience moving than displaying so much instrumental subtlety. The group started with “The Weight of Words” which is the track included on the Shite’n’Onions compilation, a song that with Ryan Robbins sitting in on dijeridoo gives it an Australian spaghetti western type rhythm to it.
The Town Pants stormed through favorites like “Monahan the Mutineer” and even a cover of Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl”, joined by a new bass player and a drummer who played like hell but looked oddly out of place with a ball cap on. The heavy bass PA sound was unkind to the banjo and tin whistle but it didn’t deter the Keogh Brothers from singing and strumming like possessed Everly Brothers on speed, and Aaron Chapman delivering some pretty funny stage banter between songs and his tinny-tootlings on the whistle. The group brought out some special guests to play with them, again with a very animated Ryan Robbins from Hellenkeller who danced around between dijeridoo bursts like a drunken witchdoctor and later a surprising appearance by Battlestar Galactica actor Aaron Douglas, who apparently is a Town Pants fan. Douglas stepped out on stage for to sing along for a song. I half expected to see the X-Files smoking man or that MacGyver guy from Stargate be the next special guest–that’s “Hollywood North” for you. Either way all present were clearly having a good time. Maybe it was the shocking amount of drinks some audience members were buying the band and bringing up to the front of the stage? Though I wondered how many the band really got to drink. I saw a lot of the dancing audience members bumping into drinks trays and accidentally knocking them over as they were being carried to the stage. Whoever mopped the floor at the end of the night must of had to stay late.
The whole audience was a pretty generous mix of college crowd, punkers, rockabilly types, and even some older folks…Towards the end of the night I saw a bunch of guys that looked like Rugby players in Dropkick Murphys shirts showing up to the bar and hang around at the front. I guess the show had sort of become the unofficial after party for the Dropkicks show, and they we’re singing along to the Town Pants songs no less hoarse from the show they’d just been to.
I had to split to get up early for work in the morning and the last thing I saw as I headed out the door was seeing that Mowhawked Exploited fan I’d seen earlier in the night making out with a cute girl wearing a Town Pants shirt. And the sight made for a perfect summation of the good vibes going on amongst both the Town Pants and McGillicuddy’s fans and everybody there in for a pretty great night of Celtic rock and roll.
Review by Ray Stonehouse