Monday, July 17, 2006
Writing’s become really hard again. All I do is worry and procrastinate. When I finally sit down I end up stringing clichés together. This scares me, because I have a buttload of writing to do over the next few weeks.
NoMeansNo played the Vancouver Int’l Jazz Fest on June 29. Trust me to attend probably the least jazz-like gig of the entire festival. Though it was a satisfying combination of bands, none of them swung particularly hard. Italian trio Zu were already playing when we walked into the Commodore. The guy on baritone sax wore a Slayer Reign in Blood shirt, which indicated what kind of destructive sensibility they wielded—relentless bass/drums/sax chaos in the style of Ruins. Very enjoyable, especially up close, where you could feel and see the full force of their ragged-edge musicianship. Smash was impressed by the bassist’s Traynor Monoblock, which was a variant he hadn’t seen often.
Norway’s Wibutee were a damn sight more chilled-out; equipped with a brace of iBooks along with standard rock band instrumentation. They reminded me of Radiohead or Sigur Ros with flute and saxophone leads—kind of like a post-millennium Weather Report, to introduce some kind of jazz touchstone. Definitely a tight outfit, though their propensity to play against sequenced backing tracks quashed any chance of them actually catching fire. Thanks to the Norwegian government for bringing them out here!
Time for Nomeansno. “I guess it’s now official: we’re jazz-punk,” Rob Wright said before they’d played a note. In true sketchy punk rock fashion, Tom Holliston's guitar rig immediately died and the Wright brothers had to struggle through most of the first song as a duo. There were rumours that this would be the last-ever NMN show. This is silly talk, as their website confirms:
"On June 29th, 2006, NoMeansNo will be playing their final show ever at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, Washington British Columbia. The quartet, made up of Rob Wright on drums, John Wright on guitar, and Ernie Hawkins on bass and vocals, have felt that after twenty-seven albums and fourteen years of existence, the time has come to announce their farewell to the music world with one final two hour bash, where they will play their entire musical back catalogue, including hits from their masterpiece Something Better Change, from 2003. The performance will include appearances from past, present and future NoMeansNo members, such as Jello Biafra, Greg Ginn, Robo and Chavo. Ticket prices have jumped from $19.50 to $99.50, as the band belatedly realized this is the very last chance they'll have to exploit their fanbase for beer money and the rider demanding a package of trail mix and two bottles of Old Crow bourbon. The band wishes to express their deepest appreciation for the last twenty-seven years of making music before their retirement from the music industry forever on June 29th.
Be sure to see the band in Tofino on June 30th, Lund on July 1st and Denman Island on July 2nd."
No, NoMeansNo will outlast us all. They will be teaming up with the cockroaches to release split 7-inches after Armageddon.
I’m buggered if I can remember much of the set list—with 20+ years’ worth of songs to pick from, plenty of hoary old classics got an airing. Now that I think about it, they did play “The Tower,” “No Fucking” (which dates way back to the Mama tape), and “Rags and Bones,” as well as some new songs from All Roads Lead to Ausfahrt (out August 22, though they did toss a few advance copies into the crowd). For an encore, they did their gritty version of "Bitches Brew," with the sax guy from Zu supplying some additional parping.
I catch myself taking music for granted way too often. The fact that NoMeansNo are one of my favourite bands and they're local means I haven't caught every show they've performed in Vancouver recently, including a gig about three blocks away from my place the week before the Jazz Fest gig. Pure foolishness. It was sure good to check in with them again at the Commodore.