Monday, April 15th, 2013
Redd Kross and B-17 at The Horseshoe in Toronto
Frank YangThe weather may have been nigh-on dreadful last Thursday night, but it was going to take more than Winter’s last gasp to keep Toronto from venturing out to catch the long-awaited return of some colourfully-named Californians been pioneers at melding punk energy and pop sensibilities since adolescence. No, not Green Day at the Air Canada Centre, silly. I’m talking about Redd Kross at The Horseshoe.
Though they returned to active duty in 2006 following a decade’s hiatus, the Los Angeles-based band’s activity has been somewhat sporadic, though it did include a somewhat random but wholly welcome appearance at NXNE 2008. Only with last Summer’s release of the excellent Researching The Blues – their first album since 1997’s Show World – did the fully commit to being an active, creative concern and even then, thanks to Steve McDonald’s touring commitments as a member of OFF!, it took them this long to put together an east coast tour to support it. Though considering that a tour was never a foregone conclusion, complaining about the wait just seems petty.
Their lead-in act was locals B-17, a relatively new outfit whose members have been fighting the good fight in the Toronto club scene for years now. And while I never really kept up with any of those other acts – Action Makes, The Hoa Hoas, The Easy Targets – if they were anything up to the level of B-17, then I was missing out. B-17 offered an inspired mix of garage rock rawness, a steady Krautrock-hewn drone of a groove, and psychedelic trippiness. They were simultaneously relentlessly steady, thanks to Nick Kervin’s rock-solid drumming, and unpredictably explosive, usually detonated by Calvin Brown’s lead guitar, with guitarist Richard Gibson and bassist Clint Rogerson keeping things tuneful while trading lead vocal duties. It’s probably overly optimistic to think that their debut EP Wishing Won’t Make It So will break the band to any wider audiences than their previous projects reached, but for those for dig on what’s in B-17’s payload, it’s right on target.
When Redd Kross were here in 2008, I only had 1993’s power-pop masterpiece Phaseshifter as a reference point, but an unfamiliarity with the rest of the material didn’t prevent me from thoroughly enjoying the show, so immediate and infectious is the riff-powered, glammy bubblegum rock they’ve perfected over a 30+ year career. This time out I also had Blues and 1987’s Neurotica in my system, though relative to the hardcore Redd Kross fans that made up most of the audience, I was still a newb in relative terms. Which was fine; we weren’t there to compare cred – at least I hope not – but to just have a good time. And if there’s one thing Redd Kross are about, it’s a good time. For all the descriptors and adjectives that get attached to rock’n’roll, “fun” isn’t one that gets used nearly enough, but there’s probably no better word to describe what’s being had both on stage and off at one of their shows.
The McDonald brothers’ devotion to an ideal of rock’n’roll of big riffs, hooks, and showmanship has been unwavering since they started the band at the ages of 15 (Jeff) and 11 (Steve), and is still evident in the look of glee on their faces as they perform. I was a bit surprised that guitarist Robert Hecker – a… distinctive visual presence in the band last time out and still part of the band when Blues was recorded – was absent (he no longer tours with them) but his replacement Jason Shapiro was more than up to the task of trading riffs with the elder McDonald and keeping the energy levels elevated.
Kicking off with “Linda Blair” – the first song from their first album, Born Innocent – the band paid fairly equal due to the breadth of their catalog, personal highlights being Blues standout “Stay Away From Downtown”, non-album single “Switchblade Sister”, and a deliciously pummelling “Jimmy’s Fantasy” from Phaseshifter – one could easily forget that for as bubblegummy/poppy as Red Kross can be, they could also be as heavy as hell. Though the main se only clocked in at 50 minutes, the encore basically constituted a second set, running nearly another half hour and including a run-through of their original debut EP Red Cross, or so I was told. it was denoted as “E.P.” on the set list and though I didn’t recognize any of it, being fast, furious, and dedicated to the memory of Annette Funicello, it felt perfect regardless – kind of like the entire show.
Photos: Redd Kross, B-17 @ The Horseshoe – April 11, 2013
MP3: Redd Kross – “Stay Away From Downtown”
MP3: Redd Kross – “Researching The Blues”
MP3: Redd Kross – “Ballad Of A Lovedoll”
Video: Redd Kross – “Stay Away From Downtown”
Video: Redd Kross – “Yesterday Once More”
Video: Redd Kross – “Jimmy’s Fantasy”
Video: Redd Kross – “Lady In The Front Row”
Video: Redd Kross – “Annie’s Gone”
Video: Redd Kross – “1976”
Video: Redd Kross – “Ballad Of A Lovedoll”
Video: Redd Kross – “Deuce”
Video: Redd Kross – “Blow You A Kiss In The Wind”
Stream: B-17 / Wishing Won’t Make It So
Video: Iron & Wine – “Joy”
Canadians can now stream The Low Highway – the new album from Steve Earle – at CBC Music. Non-Canadadians can now wait for a non-geoblocked stream to surface. Or just buy it when it comes out tomorrow. In the meantime, read these feature pieces at The Wall Street Journal and The Arts Desk.
Stream: The Men – “B-Minor”
Following Titus Andronicus on on Twitter can be exhausting – Patrick Stickles does like to tweet – but also informative. For example, last week they tweeted what the album art for Local Business was actually supposed to look like as well as why it doesn’t, and also offered up a free download of out-of-print live album The Innocents Abroad. They’ll be at Lee’s Palace on May 2.
The Wall Street Journal has premiered a stream of another new track from the forthcoming She & Him album Volume 3, coming May 7. They play the Toronto Urban Roots Fest (TURF) at Garrison Commons on July 4.
Stream: Dungeonesse – “Nightlight”
Rolling Stone talks to The National about their new record Trouble Will Fine Me, which is out May 21 and from which they’re now streaming a second new song. They headline Yonge-Dundas Square for NXNE on June 14.
Video: Overseas – “Ghost To Be”
Soem reading for those of us whose hobbies include festival lineup-spotting: pieces on how Phoenix became this year’s go-to festival headlining act at Grantland and Stereogum, and Billboard speculates what Coachella was thinking making The Stone Roses one of the headliners for their opening night.