Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Concert Review: DOA, October 29, 2011, at Amigos, in Saskatoon

Text and live photos © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2011
Photos can be enlarged by clicking on them

A version of this article appears at:

I have been a fan of Vancouver – well, Burnaby, anyway – punkers since I first listened to their War on 45 12” EP in 1981. Since then, I’ve heard much of their output, and read both of lead singer Joe(y) “Shithead” Keithley’s books (I, Shithead and the recent Talk-Action=0). And on Saturday night, October 29, 2011, D.O.A. came to Saskatoon for the second time this year, this time playing Amigos: family Mexican restaurant by day, excellent showcase by night; think of it as Zorro of the local music world.

Speaking of D.O.A., it should be noted that while the band is essentially Joe and whomever he is playing with, he is a serial musician, so while his group does shuffle personnel, they usually play with him for a long time. As D.O.A. has been around since ‘78, it is more likely to have people change than not. But to be clear, this is not a back-up band playing with Joe but a solid unit. The band now consists of Joe on vox and masterful guitar, Dirty Dan Sedan (nee Yaremko, who has now been with D.O.A. for a number of years) on bass, and the newest member, Jessie “The Kid” Pinner on drums.

But, as usual I get ahead of myself. Let’s go back… back to those thrilling days of earlier this week…

Audience pirate

I was dropped off at Amigos at just about 10 o’clock, with the first band scheduled to come on in a half-hour. The place had been open two hours already, as they are a restaurant, and Joe gave a talk about politics and his latest book previous to that (which I first learned after the night’s show). The place was not packed when first got there, but it was a nice crowd. Amigos has a bunch of side rooms, so it’s deceptive on how many people could actually be in the place.

When I first walked in, I had an “oh!” moment as, for some reason, I hadn’t thought about it being the Saturday before Halloween, so many were in costume. I saw a great one of Bender (Futurama), a burlesque dancer, a (male) pirate with a bare midriff, and some blond guy in a full First Nations outfit. I decided that if anyone asked, I was disguised as a webzine writer from New York.

[Rod Rooker]

Not wanting to spend any money (damn unemployment!), I stood by the side of the stage rather than sitting at a table and annoying the very pleasant wait staff. By the back door is a wall full of old set lists of unidentified bands. Impressive.

After a bit, the opening band came on stage who called themselves Kroovy Rookers, out of Edmonton (about 300 miles away). They’ve been together for seven years, and refer to themselves as “street rock with an oi/punk edge to it; out for beers and good times.” The bassist (Remi Desautels, aka Remi Rooker) came on wearing a gorilla mask and the drummer (Mike Martin, aka Rowdy Rooker) with a spandex Mexican style wrestling mask (both that I knew from past experience wouldn’t last long under the stage lights). The lead singer (Rod Gillis, aka Rod Rooker) had the bald head and Noddy Holder sideburns (told me later he’s a huge Slade fan), and you just know in warmer weather we’d be wearing cargo shorts.

[Remi Rooker]

Song topics include drinkin’, lovin’ and drinkin’. Oh, and lovin’. Yes, and drinkin’. Good-time music. They’re a fun power trio who sounded tight. I truly took pleasure in the song introductions: “This is about [A]; it’s called ‘[B]’.” Just plain, simple, and to the point. Refreshing.

[Rowdy Rooker]

While they played, there was a group slamdancing. You know the type: jocks who like the excuse to bash into everyone, and the music is really secondary. I’m finding it a bit pass√©, myself. Circle jerking, great, everyone can get involved, but bash-crash-pow is so 1983. Funny how the jocks who used to beat people up for being punk, now use the punk genre to continuing hitting everyone and proving how big their muscles are, and small their dicks. Anyway, I was taking pictures of the band and got a solid elbow to the face, dead square between my nose and teeth; a half inch up or down would have been a lot more consequential. Hurt for a second, and then my sinuses just cleared away, though I knew I would pay for it in the morning (and I was right). But, as my pal Tony (SQNS) Petrossa said with a shrug after his nose got bloodied one night at Brooklyn’s Punk Temple, “Hey, it’s punk rock.” What bothered me, though, was that it sent me back a couple of feet, and I knocked into said pirate and burlesquer’s table, spilling some of their pints. My first apology of the night.

When the Kroovy Rookers ended their set, I gave Rowdy my contact information, and then I sat down at an emptied table. Rod Rooker coincidentally sat down next to me, and we started chatting. Fun band = nice guy. It was an enjoyable ‘twix-sets spending some time talking to him. I forgot to ask him what the hell the band’s name means, though.

Soon, Joe Keithley came to the main room from where he was holding court and in true punk rock fashion, moved and carried amps to their right positions, as the rest of the trio helped. Honestly, he looked tired. This was toward the end of the tour, and he looked stiff. Also, it appeared his knees were of some issue (hey, try sitting in the van/car/whatever between shows for long tours and then carrying 50+ lb amps around, buddy!). They set up fairly quickly, and were ready to go.

I found a seat facing the front of the stage, with the mosh pit in front of me. I shoulda known better. After the third person fell across me, I said fuck this, and moved to the right side of the room. There were tables along the wall, and one spot where it looked like I could stand protected. Except, this jock stood purposefully in my way, beer in hand, looking at me like, “Whatca gonna do about it, eh?” So I leaned into him and pushed myself into the spot. Then when I raised the camera, he put his hand about three feet in front of the lens and so all I could see was his “finger.” Sigh. Macho knows no borders. Of course, I laughed like “yah, you got me” (while thinking other choice descriptive words), and fortunately he smiled back and ignored me after that. I leaned against the brick wall, behind the chair of some late teen girl (drinking limit is 18 in Saskatoon), who ignored me, thankfully. Eventually, though, I think the flash got to her, and she said to me, “Why don’t you go take pictures from the other side of the room.” Don’t blame her, actually, which leads me to the second apology.
The D.O.A. set started off with a roar of sound that brought joy to my ears. Been a while since I’ve seen a punk band this good. Starting off with “Nazi Training Camp,” they slammed into “That’s Why I Am an Atheist.” The crowd was instantly buzzing and in motion. The pit was larger as more people joined in, which also ironically made it a bit more less – er – dangerous. Still, when I moved to the left side of the stage after about six songs, I stayed there.

D.O.A. did many tunes from their new CD, also named Talk-Action=0, such as “I Live in a Car,” “Rebel Kind,” and “They Hate Punk Rock.” While Joe may have looked tired before the set, once the songs started, he, well, just use any positive sports metaphor here (e.g., hit it out of the park, scored a goal, touchdown, got a three-pointer).

There were themes to the between song banter by Joe, and of course they were political. He told the audience to support the Occupy movement and to vote against Brad Wall (Conservative incumbent Premier – that’s governor to the below the border crowd – who is trying to privatize everything at the expense of the “99%”; the election is on Monday, Nov. 7, and he is predicted to win). In fact, during the multi-song encore, he changed the D.O.A. classic from “Fucked up Ronnie” (Reagan) to “Fucked Up Brad,” much to the joy of the audience. Well, I don’t know if they cared or not, but I enjoyed it.

Speaking of the audience, while I was on the side of the stage, a very drunk guy dressed in a wicked cool zombie priest costume (Coffin Joe? Someone from a Fulchi film?) started insisting he knew who I was (supposedly some famous photographer), and he wanted to make sure that I knew that he knew. It was all very amusing. He asked me to take his picture, which I did, but it did not turn out as the flash didn’t go off, so I just wanted to apologize, guy.

D.O.A.’s songs are short and to the point. While the polish of some of the recordings was scraped away, the growl in Joe’s voice and the sting of the trio makes this equal fare, just stripped bare and bloody. Also, a great thing about short songs is that you get to hear a lot more of them in an allotted time. Why listen to one long drawn out prog opus for 20 minutes when you can hear about 10 punk songs in the same amount of time? And besides, they’re usually more fun anyway.
Lots of songs from the D.O.A. cannon were blasted out, such as “Disco Sucks,” “World War 3,” and their classic cover of “War.”.

I’d also like to add that as exhausted as they obviously were, and knowing this was the last stop on the tour before they head home (to celebrate Guy Fawkes day apparently, on Nov. 5), they gave all that they had, which was lots. If this was curling, one may say they hurry hard (okay, enough with the sports metaphors, Francos!).

[D.O.A. set list]
By the time they were done, including the encore, it was well over an hour. The band was soaked. The moshers were soaked. I had a sore elbowed mouth, but was happy.

Actually, I wanted to talk to Joe, say hi for myself and pass along good wishes from Jersey Beat publisher Jim Testa, but it seemed to be never the right time. He was either setting up, surrounded by drunks trying to tell him how great he was as he was trying to leave the stage (he actually had to ask someone not to block the stairs as he descended), or later counting the receipts at the merch table.
Speaking of later: So, after the show, which ended at 12:45 A.M. or so, I asked the bartender if he knew the number for a taxi, and he happily dialed a number and gave me the phone, going back to customers. No answer, so I redialed a couple of times and got put on hold for 10 minutes until the operator answered. “Thirty to 40 minutes,” she said. I went outside and waited while many wobbly drunk people got into their cars and trucks, and drove away with other people equally inebriated in the other seats. Shudder. After an hour, I went back into the bar, and the bartender gave me another shot at the taxi service. No one even picked up. Guy doing shots at the bar said, “This is Halloween Saturday. It’s 2 O’clock when all the bars let out. You’re fucked, dude” (yes, I swear, he called me dude). With no other option, I walked the two or more miles home, getting in at 2:40. Luckily, it was about 40F (while the tri-state area was getting blasted by snow), so it wasn’t so bad, just creepy watching cars meander all over the road. And in the end, it was all worth it.

Bonus Videos: some songs played that night

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