Let me paint a picture for you. An historic theatre in the heart of town, over 100 years old and beautifully renovated. Where better to enjoy the local orchestra's latest performance or to see the most recent Broadway revival?
What happens when the same venue hosts a Christmas punk show?
As JJ and I drove up to the theatre, it looked closed. Only upon closer inspection did we notice some kids going in a side door. That's where we headed, and as we approached music could be heard coming from within. Once in the door, we were immediately confronted with a table blocking our way. Katie from Underground Operations spotted me and waved us in. But where were we supposed to go? The only path I could see was the stairs to the stage, and this was packed with kids. My size often has its advantages, and I began muscling my way up the stairs to figure out what the hell was going on.
The sight that greeted me at the top of the stairs was bizarre. Standing two or three deep and packed like sardines at one end of the stage was the crowd. At the other end was a makeshift stage about 3 inches in height where a band was performing. Between the crowd and the band was about 25 feet of dead space. Off the front of the stage (where the audience usually sits) were the other bands and their merch tables.
Unsure of what fate may befall me upon jouneying into the no-mans-land between kids and stage, but willing to find out, I headed across the stage to search out Katie and get out my camera gear.
Man With Target's set was already underway when I arrived and I only had a chance to snap a few shots before they finished. They sounded good. Loud, tight, and powerful. Hopefully I'll get to see a full set in the near future.
During the equipment change over between bands Katie and I discussed the odds of someone falling/being thrown/jumping off the stage onto the merch tables. Luckily (sadly?) this didn't happen.
What did happen is that the crowd slowly filled out and moved toward the stage, so by the time Hostage Life started their set no-mans-land was down to about 6 feet. Hostage Life is pure old-school punk (lots of attitude, aggression and political commentary) often served up with tongue firmly in cheek. This was a good set. Colin Lichti was intense.
Next on the bill was I Hate Sally. The only other time I'd seen them was earlier in the month at The Phoenix in Toronto. This odd venue in Lindsay seemed more in keeping with their powerful live show. My feeling seemed to be echoed by guitarist Marc Garniss, who I spoke to before the performance. He said they often preferred these smaller venues with their intimate feel and easier crowd interaction.
I Hate Sally again blew me away! Dee (vocals) spent most of the show off the stage just inches from the audience. Marc and Dan (bass) also made frequent trips, Dan throwing himself into the crowd and Marc hanging his guitar on an audience member who seemed unsure of how to react. They also made up for the close proximity to the audience by strategically placing some wooden boxes at the front of the stage. This allowed them to rock out from a higher vantage point and also provided a place for Marc to lay his guitar and "treat it like a stepchild."
The crowd was more sedate than I had expected, and this was echoed by Dee who said, "This isn't the Lindsay I remember.... last time were here, people brought swords and were fuckin' stabbing each other... I'll cut myself if one of you does it first." Luckily (or again, sadly) there were no takers.
Punk and hardcore in a beautiful old theatre. Who'd of thunk it?