Hosting indie rawk shows is not Hoko’s traditional bread and butter (well, vinegar and sake); however, the proprietors have determined that the kids are alright and the beer money of tight-jeans’d hipsters is as good as that of soulfully-crooning Filipino longshoremen (for no one takes on the karaoke challenge as sincerely as someone from south-east Asia!) The sound system may not be everything you might hope for to pipe a six-piece band through clearly, but that’s because it’s optimised for two drunks to be dueling on Snowbird. But Vancouver being what is, we work with the venues we have if not necessarily the venues we want, and we’re darned grateful to them for supporting live music at all!
It’s also a suitable site for the Planks for two reasons: one, no sound system has never been a real impediment to our path considering that our history has mostly consisted of playing living rooms and backyards; and two, since we write (virtually) none of our own material, as a cover band what we’re doing is already essentially karaoke — this just formalises it. It doesn’t hurt that GoGo and Stallion seem adept at packing the room with people ready to party, so when we were invited to play for her birthday, we enthusiastically girded ourselves and prepared to grapple with one of Vancouver’s most charmingly curious (but essential!) rooms. We knew the crowd would meet us half-way and, true to form, they were still ready to dance after sitting through our feedback-squeal-inducing sound check. (Admittedly, Larry Stallion — or at least his Vincent van Gogh song, and (the other) Dylan Thomas (PS, thanks for the CD!) got everyone warmed up for us… no stiff feat considering the frosty climes outside! In any case, when we were ready to give up a show, they were ready to get one.)
A handful of performance notes: the downright tragic turnaround at the end of the Song of the Count (”when I’m alone… I count myself!”) really gets the air taken out of it if someone bops you on the forehead from across the room with a birthday balloon. The only way to follow that up is really with having your music stand fall over. Also, your ears weren’t deceiving you — Peg-Leg Right-Eye Ryan wasn’t multiplexing; those horn harmonies were courtesy of Trike’s Stephen Taylor (who wonderfully writes back: “thanks for letting me blast my brass with you”… any time!), trombone-equipped courtesy of an earlier spot performing at Cafe Deux Soleils’ riotous open mic (and, one should note, playing at Hoko’s the day after us — one more complication for a busy Jan 25th!) The next time I turned around there was someone else on the same trombone (PLRER reports: Nimish Parekh, the bass player from 5 Alarm Funk, to which I said: “Well, he knows his stuff. Actually, sometimes he seemed to know his stuff better than we did, which is odd considering it was our stuff!”), and, well, let me just tell you that after you’ve played Beastie Boys on an accordion and trombone it’s hard to go back. (A horn section is a pretty splendid luxury we probably can’t afford to get used to.) (And yet how else will we ever truly realize our manifest destiny of becoming a gypsy Balkan brass army in an Emir Kustirica movie?) We may see some photos up courtesy of Trike’s Xania, to which I say thanks in advance! (Too bad we probably aren’t going to get a chance to play with them in Victoria, but… we’ll be better organized next time!) (Especially if it turns out that it’s easier to secure a booking at Logan’s than the Solstice 8)
Certainly people drank and danced (Adi from Mezamazing sang along near the front of the stage for much of our set) and had a great time (and, really, were quite demanding… after playing 150% of our planned set length, well past 1 am a cadre of ’80s fashion victims were petulantly demanding more!) so — mission accomplished! As for us, we got to workshop some of our new material for the Valentine’s Day Blue Letter Cabaret at the Secret Location and, more to the point, once we resigned ourselves to having no control over the variable sound situation… had a blast. What more can you really ask for?
Adrienne took a couple of pictures of us playing, which was grand; really we need to take pictures from the stage to show what a great time the crowd was having.